HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Andrea Bargnani‘s injury – he’s out “indefinitely” with a torn ligament in his left elbow – may seem like more bad news for the New York Knicks. But it’s probably the opposite.
Now, I’m not wishing injury on anybody and I hope Bargnani has a full and timely recovery. But I am here to point out that the Knicks are better off without him. This injury may have just made Mike Woodson‘s job easier.
Simply, the Knicks have been better on both ends of the floor with Bargnani on the bench. They’ve been 2.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 2.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively.
The defensive issues are obvious. Get Bargnani moving and he might get turned around. He might switch when he’s supposed to stay home or stay home when he’s supposed to switch (a problem that seems to be contagious on these Knicks).
Offensively, Bargnani seems like a good player and he ranks 10th in mid-range field goal percentage (among those with at least 100 attempts). But overall, he’s a below average shooter, with an effective field goal percentage of just 47.2 percent, well below the league average of 49.7 percent. And his free throw rate (20 attempts per every 100 shots from the field) is poor for a big man.
He’s big, but plays small and doesn’t do it very well. The Knicks have a lot of problems, but you can start with the guy who’s a liability on both ends of the floor, is a square peg in a system that worked pretty well last season, and has somehow played the second-most minutes on the team.
With Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony on the floor together, the Knicks have been bad. With only Anthony on the floor, they’ve been good. And with only Bargnani on the floor (in a pretty small sample size), they’ve been awful.
Knicks efficiency with Anthony and/or Bargnani on the floor
|Anthony + Bargnani||1,061||102.5||106.4||-3.9||-44|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
It’s pretty simple. If Bargnani is on the floor with both Anthony and Tyson Chandler (or Kenyon Martin), it hurts the Knicks’ spacing offensively and requires either Anthony or Bargnani to guard the opposing small forward on defense. And if Bargnani and Anthony are out there without Chandler (or Martin), oh my gosh, are they terrible defensively.
It’s not clear on what team Bargnani would be a good fit, but it certainly isn’t this one. And the Knicks gave genius Masai Ujiri three draft picks for the right to pay Bargnani $23 million over the next two seasons. It looked like an awful trade at the time (subtraction by addition) and there’s been no need to reevaluate it.
Now, Woodson is partially to blame for giving Bargnani more minutes than anybody but Anthony, but consider the following…
1. Chandler is 31 years old and had missed an average of 19 games over the previous five seasons.
2. When Chandler broke his leg in the fourth game of the season, the only other bigs on the roster were Bargnani, Martin, Amare’ Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich.
3. At the time, both Martin and Stoudemire were limited to less than 20 minutes per game.
4. Bargnani and Stoudemire are two of the worst defensive big men of the last decade.
That, my friends, is bad roster building.
Now, without Bargnani, Woodson has no choice but to use Anthony exclusively at the four. And with Chandler at the five, they can put three guards out there with them, spread the floor offensively and be much quicker on defense.
The Knicks need Martin back from his sprained ankle to give them 12-15 minutes of Chandler relief. And they need a lot of guys (starting with Raymond Felton) to simply play better. But now we can at least see what they would have looked like had they not made one of the worst trades in recent memory.