Bargnani To Knicks For Camby, Novak and Picks
NBA action doesn’t usually heat up until July 1, when NBA teams are finally allowed to contact free agents. However, late Sunday evening, on the eve of free agency, the Knicks and Raptors edged close to a trade that sent shockwaves throughout New York and Toronto.
The Knicks purportedly agreed to a deal with the Raptors that will send Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, a 2016 first-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick and 2014 second-round pick (via OKC) to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani. The trade is currently awaiting league approval. Howard Beck of The New York Times was the first to report the talks as being close. Beck has since reported that the deal was not approved by the NBA on Sunday, but that the teams still intend on completing the deal after restructuring for the 2013-14 cap figures.
Okay Knicks fans, there’s good news and bad news here.
First, we’ll start with the positive: GM Glen Grunwald was able to shed two terrible contracts yet still netted the most talented player in the deal. Novak is owed $11 million through 2016 and Camby will be paid $8.1 million over the next two seasons.
Bargnani, the tall and talented but disappointing former No. 1 overall pick, had worn out his welcome in Toronto and is coming off the worst season of his career. He was remarkably ineffective and startlingly inefficient last season. Still, while his production has deteriorated, and recurring injuries are a major issue, the skill set that enticed the Raptors to take him with the first selection in the 2006 draft has previously manifested itself on the NBA level.
Just two years ago, during the 2010-11 campaign, he led Toronto in scoring, pouring in 21.4 points per game. That season, he was one of just seven players in the entire league to average at least 21 points, five rebounds and one three-pointer per game. The other six players to match those totals that season: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
When he’s been healthy enough to step on the floor, Bargnani has been a consistent, top-tier scorer. Over his three seasons from 2010 thru 2012, he played in 177 games and averaged 19.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, just over one block and fewer than two turnovers. While there are certainly undeniable flaws and limitations to his game (which we’ll address in detail shortly), the evidence suggests he can finds ways to contribute.
As far as the money is concerned, Bargnani is definitely overpaid, as were Novak and Camby, but the important factor to consider is that Andrea’s deal expires after the 2014-15 season; whereas Novak’s contract guaranteed him $3.7 million in 2015-16. This is particularly significant, because Novak was actually the only player on the Knicks’ roster whose contract extended past June of 2015.
Looking at the big picture, it is safe to assume Grunwald and company have a clear plan in place. They believe the Knicks have a two-year window as a legit contender with this core as currently constituted. They will be well over the cap, and the luxury tax “apron,” in each of the next two seasons. Acquiring Bargnani does not impact that reality.
However, if they stick to a certain script, New York will have an opportunity to potentially retain significant cap space heading into the summer of 2015, as the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Bargnani will all be wiped off the books. (Carmelo Anthony’s contract also runs out in 2015, but he has a player option next summer, which he’ll likely exercise and then sign another long-term deal with the Knicks – so that situation remains fluid). But New York does have a team option on Raymond Felton, which could clear another $4.5 million from ledger. All told, it’s not inconceivable that New York would be looking at upwards of $35 million in cap space, and the ability to offer at least one max contract.
But, focusing on the precious present, how can New York improve their roster over these next two seasons? The capped-out Knicks will have very few opportunities to add talent via free agency or in a trade (New York possesses very few assets that other teams would find intriguing). Worse yet, teams above the tax apron can not even acquire players via a sign-and-trade – which was how Grunwald obtained both Camby and Felton last summer). The Knicks can only trade away flotsam, which inevitably requires they accept someone else’s jetsam in exchange.
So, with this timeframe and the applicable restrictions in mind, rolling the dice on Bargnani makes some sense.
They are buying low on a talented big man, who ideally will be able to help stretch the floor by pulling opposing centers away from the basket.
Health is obviously a major concern, but Coach Mike Woodson likely won’t need him to play more than 15-20 minutes a night, which should help reduce the day-to-day wear-and-tear.
And the players Grunwald is parting with clearly weren’t different-makers. Novak was a major disappointment last season, and often disappeared in big games – he averaged 2.1 ppg and 1.4 rpg in the 14 postseason games he appeared in for the Knicks. Camby was brought in with the expectation he’d rebound and protect the rim, but was never healthy or good enough to earn Woodson’s trust. As a result, he was a complete non-factor all season.
Bargnani has far more talent than either player in the deal and, at 27 years of age, he should be entering his prime. He couldn’t handle being “The Man” in Toronto; might he be able to revive his career and succeed as a role player for the Knicks?
Unfortunately, for the opportunity to find out if Bargnani can bounce back, the Knicks also had to give away three future draft picks, further adding to their incomparable pick debt.
And this is official the start of the bad news portion of this post…
Amazingly, the Knicks have now traded away their first round pick in 2014 and 2016, as well as their second-round picks in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
For teams that are capped-out, the draft is crucial because it is one of the few ways to add young talent. In addition, possessing picks are often necessary sweetening components in major deals. Not only will the Knicks be over the cap, but now the earliest first or even second-round draft pick New York can include in a deal would be a selection in the 2018 draft.
And did the Knicks really have to include three future draft picks in a deal for a player the Raptors were obviously determined to get rid of? There have even been published reports that Toronto was even considering amnestying Bargnani. And if the Knicks are forced into rebuild mode after 2015, that first-round pick in the 2016 draft could be quite valuable. (As of this morning, there were no indications of what protections New York placed on the pick.) The one positive is that the Knicks didn’t send out any cash in this deal. They’ll have three million to include in deals once the league year begins anew.
In addition, although Bargnani has the ability to help a team put points on the board, he brings little else to the table.
In fact, Bargnani’s record-breaking 2012-13 season was historic in a certain sense – he became the first seven-footer in NBA history to play at least 28 minutes a night yet average fewer than four rebounds per game over the course of a full season. In fact, no player had ever played 28+ minutes and grabbed less than five boards per contest. Bargnani finished last season averaging just 3.7 rebounds.
And, if it’s possible, Bargnani’s individual defense may be worse than his rebounding.
Which means Bargnani is obviously not an ideal fit on this Knicks roster.
The Knicks finished the 2012-13 regular season ranked third in offensive efficiency and first in three attempts and makes. However, they were just 17th in defensive efficiency – due in large part to their inability to rebound and/or block shots. (New York was 25th in the NBA in total rebounds and dead last in blocks).
So, obviously, their first two moves this offseason have been to draft a shot-happy shooting guard and a defensively-deficient and oft-injured big man. From a Knicks perspective, the potential downside to this trade is undeniable. As disgruntled Knicks fans rant on Twitter, question marks remain.
Will Grunwald’s gamble pay off? Will New York get enough out of Bargnani so that the pros outweigh the cons? Stay tuned…