One of the biggest issues for the New York Knicks last season was their interior defense.
The 64.2% field goal percentage they allowed on shots in the restricted area was good for second worst in the entire NBA. Lucky for New York, the issue wasn’t exposed as much because they allowed the sixth least amount of shots in that zone.
This is a by-product of Tyson Chandler not having his typical defensive impact and playing Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position. While Melo is fine when playing one-on-one defense on the block, his help defense and rim protection leave much to be desired — though he’s still less of a detriment defensively at the four then he is at the three, where he lazily chases around perimeter players.
Instead of addressing and improving this weaknesses New York actually found a way to do the opposite.
Let’s go ahead and call this the Andrea Bargnani effect. The numbers in the chart below are courtesy of NBA.com.
The years we are looking at are 2012-2013 through 2007-2008. It’s a six year sample size of Toronto’s restricted area defense.
Column one is the percentage of shots attempted in the restricted area with Bargs on the court and column two is the FG%.
Column three is the percentage of shots attempted in the restricted area with Bargs off the court and column four is the FG%.
Column five and column six demonstrate the difference in each category based on subtracting the on and off court numbers in each situation.
The Andrea Bargnani effect is something Mike Woodson is going to need to figure out a way to halt because it’s pretty terrible. During those six seasons, when Bargs played, the Raptors allowed 3.72% more shots in the restricted area and opposing teams shot 3.07% better.
To give context to just how bad that 3.07% FG percentage is, if you used last year’s restricted area defense as a baseline, the Raptors’ restricted area defense of 58.47% was the equivalent of the eighth best in the league. The 61.53% when Bargs plays drops them all the way down to 17th.
Even under the premise that Bargnani maxes out what he can give to New York offensively, for it to even matter, they will have to find a way to hide how much he hurts them at the other end.
Considering playing Bargs means shifting Melo to defending wings and takes either Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith or Pablo Prigioni off the court – I think this will be a very difficult task to accomplish.