Hollinger: Raptors issues start with Bargs
Old 12-10-2012, 01:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Raptors Hollinger: Raptors issues start with Bargs

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Andrea Bargnani is a unique player in NBA history. A 7-foot jump shooter with some ball skills and decent quickness, he's a confounding player for both good and bad. Few bigs space the floor like he does, with a quick-trigger line-drive release and a devastating show-and-go move. Still fewer have rebounded this poorly or been as genially permissive at the defensive end. And nobody, ever, has effectively used a jab step move off the wrong foot like this.

The problem is that it's not adding up the way it should, and it's been a major contributor to one of the most fascinating stories in the NBA this season: The amazing ability of the Toronto Raptors to lose in the most gut-wrenching of ways. Whether it's having a dramatic comeback fall just short (Denver), getting jobbed by the refs in the final seconds (Charlotte, arguably San Antonio), snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (too many to recount) or failing to show up at all (such as Friday's withering 131-99 smackdown in Utah), Toronto has been one of the league's biggest disappointments.

In the wake of Sunday's defeat against the Clippers, the Raps are only 4-17 at the 21-game mark, owning the league's second-worst record, this from a team that was hoping to challenge for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

Partly, this is because they've been unlucky both in terms of schedule and fortune. The Raptors opened with 15 of their first 22 games on the road, but after Monday night's tilt in Portland the schedule turns back in their favor, with 11 of 15 games at home. The Raps have also been unfortunate in the close ones, going 2-9 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

Nonetheless, they've also been flat-out bad by any objective measure. The Torontosauruses have been outscored by 7.0 points per game -- only the ridiculous Wizards have been worse -- and sit just 27th in Monday's Power Rankings. They've lost six times by 15 points or more. They have no NBA small forwards. (OK, that last point exaggerates. A little.)

Toronto's biggest issue has been its stunning regression at the defensive end. A season ago, Raptors coach Dwane Casey got his troops -- which had been 30th the season before -- to rally all the way to 12th in defensive efficiency, despite no major personnel upgrades. Most league observers considered this feat borderline miraculous.

Toronto fans will quickly point to the fact Bargnani missed 35 games, but actually the Raps were pretty solid with him on the floor, too. Subjectively, in fact, last season was perhaps the first time in history that Bargnani looked halfway decent at that end when he was able to play.

But without Bargnani for half the season, and with a few other injuries thrown in, Toronto couldn't score, landing 25th in offensive efficiency and finishing 23-43.

The weird part is that Bargnani is back this season, playing all but one game, but his weaknesses are again outweighing his strengths. A PER of 12.80 just doesn't cut it for a big with little to no defensive value and a severe rebounding allergy, and Casey has earned criticism for leaving him in the game in crunch-time situations despite his struggles and the strong play of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson off the bench.

Bargnani is shooting only 39.9 percent overall and 32.6 percent on 3s; while these percentages are likely to improve (um, they will improve, right?), Bargnani's justification for playing time is as an uber-efficient floor-spacer who makes up for his soft defense and historically awful rebounding by knocking down shot after shot.

Instead he's been something of a Charlie Villanueva clone, and there's not a great need for that kind of player. The Raptors, alas, are paying Bargnani $10 million a season through 2014. With a crowded frontcourt, no first-round pick (most likely) and the potential for $10 million in cap space, we're at the point where the A-word comes into play next summer if things don't pick up. (That's "amnesty," for the uninitiated, which would dump the final two years of his contract so the Raptors could sign somebody else with the cap space.)

But back to the present. As a result of Bargnani's struggles, the Raptors are still a mediocre-to-bad offense (21st in efficiency) despite adding Kyle Lowry and improved production from DeMar DeRozan and Davis.

Meanwhile, the Raps are backsliding on D in a major way, ranking just 27th at this end. The reasoning here is a bit clearer: The frontcourt of Bargnani and rookie center Jonas Valanciunas has simply been eviscerated. Valanciunas is a tremendous prospect who likely will be a top-10 center in a few seasons, but right now his inexperience on defense is magnified by the fact Bargnani offers no help.

Consider that the Bargnani-Valanciunas frontcourt tandem has been shredded for 109.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's advanced stats tool, while playing more than a third of the Raptors' minutes this season.

Consider further that the Davis-Johnson tandem that backs them up has allowed just 98.1 as a unit, which would lead the league in defensive efficiency. As you might expect, the Bargnani-Johnson duo (105.1) falls right in the middle. (Davis-Valanciunas does not, at 109.0, but in just 71 minutes.)

Meanwhile, Johnson and Davis have outplayed their counterparts at the other end, too. In fact they've done so by a wide margin. Johnson's 16.61 PER is completely consistent with his career output, while the 23-year-old Davis has been one of the league's most improved players in the early going at 18.95, but even his numbers from his first two seasons roughly match those of Bargnani and Valanciunas.

In other words, one wonders if the Raptors have chosen pedigree over performance. The prescription from the data is pretty clear: I really like Valanciunas, but giving him a starting gig next to an indifferent defender like Bargnani seems to be too much, too soon. Meanwhile, their loyalty to Bargnani -- a top overall pick that they signed to a generous extension -- has blinded them to Davis' superior play.

If you break down the data, Toronto should probably be starting Johnson and not forcing Valanciunas to drink out of the fire hose like this; instead, he can play his minutes with the second unit and alongside the more defensively committed Davis. Then, in crunch time, Toronto can go offense-defense by alternating Bargnani and Davis, with Johnson as the other big. (Of course, Toronto tried all these combos in the fourth quarter Sunday night and all failed miserably.)

Nonetheless, Toronto has two huge big-picture issues holding it back from building on last season's progress: Bargnani isn't producing anywhere near the level expected from him, and the defense has massively regressed -- partly, but not entirely, because of Bargnani's presence.

This also shows the danger of projecting too far ahead. Casey maxed out Toronto's defense last season, and he deserves all the credit he received for it. But if you buy that the Raptors maxed out, expecting further improvement didn't make much sense, especially with a Bargnani-Valanciunas frontcourt taking most of the minutes instead of the Davis-Johnson and Johnson-Johnson (Amir and James) pairings that were in effect for much of last season.

So it's not all his fault. Not even close. For now, however, Bargnani is the symbol of Toronto's deflated hope -- a lightning rod for bitter Raptors fans who now send me hopeful tweets with their trade ideas (none of which involve Bargnani staying).

But even if his output snaps back to his career norms, the big-picture takeaway doesn't change much. Bargnani is 27 and in his seventh season in the league; you've seen everything you're getting from him. It's a truly unique package, but it's a letdown that it adds up to "serviceable" rather than stardom.



NBA: Toronto Raptors' issues start with Andrea Bargnani - ESPN
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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There's no way I'm going to amnesty him. We have other options. Trade kleiza for an expiring and amnesty Amir in offseason if we want to utilize the space.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It blows my mind that we haven't even TRIED to move Ed and Amir into the starting lineup just to shake things up.

WTF do we have to lose???
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by TORaptor4Ever View Post
It blows my mind that we haven't even TRIED to move Ed and Amir into the starting lineup just to shake things up.

WTF do we have to lose???
Did you see the fourth quarter against LA? Dude, we definitely disagree, and I'm not saying who is wrong... just that changing starter titles isn't going to help this situation. It's much more than that. Minutes mean more than titles.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Did you see the fourth quarter against LA? Dude, we definitely disagree, and I'm not saying who is wrong... just that changing starter titles isn't going to help this situation. It's much more than that.
I'm not saying it'd be a magic cure all for everything... but it makes sense IMO. Both of those guys give more effort than Bargs, and are more experienced than Val.

It's asking a bit much to beat teams like MEM and LAC but I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that we'd play a lot better against "non-elite" teams.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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What Hollinger is saying maybe true about the problems beginning with Bargnani,but I don't like hearing this coming from him because he's a known Raptor hater and I doubt he has our team's best interest at heart.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Great article. If you look at the gamelogs, Bargnani has to get to the line more, thats why he was killing it last season. I would also star Amir-Bargnani and have val with davis, or try amir davis too.. and give them more mins
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Great article. If you look at the gamelogs, Bargnani has to get to the line more, thats why he was killing it last season. I would also star Amir-Bargnani and have val with davis, or try amir davis too.. and give them more mins
This. Also, Bargnani taking > 60% of his shots from 15+ feet.... that's a recipe for disaster. It's on him and it's on the coaching. How this is permitted and possibly encouraged is blasphemy.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm not saying it'd be a magic cure all for everything... but it makes sense IMO. Both of those guys give more effort than Bargs, and are more experienced than Val.

It's asking a bit much to beat teams like MEM and LAC but I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that we'd play a lot better against "non-elite" teams.
agreed, but I'd also just like to see them use AB more down low, offensively and defensively.... less hedging, less perimeter shooting... that would help in so much.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I think most Rap fans know the problem starts with Bargs. With all the years we have invested in him, I think we should stop trying figure out how to best use him or how we can finally turn the "ON" switch. Its time to trade him. No short-term fix with Gasol, I like a young prospect like Leonard from SA.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I think most Rap fans know the problem starts with Bargs. With all the years we have invested in him, I think we should stop trying figure out how to best use him or how we can finally turn the "ON" switch. Its time to trade him. No short-term fix with Gasol, I like a young prospect like Leonard from SA.
I do too..........but the problem is San Antonio likes him as much as the both of us combined,so he's not going anywhere. Especially when the return is Bargnani when they already have Duncan/Blair/Splitter up front.

In honest reality, the most Toronto is getting for Bargnani at the moment is an expiring contract (Millsap,etc..), underachieving (Derrick Williams) or a raw talented (Thomas Robinson,Tobias Harris) player(s) in exchange for Bargnani(and whoever else). The Raps aren't getting an all star or former all star (unless aging,north of 33) or 1st round pick from any team.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Our best hope is either damaged goods ala Gasol or pseudo-bust/underachievers like Derrick Williams.

I've heard Millsap's name come up a lot. Why would Utah not keep him? Is there something preventing him re-signing there? Has he said he wants out?
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:17 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Our best hope is either damaged goods ala Gasol or pseudo-bust/underachievers like Derrick Williams.

I've heard Millsap's name come up a lot. Why would Utah not keep him? Is there something preventing him re-signing there? Has he said he wants out?
Oh you ain't hear? Millsap the new Rudy Gay round these parts bruh!

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Old 12-10-2012, 03:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Favors is starting to play well. They also have Kanter. Jefferson and Millsap are both UFA's and although the Jazz have space to bring them both back, they might not with the depth they have there.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by FLO View Post
Our best hope is either damaged goods ala Gasol or pseudo-bust/underachievers like Derrick Williams.

I've heard Millsap's name come up a lot. Why would Utah not keep him? Is there something preventing him re-signing there? Has he said he wants out?
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Favors is starting to play well. They also have Kanter. Jefferson and Millsap are both UFA's and although the Jazz have space to bring them both back, they might not with the depth they have there.
Also...Bargnani gives them much needed spacing,its a good balance in comparison to all the in and around the paint presence those other bigs provide.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:24 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I'm not saying it'd be a magic cure all for everything... but it makes sense IMO. Both of those guys give more effort than Bargs, and are more experienced than Val.

It's asking a bit much to beat teams like MEM and LAC but I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that we'd play a lot better against "non-elite" teams.
We would have a bit more wins that's for sure. Like the Spurs for example. We without a doubt win that one with Davis playing the way he was and Bargs just being a waste of space.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:25 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Oh you ain't hear? Millsap the new Rudy Gay round these parts bruh!
LOL... unfortunately, Utah isn't going to want to keep paying Favors, Kanter, Millsap and Jefferson... and have minutes for all too. There is a reason for all of the rumours.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:27 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I do too..........but the problem is San Antonio likes him as much as the both of us combined,so he's not going anywhere. Especially when the return is Bargnani when they already have Duncan/Blair/Splitter up front.

In honest reality, the most Toronto is getting for Bargnani at the moment is an expiring contract (Millsap,etc..), underachieving (Derrick Williams) or a raw talented (Thomas Robinson,Tobias Harris) player(s) in exchange for Bargnani(and whoever else). The Raps aren't getting an all star or former all star (unless aging,north of 33) or 1st round pick from any team.
I'd do Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson or Millsap's expiring ANYDAY.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:32 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I'd do Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson or Millsap's expiring ANYDAY.
T-Rob, he's a mystery. He might be a gamble that pays off,but if feel that if he was acquired by TO then you'd have to decommit to ED Davis. Robinson and JV may be a dangerous duo in years to come. If Davis and Kleiza/Fields bring you back a serviceable SF then,maybe it can work. D-Will,I'd test him at the 3,but I'd rather have T-Rob at the 4 than D-Will. I want Millsap here,simply put. Bargnani would do well in Sac-Town or Utah,not so much Minny tho.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:41 PM   #20 (permalink)
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T-Rob, he's a mystery. He might be a gamble that pays off,but if feel that if he was acquired by TO then you'd have to decommit to ED Davis. Robinson and JV may be a dangerous duo in years to come. If Davis and Kleiza/Fields bring you back a serviceable SF then,maybe it can work. D-Will,I'd test him at the 3,but I'd rather have T-Rob at the 4 than D-Will. I want Millsap here,simply put. Bargnani would do well in Sac-Town or Utah,not so much Minny tho.
I can see Thomas Robinson being an animal. And you can start Ed Davis for now.....Robinson's only playing 20 minutes or so off the bench. That would be a fantastic developing frontcourt with Amir/JV/Davis/Robinson/maybe Acy. Whoever's playing the best stays in, the way it should be. Enough of this hell or high water bullshit with Bargs.
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