Ben KopelmanWhen you handcuff yourself financially the way the Knicks have, these are the kinds of moves you get. Suboptimal trades for suboptimal players are par for the course when a team without any financial flexibility is trying to get better.
The thing about this trade is that Bargnani is juuuust about the least likable player alive. Which would be something to get over except he doesn’t seem to make this team any better.
His entire game is soft: he doesn’t rebound for a guy his size (ESPN reports that Shumpert grabbed a higher percentage of available rebounds last season); he’s a “pure shooter” who has not shot 35% or better from deep since ’09-’10; he doesn’t defend at all, let alone well; he is constantly injured for long stretches at a time; and has never been known to do the little things or show any hard-nosed effort.
Put it this way: he got boo’d out of a game last year in Toronto, a town with far more grounded and rational basketball expectations than NYC. Not the best sign of things to come, ya know?
Everything about this off-season should have a “so how does this help us beat the Pacers next year” tinge to it. We don’t know who we are going to play next year when it matters most, and there is no guarantee it will be the same Pacers team, but when a 2-seed loses in the fashion that the Knicks did last year, it is entirely fair to ask the question: how do we get over that season-ending-hump this year?
Our first answer, it seems, is we stretch the floor, pulling a guy like Hibbert out of the paint. Ok. That’s one. Hibbert was able to cheat, knowing Chandler wasn’t going to hit a 12-18 footer in his face if he stayed home to protect the rim. But is Bargnani really going to be playing crunch time minutes down the stretch? He would have killed us on the boards and on defense against the Pacers last year, his mid-range jump shot notwithstanding. So what else? This trade doesn’t help us get bigger, tougher, stronger, smarter. It further exacerbates our pedestrian rebounding and our problematic defense, all without adding any character or veteran savvy to a team that got out hustled in the biggest games of last year’s playoff run.
Now what did this addition cost us? We gave up Novak and Camby, two guys who couldn’t play last year, are on the wrong side of 30, and have crappy contracts (Novak’s being particularly bad). Hard to argue with getting a potential shooter for those two guys.
But instead of trading two bad players with bad contracts for one bad player with a bad contract we threw in three picks for good measure, most notably our 2016 first round pick. (It should be noted that Denver has the right to swap picks with the Knicks in ’16 — so it is highly unlikely that that pick is outside the 20s.) As per usual, we surrendered an asset moving forward to complete a deal that never needed to get done.
And that is what is so maddening about this entire trade.
We have a limited number of tradable chips given our salary cap situation. Why are we willy-nilly giving away more to get a guy with a terrible contract who can’t stay healthy? I’d love to know the conversation Knicks management had with Toronto on this one. Who else was vying for this guy’s services? There is no way Toronto was getting more than 40 cents on the dollar for a guy who got bumped out of the Raptor’s rotation last year, so why did we kick down the door offering 60? Even if the trade works out talent wise, it reeks of desperation and ignorance given Bargnani’s price tag coupled with how terribly he has played the last two years.
The off-season has just begun. There is ample time to make smart, savvy decisions to get hard working players in the building and patch up last year’s holes. But with another asset gone, we are tightening those handcuffs that much more. At the end of the day, the Knicks were a top-tier offense last year and, even with JR’s future hanging in the balance, need to make moves to improve on defense, rebounding, mental and physical toughness.
Bargnani does exactly none of these things.
But how rude of me: Welcome to New York, Andrea, and best of luck moving forward…