Contract: Two years, $23.3 million remaining. Early Termination Option (ETO) after the 2012-13 season.
Acquisition Details: Acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors in July, 2013, in exchange for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a first-round pick in 2016 and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017.
What to Expect Offensively: No matter what he does for the Knicks, some will always view Bargnani as a colossal bust, the top overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft who never lived up to his potential. Unfair or not, though, he certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations. But perhaps those expectations were unfair – or at least deeply flawed – from the start. Bargnani was initially billed as a center, but he’s more a Rip Hamilton-style wing, with a highly effective mid-range game. He’s also been hyped as a three-point shooter, but he’s never shot better than 40% from beyond the arc and that was way back in the 2008-09 season. (In recent years he’s been much closer to 30%., so the Knicks had better hope that some quality time with their shot-guru, Dave Hopla, will pay dividends for Bargs.)
Naturally, the most important consideration for evaluating any Knick player nowadays is, “how well does he complement Carmelo Anthony, though?” If Bargs is healthy, that answer would seem to be “pretty damned well.” His ability to step out to 12-to-18 feet should help pull bigger defenders away from the basket and give Anthony more room to operate, and he Bargs, in theory, should be an extremely effective pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop partner for either ‘Melo or the Knick guards.
Interestingly, Mike Woodson has been using Bargs and ‘Melo as his starting forwards for most of training camp which has raised more than a few eyebrows around the league. After all, Anthony led the league last year in scoring while primarily playing the four, so why move him back to small forward to accommodate the new guy? But such sentiment may be over-stated. In all likelihood, ‘Melo will be positioned much as he was last year on the offensive end, with Bargnani serving more as a traditional three. But on defense, however, Bargnani will be asked to guard the bigger player. Woodson may also experiment with other combinations, possibly even using Bargs as a nominal center when the Knicks opt to go small.
All of this assumes that Bargnani will stay healthy for a decent stretch of the regular season – something he’s been unable in recent years. The Italian appeared in just 35 games last year and 31 the year before that, and his off-season workouts were limited by a bout of pneumonia.
What to Expect Defensively: Bargnani’s reputation as a total sieve on defense may not be entirely accurate, either. Some basketball analysts, including Matt Moore of CBS Sports, have crunched the numbers and suggested that Bargs is actually a pretty good one-on-one defender in the low post. While that’s potentially great news for the Knicks, any aptitude for individual defense is canceled out by the fact that Bargnani’s help defense can best be described as “inept.” The Knicks will probably be satisfied if Bargs can get in the way of David West, Kevin Garnett and Carlos Boozer a bit and leave the heavy lifting to Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert.
Bargnani has never been much of a rebounder (career-high 6.2 rpg back in 2009-10) or a shot-blocker, either, for what it’s worth.
Kinda Sorta Maybe Reasonable Season Prediction: Bargnani starts off the season in the starting lineup, but the Knicks’ front-court depth and extensive injury histories (I’m looking at you Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler) forces New York to go small with Metta or J.R. Smith at the three. If Woodson is smart, Bargs will average in the neighborhood of 25 minutes per game, a reduced workload helping him stay healthy or, at a minimum, healthier than he’s been in recent years. He will manage to appear in 70 games and working with Hopla helps him regain his long-range shooting touch. Look for averages of roughly 11.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, .3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 42.1 FG% and 85.3 FT %.
Oh, and a healthy dose of “That’s Amore” over the MSG public address system.