On Bargnani

Taking a break from studying, I started thinking a little bit about where the Raptors can trade Bargnani this off-season. There have been numerous calls for him to be traded, but are there even any teams that would consider trading for him? I believe it’s not about the contract for Bargnani yet – he’s making a reasonable amount comparatively for what he produces and so how much he’s being paid doesn’t hurt his trade value. This could change if, for example, Bargnani is traded to the Celtics and forced to come off the bench and all of a sudden loses faith in himself and can’t score 10ppg. Such low production would definitely make his $10M/year contract look as bad as the Baron Davis and Jermaine O’Neal contracts. As it stands, I think trading Bargnani is more about getting him in the right situation so his particular talents can be used effectively without hurting his team’s chance of success.

To get a better understanding of realistic trade options, I looked at two factors – teams that might want Bargnani, and teams which have players the Raptors would want. Sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many trade scenarios I’ve read that don’t consider one factor or the other.

So what kinds of teams would want or take a chance on Bargnani? He is essentially a high-volume scorer and not much else, ideal for a sixth man type role or when paired with a defensively strong big. This is all well-documented, and Colangelo even tried to do the latter by attempting to trade for Tyson Chandler last year. In the past, the Raptors have experimented with bringing Bargnani off the bench, and it appeared to have an impact on his confidence. So for a team to use him in a sixth man role, they would likely still need to give him decent minutes.

Teams with a good (term used loosely) defensive big to pair with Bargnani (in no particular order): Lakers, Orlando, New Orleans, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Washington, Clippers, Phoenix, OKC, Portland, Sacramento, Memphis, San Antonio. Of these, the Lakers, Bulls, Trailblazers, Clippers and Grizzlies are unlikely to have room in their big man rotations. Portland might, if Greg Oden is gone, but a front-court of Aldridge and Bargnani would probably have similar defensive issues to Bosh/Bargnani. Dallas has Dirk, and Bargnani would have no place there. This leaves about 12 teams that can probably find a significant role for Bargnani alongside a good defensive big man.

Bargnani on almost any team above is scary. Pairing him with Howard, Garnett, Perkins, Bogut or Horford would make for a top-notch frontcourt, and other possibilities like Bargnani-Okafor, Bargnani-ageing Duncan, or Bargnani-Cousins could be amazing as well. But what can the Raptors get out of these teams? If I were the GM, I would attempt to get high draft picks and a couple of prospects, or a solid player with first round picks in future years. Here are a few ideas (just the principals in the trade, haven’t worked out salary matching issues etc.):

  • Orlando: no idea what we would want other than Dwight Howard, and that’s not happening any time soon
  • New Orleans: Trevor Ariza + picks?
  • Boston: Jeff Green + picks? He hasn’t exactly worked out great there and Danny Ainge might be willing to go in another direction with his attempt to infuse new talent to the team. Might need another team to bring back some more talent to the Raptors to make this worthwhile as the picks are likely to be low for another couple of years. Will have to sell Boston a bit as Garnett is likely gone in a couple of years and without Perkins, they have no one to complement Bargnani
  • Denver: Ray Felton, Gallinari or Ty Lawson maybe, but I’m not sure they’d be willing to give up their point guards or whether these guys are really long-term answers for the Raptors at PG. Ty Lawson or Danilo Gallinari + picks might be the best we can do
  • Milwaukee: Jennings/future first round picks – if they get a top 2 pick this year and we don’t, maybe we can trade up in the draft as well
  • Atlanta: Depends on how they perform for the rest of the playoffs… don’t think they’d be willing to give up someone like Josh Smith or Al Horford, who are really the only assets I would want from them
  • Washington: 2011/2012 1st round picks + Rashard Lewis’ expiring – might need to package Barbosa to match salary.
  • Phoenix: Good sales job = Steve Nash + picks. They have Aaron Brooks to take over PG spot and with Bargnani/Gortat in the front court they probably don’t lose too much and still allow Steve Nash to end his career somewhere else. While it’s not the ideal go-to-a-contender scenario for Nash, at least playing in Canada might be of some consolation. This could also just be wishful thinking on my part…
  • OKC: I honestly don’t know. Their top 5 of Durant/Westbrook/Ibaka/Perkins/Harden are pretty much untouchable, and I’m not sure what else we can get for equal value
  • Sacramento: Dalembert or Casspi + 2011/2012 picks. Could throw in others to match salary. Would work really well if they get a high pick in this year’s draft
  • San Antonio: Tony Parker, if Buford/Pop decide it’s time to try something different. Blair + picks if they believe Duncan has enough time left to allow them to find another defensive big to pair with Bargnani for the future. Key will be convincing them that Bargnani will survive under Pop and not just wilt under increased accountability
So I guess what this post shows is that there are probably tons of options for trading Bargnani. As much as Raptors fans think he is worthless, it’s pretty obvious that if you can hide his defensive shortcomings, he can be a great asset. The Raptors will just be to make sure they get the right players coming back and can build from there. Of course, where we draft and any plays on free agents will have an impact on what we can do. It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens over the next 4-5 months and whether the Raps actually pull the trigger on a Bargnani deal.
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