Andrea Bargnani: The Centre who plays like he’s 6 inches shorter

Andrea Bargnani  is a bad player. He is a historically bad player. His assigned job is centre. Yet, he does none of the jobs expected of a centre. Some people defend Bargnani and it’s often with one of these two arguments:

  • Bargnani isn’t your run-of-the-mill centre. Treat him like a shooting guard.
  • Bargnani is an offensive centre [You can say that again!]. His scoring is his skill and any good team could use it.

Treat Bargnani like a Shooting Guard

Bargnani the shooting guard.

Recently I read a good article on Boris Diaw and his one good season. The following tangentially related comment stood out at me:

Andrea Bargnani may not be a star, but if he were 6 inches shorter, his style of play would be understandable. Once he broke out of the predetermined mold, he is deemed incompetent until he achieves success.

I disagree with the author  that Bargnani is deemed incompetent because he broke out of the “mold” of the typical centre. I deem Bargnani incompetent due to a consistent lack of productivity. I do like the idea that Bargnani plays more like a shooting guard, and if he was shorter, people like me – and everyone else at the Wages of Wins Network – wouldn’t be so hard on him.

We’re expected to let Bargnani pass as a shooting guard in a centre’s body. This brings up an interesting point. How does Bargnani stack up against shooting guards with similar skillsets? Because Bargnani is a centre lauded for his shooting ability, we looked for guards who posted a True Shooting percentage above 53.3% and grabbed at least 7.0 rebounds per 48 minutes (both figures are identical to the ones Bargnani posted during the 2010-11 season). That gave us the following six players:

That’s right: Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Thabo Sefolosha, J.R. Smith, Josh Childress, and Alonzo Gee all shot more efficiently and grabbed more rebounds than the Raptors’ starting centre. And that’s not all – the other parts of their games are better than the Italian’s too. To make matters worse is that even as a shooting guard (the position with the lowest overall productivity) Bargnani is still significantly below average. An average player posts a WP48 of 0.100 and in Bargnani’s playing time would have earned around 5.0 wins. At 2.9 wins our seven footer still comes up short even if we spot him 6 inches.

Bargnani is an Offensive Centre

Kevin Love knows numbers. Bargnani does not.

Nevertheless, Bargnani is a centre with a unique skill, right? After all, how many big men shoot as well and as often as he does? Well, thanks to Kevin Love (and others) here come some numbers:

Turns out there are seven other good-shooting big men who are better shooters than Bargnani: Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson, Dirk Nowitzki, Brad Miller, Channing Frye, Danilo Gallinari, and Vladimir Radmanovic. Here I’ve defined “big man” as any player 6’10″ or taller. During the 2010-11 season, each of these players made 34.4% of their three-point attempts, hit over 81.0% of their free-throw attempts, and managed a True Shooting percentage greater than 53.2%.

Of these eight players, Bargnani ranked:

  • 8th in 3P%
  • 7th in FT%
  • 6th in 3PA/48
  • tied for 7th in REB/48
  • 8th in Wins Produced
Needless to say, while Bargnani may be a deep-shooting big man, there are several other players who do it better. Love, Anderson, Miller and Nowitzki are quite productive as scoring bigs but it turns out not all of our other tall players are*. Scoring does not guarantees success as a big. That said, Bargnani still falls woefully short on our list when we use it as a measuring stick.
Summing Up – Play J.R. Smith Instead

J.R. Smith can play big if needed.

Bargnani’s supposedly unique ability – his shooting – is something he doesn’t even do particularly well. As a shooting guard with a 6 inch edge Bargnani can’t even play above average. As a shooting centre Bargnani isn’t unique or even in the top five among his peers.

If the Raptors really want to stick with a guard-centre, there are cheaper and easier options. While the Lakers and the Heat probably won’t be cutting ties with Kobe or D-Wade any time soon, J.R. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and Josh Childress is potentially available through trade. If the Raptors are really interested in placing a shooting guard at centre, they could at least hire a better and cheaper one than Bargnani

- Devin w/ some help from Dre

*Luckily unlike Toronto Denver actually plays Danilo as a small forward and as such he is actually helpful to the team.


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