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
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 Noam Schiller 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
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
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.