Here’s Why The Knicks Acquiring Andrea Bargnani Is A Gigantic Mistake

Andrea BargnaniThe Knicks should really stop trading with Masai Ujiri. Ujiri set the Denver Nuggets’ franchise in the right direction with the Carmelo Anthony trade with New York, and now he achieved something that was once considered nearly impossible not even a month into his tenure as the Toronto Raptors’ head of basketball operations: getting a first-round pick in exchange for Andrea Bargnani’s contract. The team taking on the last two years and roughly $23 million on Bargnani’s contract? The Knicks, of course.

New York will acquire Bargnani on July 10 in exchange for Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, a first-round pick in 2016, two second-round picks and the signed-and-traded contract of Quentin Richardson. Advocates for the trade will contend that Bargnani would be a good scoring alternative if the Knicks lose J.R. Smith to free agency (which is definitely likely) and that New York will have a huge amount of cap space when Bargnani’s contract is up.

(More: Free Agency Day One: Knicks make big splash (belly flop) by acquiring Bargnani)

Let’s face the facts, here. It’s impossible to ignore the undeniable truth, like ignoring the stench of hot summer garbage left out in the New York City streets: Bargnani was really, really bad last season. As Business Insider’s Tony Manfred points out, Bargnani had the 259th best Player Efficiency Rating last season out of 344 eligible NBA players last season. This is a move that evokes memories of the regrettable Isiah Thomas era in New York.

Bargnani made $10 million last season, but managed to play just 35 games this past season and just 31 the season before that. It doesn’t seem like he’s the most durable player money can buy at this point, right? And what’s worse is that Bargnani was pretty awful even when he took the court last season. His points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds per game and his assist totals were at the lowest levels since the 2007-2008 season when he was just 22 years old.

Win Shares is usually used to determine the value a player has in ensuring his team’s success on the floor, but it would be unfair to compare Bargnani to the other players in this deal because of the limited number of games the forward played. So let’s take Bargnani’s Win Shares per 48 Minutes and compare them to the other players in this trade:

PlayerWin Shares/48

Bargnani’s win shares while he was on the floor were identical to Camby’s (though Bargnani’s PER was a good deal better than Camby’s, so I’m not saying that they were equal last season) and significantly worse than Novak’s. Basketball-Reference says that the league average WS/48 is .100, which makes last season a painfully poor year for Bargnani. But it’s not exactly a total aberration, since the soon-to-be newest Knick boasts a 0.059 career WS/48.

220px-Andrea_BargnaniBargnani also had the least impactful season of his career offensively, with a 94 offensive rating (which determines how many points a player’s team scores per 100 possessions while that player is on the floor) that is a career low for him. Bargnani’s total offensive win shares were actually in the negative last season. Bargnani’s defensive rating was 109 last season, which is actually not as terrible as it could be (it’s just about the same as Novak’s, though Novak’s offensive rating was 125 last season) but right now Bargnani is an average player defensively at best.

Perhaps Bargnani wasn’t very motivated this past season with the Raptors losing so much, or maybe he was discouraged that he wasn’t the top option on offense after the Raptors acquired Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay over the course of last season. Maybe playing for a winning team motivates Bargnani into being better than a below-average player this season. Maybe his defense improves now that he has Tyson Chandler as a teammate and not Amir Johnson (the two, surprisingly, had identical defensive ratings last season at 104). But that doesn’t even come close to justifying trading a first-round pick for that kind of misguided, delusional potential.

Bargnani isn’t half as good as J.R. Smith and will come to the Knicks at about twice the price as Smith. Oh, and the Knicks had to trade a valuable asset for the “privilege” of acquiring someone with someone with Bargnani’s “potential.” Bargnani’s time as a quality NBA player has passed, but Ujiri’s executive acumen is definitely alive and well. At least the Knicks get some extra roster space. Here’s to hoping they use those spots on players better than Bargnani.

Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is You can follow him on Twitter.


  1. says

    ITT: Someone who doesn’t understand Win Shares.
    Of course Novak had a higher WS as a 20 MPG specialist on a 54 win team.

    Naturally, you ignore the most important stats of all: Novak’s playoff numbers

    Novak: 0.2 WS in 9 games (5.6 MPG)

    He is a regular season weapon against poor defenses but any contender is disciplined enough not to leave him, negating his only use on the court. Novak had largely lost his rotation spot to Chris Copeland, whose skills don’t exactly differ very much from Bargnani’s.

    Of course, if you’re gonna go straight by WS/48 then Metta World Peace (.086) is a big downgrade from Chris Copeland (.117) too. Beno Udrih (.073) also won’t be able to lick Pablo Prigioni’s boots (.123). Of course, neither can Raymond Felton (.087) but that’s besides the point: The Knicks are just TOTALLY screwed. Just look at them win shares!

  2. David Kraham says

    I never understood why people on the site can share their opinion without getting abusive with each other the bottom line is any player will benefit from a new circumstance do I personally believe that he will?… no but I also didn’t think that Andre Blatche woild turn Iit around in brooklyn.
    so feel free to disagree witj eaxh other but by all means,save the ignorance.if any of the commenters on this site actually knew everything they would probably have a job in the NBA.

  3. Kokoenen says

    Bargnani in home games last season – 31% from the field, 20% behind the arc
    Bargnani in away games last season – 45% from the field, 37% behind the arc

    His problem had far more to do with the environment created by a hostile crowd than an actual regression in ability. There’s no reason to believe he can’t be more efficient in a smaller role and more supportive environment.

    Defensive and offensive rating are nonsense stats that tell you far more about what a team does as a whole than an individual’s contribution, and win shares aren’t much better. In actuality, the statistics (which can be viewed via synergy) and eye test both support Bargnani as being one of the better defenders in the league within the block.

    The harmful contracts and lack of value of the picks have already been addressed, so I’ll leave it at that.

    • steppxxxz says

      the raptors have been trying to unload this stiff for TWO years. The crowd was hostile because of how he played. There was a reason they were hostile. So dont be stupid. OF COURSE they hated him: he stood around watching the man he was supposed to be defending drive past him and score. You could see teammates furious and looking over at casey questioningly. He is a classic BUST. If you want to believe some kind words and warm milk is going to make him into a player, your wrong. Ive watched his entire career in toronto. The guy doesnt care…thats the bottom line, he hates hoop, he hates having to play, and he mostly CANT play. The knicks didnt give up much but they’re stuck with another stiff. Id rather have novak anyday… least he doesnt alienate his teammates-

      • Koekoenen says

        You’re reliance on childish insults and buzzwords like “bust” is very telling. Now, if you actually watched, and I mean really watched, their games you would be aware that Toronto has horrendous wing defenders who are blown by consistently by even sub-par opponents. Once this occurs, Bargnani is forced to choose between his own man and covering up his teammate’s mistake. Whichever one he chooses, a man is left open with a high percentage shot and he will be blamed for it. As has been said, he is not an elite help defender. Put him on his man, and he will give you what you need. Make him carry others and he won’t be able to do it. In New York, he has Chandler to be the one that covers such situations, allowing him to focus on doing what he does well. And how interesting it is that by far his two worst seasons occur in the two seasons Toronto boos and tries to trade him… But, of course, it’s far easier to just tell me he can’t play and how little he cares than it is to refute the statistics I’ve already cited.

        • steppxxxz says

          those arent buzzwords (need to look up the meaning of that slang term)…its just what he is. a #1 Draft pick….what else do you call it? Seriously? Its all the fault of his teammates? What is it? Why was the first thing Ujiri wanted to do was dump Bargnani? Is the GM of the year just dumb? And you smart? I mean i think I’ll stick with Ujiri and the obvious bad play i watched for two years.

  4. RK says

    How can you write an article like this and not mention that they gave up two horrific contracts in Novak and Camby for him? Your argument has no legitimacy if you are that clueless my friend. Also Novak had an extra year, so now in 2015 the only contracts the Knicks have on the books are JR Smith, Hardaway, Shumpert. Melo, Amare, Felton, Chander are all off the books. If Novak was still here that’s an extra 4 mill they wouldn’t have to sign a max player and there are a lot of them. But lets not let facts get in the way of a good story right?

    As for the #1 pick, would you like to mention that the Denver has the right to swap picks if its lower than theirs? So no way are they giving up anything other than a pick in the 20’s. Once you get into the 20’s there is very little difference between 24 and 34 and if they wanted someone that bad that late in the draft you can buy a 2nd round pick for cash.

    Sheridan Hoops really needs to stop looking in the bargain bin for writers, its kinda pathetic

  5. David Kraham says

    listen I am one of the naysayers as well but the bottom line is he gives woodson versatility.novak was not as effective last matter what numbers he puts up he’s a big who unfortunately doesn’t clog the lane and no matter what his numbers are defenders have to respect the fact that at anytime he can hit from 17+ feet .
    as for the financial benefits at this point we have to get to that point for those merits to be consideredjust because they intend on letting him expire now doesn’t mean next year they won’t be looking to flip him for another deal next year as expiring.

    • David Kraham says

      even though no pen has been put to paper, the NBA takes these verbal commitments as fact. this is why Toronto is already exploring trades for camby

  6. Daniel says

    Yet another article that refuses to acknowledge the $ savings in 2015, and how the Knicks gave away nothing for him.

  7. Ugh says

    Very obviously someone posted this on the Bargnani fanpage and a swarm of jockriders had to come here and post refutations about an article they didn’t bother to read.

    Mind you, that swarm adds up to half a dozen jockriders. Poor Bargs.

    • steppxxxz says

      I never thought i would read the sentence, about Bargnani “dude can ball”. I didnt think it was possible anyone, even his mother, actually believes that.

  8. mike johnson says

    bargs is and was wildly underrated on the raptors and all ills of this horrible franchise placed on him……im warning all the naysayers….be prepared to eat crow when bargs goes off and becomes a fan favorite,the dude can ball.

  9. says

    One minute the 2013 Draft was “the worst ever!”, teams were drafting players and stashing them in Europe for two years; now a low teen to mid twenties pick in 2016 is “coveted”.
    Make up your minds. Steve Novak sucked. Camby was old and crippled. Bargnani is 28 and can shoot. In 2 years he’s gone if he doesnt produce. Golden State Traded Robert Parish in 1980 because he “underachieved” and “wasn’t motivated”. Won 3 titles and is in the Hall of Fame. Bill Cartwright was “invisi-bill” and “Medical-Bill” with the Knicks; went to Chicago in 1989 and won 3 titles. Over and over this scenario plays out. Coaching, team culture, teammates and structure will determine his success.

    • steppxxxz says

      if you had followed the raptors the last few years….I suspect you might be less optimistic. There is a reason it took so long to dump this guy. No, he cant shoot, thats the problem, and he wont defend. And mostly , since he was drafted, hasnt tried. If you think magically woodson and melo and the wonderful new york locker room will turn this stiff into a player, you are dreaming. New york didnt give up much, true…….but why pick this dead loss when there were at least ten far better choices. This is what baffles me….and most everyone else reporting.

    • Ugh says

      That’s non-sequitur. Just because the 2013 draft sucked doesn’t mean the 2016 draft will, too. Your comment makes absolutely no sense.

  10. says

    I watched Novak and Camby and Amare not play at all, during the playoffs vs. Indiana, hoping someone, anyone could make a shot besides Melo. Wondering why the hell the Knicks paid these two, a question No One asked why they rode the pine. I find it funny people are screaming about this Kid’s salary.
    I would rather have 12 million dollars actually playing than 8 million sitting on the bench. Mid level Draft picks are the currency of the Losers in this over-expanded NBA. 14 teams are horrible every season, and they have draft picks galore between them.

  11. Jonathon says

    Trading camby and Novak mean nothing, neither contributed last season no matter what their win shares were. And the first round pick is near irrelevant due to the fact that if its anything better than 20th the nuggets have the right to swap picks. I don’t see what’s the harm in trading 2 guys at the end of the bench and a useless pick if we do suck that year for someone that could potentially be the extra scorer we so desperately needed in the playoffs when melo was the only one that could score the ball. And the icing on the cake would be that this contract which only costs 4 mil more a year than keeping camby and Novak will be like gold in a year when its about to expire.

  12. Robb says

    Garbage article!! Learn to write! Last year he was hurt, end of story! The dude can score and he will… good pick up for 2 under performing players… period!

    • steppxxxz says

      why cant people express their OPINION without claiming its somehow absolute truth. Clearly lots of people….including almost all of toronto, think bargs is a lazy and a terrible defender and useless, as well as a locker room cancer. No period needed.

    • Ugh says

      God, I can’t believe the person who constructed that aberration of punctuation and grammar had the hide to complain about the quality of writing in the article.

  13. steppxxxz says

    You dont need advanced stats to know Bargs sucked. He has always sucked, but he was worse last year than I thought possible. Its interesting to ponder why casey kept playing him. In any event advanced stats are becoming absurd. In fact, they distort as much as they reveal….and bargs is a good example. His numbers were bad, but his body language and his failure to read open teammates is what drove people to despair. He didnt try and he wasnt in shape. Is there a number for that?

  14. Jordan says

    This article relies on one statistic (the PER). Bargs was hurt last year. You ignore he scored 19 and 20 pts the two years before. He is an upgrade on steve novak. Yes, we lost a pick in the 20s. But the Knicks are trying to win now. Melo and Chandler aren’t getting an younger, need to surround them with talent that has already developed. Also, this transaction gives us major cap room to sign FA in 2015. Not sure why everyone is killing it cause of a draft pick that may/may not produce an NBA worthy player.

    • Ugh says

      The article quotes PER, Winshares, defensive and offensive rating stats. It also draws in non-stat related elements of play, including motivation.

      Can you actually read?

    • Jay says

      Just hoping you get this reply even though its a few months later…Just wanted to get an update on your feelings about Bargnani

  15. Mark says

    As Knicks fan I’m not thrilled with the Bargnani trade, and this article makes some valid points as to why. But it overstates the case.

    First, it makes it seem like there was a choice between acquiring Bargnani and keeping JR Smith. Regardless of whether they acquired Bargnani or not, the Knicks were and are limited in the amount of $ they can spend to re-sign Smith. Smith is either going to go for more money to a non-contender like the Bucks, or take less $ and come to the Knicks. This trade has no bearing on that.

    This article also overstates the value of the 2016 1st round pick. It neglect to mention that Denver has the right to swap that pick as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Meaning that if the Knicks have a good pick in 2016 they wouldn’t be able to use it anyway. (The only way that pick has any real value is if BOTH the Knicks and Denver are terrible in 2016).

    The best case scenario for the Knicks with this trade is that they’ve acquired another scoring option after Melo, something that is very hard to do given their lack of cap room talent to trade. And/or Bargnani is able to draw low post defenders like Roy Hibbert out of the post with his outside game, letting Melo or Stoundemire score inside.

    The worst case scenario is that they save money and get cap flexibility in 2015, or possibly as soon as summer 2014 when Bargnani’s has value as an expiring contract.

    The most likely scenario is that this does little to improve the Knicks chances in an improving East, but little to help them either. As someone else said on Twitter, it’s like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    But the title and thesis of this article is way to hyperbolic. Unless The Knicks and Nuggets are both lottery teams in 2016, I don’t see how this is a “Gigantic Mistake.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>