The New York Knicks had a very good regular season last year. Even without star power forward Amare’ Stoudemire for the majority of the year, Carmelo Anthony stepped up and led them to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference, and a record of 54-28. After defeating the Boston Celtics in six games during the first round of the Playoffs, they struggled during another six game series against the Indiana Pacers, and eventually wound up losing the series in Indiana. This off-season, they did not do too much, resigning J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigionni, and they brought in Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and Jeremy Tyler as free agents. The biggest move for them, was trading Steve Novak along with Quentin Richardson and Marcus Camby to the Raptors for former number one overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani. This move could be either a big one, or it could be a bust. Bargnani has plenty of question marks coming into this season and will need to show that he has fully rehabbed his injured elbow if he is going to have the impact the franchise will need him to in order for them to get past the top tier teams in the Conference.
Bargnani is the prototypical European big man, preferring to play on the perimeter and shoot threes. He can play on the block as well, however, as his seven foot frame allows him to get his shot off relatively easy. Occasionally he shows an ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, but he is mainly a jump shooter with a good finesse-style post up game. Even with this length, he has only averaged 4.8 rebounds for his career, a number that is incredibly low from a center or power forward in the league. While this is not a huge problem in New York with players like Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire (when healthy), he needs to be more active on the glass this season. Defensively he is not the player that Chandler and Stoudemire are either. Once again the traditional seven foot mold can be thrown out the window when it comes to Bargnani, as he is not going to be a rim protector for the Knicks. He is not a terrible defender, but his relative lack of athletic ability, especially when it comes to foot speed, can make him a liability at times.
The big question mark surrounding Bargnani coming into this season is his injured elbow. He missed a large portion of the 2012-13 season due to a torn ligament in his right elbow and more recently he was diagnosed with pneumonia. This is just another concern for Bargnani’s prospects this season, as he was unable to play in Eurobasket and is presumably out of basketball shape coming into training camp. His injury history over the past two seasons, playing only 31 games in 2011-12 and 35 last season, should give fans reason for apprehension when it comes to how big a factor he can be in New York.
If Bargnani finds a way to get over his health issues and play meaningful minutes, the fit is a relatively good one for the style of offense Mike Woodson’s team likes to play. After being one of the top two options during his time in Toronto, there is little doubt that when he actually hits the floor this will not be the case. Carmelo Anthony is the top option with J.R. Smith putting up plenty of shots (whether he should or not is a completely different discussion), and another oft-injured player in Stoudemire would be next in the pecking order. Cutting the amount of shots Bargnani will need to put up could be good for him, and his three point shooting skills will be a great asset when Anthony, Smith, or whoever has the ball inevitably gets stuck without a shooting option themselves. Even though none of those players likes to pass the ball, it could be because they haven’t trusted who they are throwing the ball to. Bargnani has a proven track record in the league as a competent scorer and shooter, at 18 points per game in his career with good percentages as well.
In the end, the health issues surrounding Bargnani are the biggest thing holding this trade back from being a great one. Getting a former number one overall pick for three players that are not at his level should be a steal, but those problems along with his recent illness are true reasons to pause and lower expectations for the production he will give on the floor. If the Knicks can give him all the time he needs to get back into top physical shape, his style of play will fit well in New York and give the Knicks yet another offensive option to go along with their already potent roster. If they rush him back it could be a totally different story. While he isn’t going to be the player that makes or breaks their playoff chances this year, he could be the piece that pushes them over the top. Or, he could end up just another player in the long line that has come to New York and not lived up to expectations.