End of an Experiment
The Chris Bosh/Andrea Bargnani frontcourt has failed.
by Pardeep Toor / @pardeeptoor
It’s logical to cut your losses and start afresh after making a mistake. It makes more sense to admit fault, acknowledge wrongdoing, lick your wounds and start all over again. What doesn’t make sense is locking up your mistake for five years and $50 million and praying for a costly redemption – that’s disillusionment or false hope.
Andrea Bargnani is the Raptors’ disenchanted investment. Skin color and geography project Bargnani to be another incarnation of Dirk Nowitzki – an athletic big man who can drive, shoot from outside and get to the free throw line – all things he is painfully average at doing. The Dirk comparisons are currently inane and the better analogy to Dirk is Bargnani’s running mate, Chris Bosh. Bosh, like Dirk, faces up to the basket, relies on his quickness to get to the line numerous times, is an efficient scorer but with slightly better rebounding numbers. If Bosh’s numbers and game is akin to Dirk, Bargnani’s is currently analogous to Channing Frye – only costing $47 million more over five years.
Dirk’s 7th Season: 26.1 pts, 9.7 rebs, 1.5 blks, 46 % FG, 86.1 % FT on 9.1 att/game
Bosh, this year: 23.8 pts, 10.9 rebs, 1.0 blks, 51.3% FG, 79.2 % FT on 8.3 att/game
Frye: 11.3 pts, 5.3 rebs, 45 % FG, 44.2 % 3pt on 4.9 att/game in 27 mins
Bargnani: 16.9 pts, 6.1 rebs, 47.5 % FG, 37.1 % 3pt on 3.9 att/game in 34 mins
Contracts aside, there’s nothing wrong with being Frye. Frye is an extremely efficient rotation player who could get minutes on any team in the League as could Bargnani. But the problem is a Bosh/Bargnani frontcourt does not work together as evidenced by the Raptors this year, with superior talent, currently only sitting a half-game ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the last Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, barely vying for the right to get swept by the Cavaliers in the first round.
Although rarely making the best signings, Mark Cuban acknowledged very early in Dirk’s career that he needed to be paired up with a defensive minded, rebounding center to balance Dirk’s perimeter play. Erick Dampier, Desagana Diop and Brendan Haywood were all priorities to complement Dirk and free him from tough defensive assignments. In Toronto, Bryan Colangelo did the opposite, opting to pair Bosh with a raw perimeter project in Bargnani who is immune to playing in the paint and allergic to rebounds.
The end result is both Bosh and Bargnani getting abused on the defensive end by the likes of Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Andrew Bogut and any other competent big man. Offensively, Bargnani is not an efficient enough scorer (requiring 13.8 shots to get his 16.9 points) for teams to bother plotting to stop him – often times opting to switch on picks and rolls with a smaller defender and negating his quickness advantage over sluggish bigs.
Earlier this season, I took a lot of heat for dreaming about Joakim Noah coming out early after Florida’s first national championship and being drafted number one overall by the Raptors to play alongside Bosh. Many of you thought I was crazy. But seriously, judging from the improvement in his game this year, Bosh is a max player in the League, a franchise guy, someone you can build a team around. He’s a ridiculously efficient scorer, vocal and it’s almost impossible for a big to guard him off the dribble. The Raptors’ short comings this year has nothing to do with Bosh but the horrid excuse for a team around him. All Bosh needs is a competent defensive-minded center to relieve defensive pressure and assist on the glass. He has never had that in Toronto. Noah, for his rebounding, defensive prowess and disdain for offensive touches, would be perfect. A Ben Wallace or Chuck Hayes would suffice but Bargnani? Not so much.
Pairing Bosh with Bargnani was a novel experiment. I believe the premise was to outscore the opponent with a quick and agile frontcourt that extended the defense beyond the three-point line, opening up lanes for slashing wings. Problems: no slashing wings were ever added to the roster and the defensive deficiencies of two big men who model the games of small forwards out weighed the potential for offensive anarchy. The goal was to shift the paradigm of bigs in the League but the end result is tragic and immensely disappointing.
The cost of this experiment is monumental. There’s little doubt in my mind that it will end up costing the Raptors the best player to ever dawn a dinosaur jersey this summer. Bosh is going to leave. He has no reason to ground himself on a team that has committed the next four years and the majority of their cap space to a failing core. He is free to go where he chooses and start over again, something Colangelo and the Raptors stubbornly refused to do with the selection of Bargnani to complement Bosh. On the bright side, only four more years and over $80 million till Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu’s contracts expire and then the Raptors and their fans (me included) will get their chance to start anew.