Take One: Hanging on to top picks

From TrueHoop a few days ago:

In David Berri and Martin Schmidt’s book “Stumbling on Wins” they share data showing that draft position has a huge impact on minutes. Which makes a certain sense. “We used a really high draft pick on that guy … give him every chance to succeed,” kind of deal.

Doing that for a few months, or a season … that’s probably just smart, as you want to give the player time to adjust. You saw something in him that made you pick him so high. There is some adjustment period to the NBA. But teams often do it past the point of diminishing returns. Why?

Well, one reason would be because cutting a lottery pick seals the analysis of that pick as bad. Which hurts a GM’s reputation as a talent evaluator. Which hurts a GM’s ability to get his next scarce and lucrative GM job. So there’s always going to be a lot of pressure to have those high-profile picks work out.

But after a certain point, it’s the dumbest thing in the world. And if I were an owner, I’d look for a GM who was working in the best interests of my team by moving on quickly when things don’t work out. Among a team’s most precious resources are high draft picks. Perhaps an even more precious resource is playing time. So, you blew a huge draft pick on somebody who didn’t work out. Bummer. But now, you’re going to compound the error by blowing even more resources on the same dude?

The first thing that popped into mind was Bryan Colangelo’s love affair with Andrea Bargnani. From one angle, Colangelo deserves credit for sticking with Bargnani who is sure to be a decent offensive player for the rest of his NBA career. From the other, the notion that he is franchise-player material might sound absurd after 4 1/2 years of experience, if that ability were there, surely it would have surfaced by now in spades. The TrueHoop piece makes sense – see Adam Morrison, Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic and countless others – and it also found me struggling to find examples where top picks “blossomed” into All-Star type talent later in their careers, especially after struggling immensely the first few, Jermaine O’Neal comes to mind but that was due to a lack of playing time. If Andrea Bargnani turns into a perennial All-Star, it will be one of the bigger rebounds in the NBA.

Take Two: Peja’s Injury

Peja is nowhere to be found and he’s not injured. I mean, if he was injured he would’ve been healed by now. The Raptors have two options with him. Either they hang on to him and let his deal expire, thus going into the summer with some cap space. Or, they could flip him to someone looking for shooting and experience, and in return net a draft pick. If the return contracts are also expiring, it’s a no-brainer of a deal to make, if they’re not then Colangelo has something to think about. With the Carmelo trade talk heating up, I’m sure Colangelo is at least looking to see whether he can dangle Peja’s expiring contract somewhere in the middle of a three/four team trade which would net us back something. There is a third option, it’s to take Peja in the back and put him down.

Take Three: Solomon Alabi update

Alabi had a monster game in the D-League – 31min, 20pts, 9-11FG, 11 reb. Just thought you should know.

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  • Frostback Hoya

    Well, the one thing that makes sense in Barg’s case is the contract. He was signed for way, way below max money. So, from that point of view, he’s a ‘bargain’.

    • Raptoronto


  • http://twitter.com/EC_Rapsfan D. Gillis

    A few things, people seem to not differentiate between not living up to exceptions of a Franchise player and not deserving minutes. Andrea didn’t start in year one, he didn’t get many minutes out of the gate, when he did, we as a team improved and he was a big part of it. He was 1st runner up for ROY and was maybe out best players in the playoffs. He started like five games in year 2, then despite that he was playing well, was moved to the Bench, and then struggled with fouls, boards and rotations. In year three, BC traded for a starting C. When JO missed a lot of game, Andrea emerged and JO was traded and he’s held the spot ever since. Ever since all we’ve heard is that he’ll regress, his numbers are fools gold, he’s can’t do it without Bosh, much of it was baloney (he did need to improve rebounding and help side D) and BC get’s referred to as having a “love affair” with him, while nothing is ever mentioned about DeMar being given the starting 2 guard role right off the bat, despite struggling early and not even making the Rookie Sophmore game.

    I think DeMar’s a better example of the gm playing a player to diminishing returns, but I think that now we’re seeing it was probably the right thing.

    And I think the article is also a little short sighted. It gives no thought to the benifet of the franchise for the young players development, or what it means to rebuild with young talent. it just assumes it’s all based on the GM’s ego, and not in the overall “long term” best interest of the franchise. I’m sure BC could trade our young guys for vets and get a few more wins and boost his stock, and record of post season appearances, but which would be the selfish move. Credit a gm who has faith in his players, and doesn’t listen to fly by night media hacks checking box scores and trying to come up with Copy.

    I don’t believe Andrea is or was the sole source of our defensive or rebounding issues, while he does have a lot of room for improvement there. But he’s playing more minutes this year, and we’re a much better rebounding team. I think the big plus minus comes from heavy minutes on a poor defensive team, you don’t really tend to see the defensive issues go away when he goes to the bench. This year he’s our best player, was our second best player last year and the year before. Exactly where are the diminishing returns from, the minutes he took from Rasho?

    • cdub

      Andrea had an atrocious second year. I beleive he single handedly lost the raptors at least a dozen games due to his incredibly poor play, which is why the raptors did not follow up on the success of winning the Atlantic title. Smitch was right to be upset about being forced to play him. Just look at his stats from that year abysmal.

      • cesco

        Smitch will never be a head coach again because of the way he treated Andrea in that second year and GM’s take note of a coach mistakes regarding the development of a high draft . BTW , Andrea averaged 23.9 min/game and was the 5th scoring option on that team when he was not in Sam doghouse .

      • Bob

        Are you in prescription pills ?

        • JamesJ


    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      In his second season, Bargnani started 53 games, including 42 games IN A ROW, and averaged just about 30 mpg during those 42 games. The commonly held belief that Bargnani didn’t play much in his second season is utterly false, but I keep hearing it over and over again. The fact is he was given the chance to succeed and performed poorly. In the playoffs that same year he played horribly. For these reasons Colangelo went out and got Jermaine O’Neal.

      And while Raptors rarely play good defense, in general, the defense does noticebly improve when Bargnani is not on he court. The defense was, for the most part, better when Bargnani was injured, although it was also worse offensively.

      While Bargnani does obviously have value on the offensive end, he simply doesn’t have enough impact in other areas to make up for his poor defense unlike someone like Steve Nash, who makes everyone around him quite a bit better with his passing and is one of the best shooters in the league. The fact that Bargnani is a big man makes his deficiencies that much harder (read impossible) to hide.

      • Toshmon

        “In the playoffs that same year he played horribly”

        Thats your opinion.

        Bargnani went 7 of 7 for 17pts in the first half of game 5 of the 2007 NBA playoffs.

        Mitchell that idiot, was coaching and failed to realize this and i think he got two more shots for the rest of the game.
        He finished with 4 rebs and the raps won by two.

        Game 1-3pts
        Game 2-3pts
        Game 3-9pts
        Game 4-13 pts(starter)
        Game 5-18pts (starter)
        Game 6-18pts(starter)

        Im sure you would agree that these are ok numbers for a second year European player in his first playoff series.

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          You’re looking at the wrong playoffs. Bargnani’s second season were the the 2008 playoffs. He didn’t score double figures once and shot well below 40% from the field. Any way you look at it, he had a horrible playoffs. He did better in his first playoffs against New Jersey.

          • cdub

            yes in the series against Orlando (his second season) he shot 33% (25% from 3) and had a whopping 7 rebounds and 2 assists in 5 games

            regular season wasn’t much better

    • Nilanka15

      “[Bargnani] was 1st runner up for ROY…”

      You do realize that Brandon Roy received 127 of the 128 votes, right? The one vote for Bargnani was cast by the greatest homer in the history of sports, Chuck Swirsky.

      In this case, “1st runner up” means jack all.

  • Mediumcore

    Bad picks don’t just look bad on the GM, but on the entire franchise. The GM pulls the trigger on picks, trades etc, but he has an entire arsenal of staff from scouts, to assistants to stat guys that break down every last detail of prospects in the draft. The ultimate victory or failure is focused on the GM, but is a victory or failure of/for the entire franchise.

    With regards to Andrea being a bust…I guess it’s all in the perspective. Some people love that he can score, but personally I see that the PF/C spots as being defensive spots. You need to shine at defense in order to be valuable at those positions. Andrea has made strides this season to be a better defender, but not enough to be thought of as a franchise player. Not enough to build around him. You can’t handicap the team by surrounding him with good perimeter defenders so that he will not have to worry about being challenged at the rim.

    • Mediumcore

      “bust” was not the word I was looking for, perhaps bust as a franchise player, but a guy who can score like him ain’t no bust.

    • voy

      one: who ever said andrea was a bust?

      two: just because someone is not a franchise player doesn’t mean they cant be a contributing member of a contending team

      three: we all should stop framing arguments if intersted in an honest exchange of opinions – “andrea sucks because he’s not a franchise player”; by that standard 99% of the players in the league suck

      four: with or without andrea, the team needs better perimeter players

      five: would we be significantly better off with Lamarcus Aldridge, picked number 2, Brandon Roy, picked number 6 who may never play again, or Rudy Gay, picked number 8?

      • c_bcm

        Amen. The raps haven’t really had much luck in franchise players, so I find it amusing how much emphasis everyone here puts on that moniker. Bargs is good. He plays much ebtter than his contract would dictate. So I don’t see the problem here. He’s a valuable member of the team and BC was brilliant for locking him up with that contract.

        I agree that the C needs to be a defensive specialist, so lets see what we can get back with our assets.

      • Theswirsky

        one: he approached that. A ‘bust’ as a franchise player. I don’t think that can be argued with. I mean if Bosh wasn’t ‘good enough’ to build around there is no way Andrea is.

        two: no one is saying he can’t be a contributing member. The question is, how much contribution should he have? I for one think his contribution need to come as a 6th man, not a starter. At the very least the same treatment others get. If not providing on any given day, he sees the bench. (ie. no guaranteed minutes)

        three: mediumcore never said he sucks. not even close… in fact he gave Andrea some small compliments (which I can say I don’t agree with. I actually thought Andrea’s D was better last year than this year… atleast he covered the hardest check each night. This year he gets the easier check… ala Bosh Style). I don’t think he is wrong in regards to handicapping the team by needing specific players at 4 other spots. You need your bigs (specifically C) to be at the very least willing to try on D and to try to rebound. Any scoring is fantastic, but secondary. Defense from you big men is so much more important than what you get from the perimeter. (Not saying D on the perimeter is not important, but I see D on a sliding scale… 5 most important, 1 least…. although having one ‘lock down’ guy on the perimeter is a near essential)

        four: no argument. But if Andrea has been given 5 years, I imagine DD gets 3 more.

        five: irrelevant. Thats the past, this is the now. This is kind of what I think the post was getting at… cut your losses when you can. Don’t compound your problem. To me its like constantly betting to earn your money back… it may happen, but generally the house wins.

        Give the playing time to others, look for trades if possible… if not 6th or 7th man.

      • Mediumcore

        I beleive I corrected myself soon after the post saying that he was not a bust, but perhaps a bust as a franchise player. There is no harm in that as many number 1 picks have been through the years.

        Regarding your fifth point, yes imo the Raptors would have been much better with Aldridge than Bargnani

        • voy

          Hey, Mediumcore. Sorry, my initial reply was prior to the one where you revoked the word bust.

          I guess we disagree on the Raps being much better with Aldridge rather than Bargs.

          • Mediumcore

            No worries, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        • Seeten

          This is Lamarcus Aldridges 1st significantly decent season. I’d have hate to see this fanbase and its torching of Aldridge the last 5 seasons.

  • Bendit

    Not being in the business of talent evaluation or of it’s progression, I wonder if Bargs has another gear left before we can really say in finality “he is who he is”. Right now I am personally unsure considering his record of showing slow but steady increments in play until this year (a larger leap).You are right, most if not all allstar calibre players have shownup by year 4-5.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_47IOUM3SOHK4X4RXCB7NEXOFWM John N

    Bargnani is today #1 at scoring in the NBA as a center, and #15 in scoring in the entire NBA all players, and 16th in rebounding as a center at 5.8, while averaging 6.5 and 6.8 through Dec/Jan since Evans went down.
    He is 31 games into the learning curve of being the main MAN counted on to score and will continue his growth in that area as
    well as recognising the need to improve his defense.

    • matt

      Actually he’s 20th in rebounding as a center, and 49th overall. Don’t overrate his rebounding skills, we all know he has none.

      • Pesterm1

        he said since evans went out its been higher dude.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Scoring is not, and has never been, the issue. The problem is the other areas, especially defense. While his rebounding has improved since Evans went down, it’s still poor and he’s still near the bottom of the league for big men in rebounding Per minute.

      There have been plenty of players who could score at a similar rate as Bargnani, but lacked enough of the other skills to be able to get enough minutes to have much of an impact. The truth is that despite Bargnani’s scoring prowess, on most teams he wouldn’t get nearly as many minutes as he does on the Raptors.

      • Statement

        Bargnani = Michael Beasly,

        Bargnani = Mike James.

      • Statement

        Why is it such a difficult concept to understand that scoring totals are overvalued? I don’t get it. It’s like debating a bunch of Joe Morgans on why the RBI stat doesn’t capture what people think it does.

    • KJ-B

      You know what, I don’t dislike #7 at all, a different case with Sonny “No Money Weems” tho.. I just think he fits our needs, system, personnel etc… With a team so heavily dependent on scoring it just good common sense that we should balance that with a rugged rebounding/shot erasing center in the paint–but then again MLSE can hardly be accused of possessing a wealth of ‘common’ sense…

  • Mop

    “Peja is nowhere to be found and he’s not injured. I mean, if he was injured he would’ve been healed by now. ”

    Are you his doctor, if not, how can you say such silly things, is it just to keep the controversy going to manipulate readers?

    • rc

      Not disagreeing with you…but if my knee was swollen for 2 months, i’d be freaking out

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        Well, I haven’t been able to do really any exercise in 3 months because of my knee. Unfortunately, as you get older, your body starts to break down on you and there’s often times very little you can do about it.

        I agree with Mop that the statement regarding Peja was said out of ignorance and probably shouldn’t have been included in the artlcle.

        • Dn

          This one is even dumber…

          “to take Peja in the back and put him down.”

          • Statement

            It’s all good…dude was joking.

  • Black Angus

    I think everyone can agree that Andrea is a horrible help defender and terrible rebounder. His weak defence is compounded by the fact that most of the Raptors roster consists of below average perimeter defenders – Calderon, Derozan, Barbosa, Weems, Kleiza. To have maximum success Andrea needs to be on a team with a defensively dominating big man (i.e. Howard or Chandler) or one more defensively strong guards/wings (i.e. Battier, Barnes, etc.). Until that happens the Raptors have to live with the fact that they will not be a good defensive team. Andrea is a scorer and scorer only, you are wasting your time if you are waiting for him to mature into a decent rebounder or help defender.

    • c_bcm

      Bit harsh. I disagree that we shouldn’t expect him to improve in his defensive abilities. Give it time. He’s only 4 years into his career, and only 1/3 season into being a focal point of this team. He needs to get used to having his performances dictating the outcomes of games, which he’s never had to deal with before.

      • Statement

        It’s not just his help defence but his transition and pick-and-roll defense is bad too and he doesn’t push his checks out of their sweet spots consistently enough. In short, there are a LOT of defensive issues.

        • FAQ

          Was bosh any better ..??!!!!

          • matt

            Bosh can rebound the ball much better than Barney, and for a 7 footer, that has to be a kick to the groin.

            • Bob

              the lapdog in Miami brother..

          • Theswirsky

            “Was bosh any better ..??!!!!”

            was Bosh any worse?

            not even sure how Bosh even matters here. If Bosh wasn’t good enough to build around, I don’t possibly see how Andrea can be considered good enough to build around

          • sleepz

            He is now.

  • PeaceDawg

    “it also found me struggling to find examples where top picks “blossomed” into All-Star type talent later in their careers, especially after struggling immensely the first few”

    Off the cuff, one name comes to mind. He is also a center which is obviously not an easy position to master and stay healthy: Andrew Bogut. High pick, hell the highest pick that year, decent number but now he if he is healthy is close to all-star material. There is hope, people.

    • slaw

      Depends what Arsenalist means by ‘struggling’, ‘a few years’ and ‘top pick’. Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson and Tracy McGrady pop to my mind. If you go later in the draft then Steve Nash for sure falls into the category (the fans in Dallas tried to run Nash out of town). Probably others. A lot of top picks struggle in Year One (Dirk for example) but improve significantly in Years 2 and 3.

      As for Bargs, I am not an NBA talent evaluator but I don’t see him materially improving on this team. Maybe in another system on another team for another coach.

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        Billups had to covert his game from SG to PG. Neither Joe Johnson or McGrady got the minutes, at first, but excelled when finally given minutes. Nash couldn’t stay healthy, at first.

        Bargnani has been given plenty of minutes from the beginning and has never had serious injuries.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Bight is a very bad example because the main reason Bogut took so long was because he struggled with injuries, including back problems. Bargnani has been mostly healthy for his entire career.

  • albertan_10

    Has anyone except for the media called this guy a franchise player? Maybe some of the teammates have said ‘he’s our guy’ but if he isn’t then who would be? I don’t think it’s ever been said that he was going to be made the franchise player. he has turned into a good ball player and is still only 25, so he still hasn’t hit his prime. Why the hate then?

    If we got the #1 pick in the draft and he turned into the next Michael Jordan then Bargnani would be a role player and I think he’d be fine with that.

  • FAQ

    Surely, Weems must have recuperated from his sore back by now … or are they hiding him from trades and showcasing DD who BC may try to trade for something substantial … like Casspi and Udrih maybe ???!!!!!

    • albertan_10

      you consider those two substantial?

  • PeaceDawg

    Dunno about you but I would rather have Bargnani than Brandon Roy..ouch..

    • matt

      I really feel sorry for the guy, he was a sure deal unlike Barney. Actually if the injury he sustains turns out be career threatening, we might have gotten the best player after all, or maybe we can all agree that the 2006 draft was a bad year to have No.1 pick.

      • raptordan

        You are so right, Matt. 2006 was a brutal draft and it was so unfortunate that that was the year we got the 1st pick. All in all, getting Bargs in that draft wasn’t so bad. Imagine how Charlotte feels (adam morrison #3) or Golden State (Patrick O’Bryant #9).

        • Martin

          Considering their contracts, I would say that Bargnani is number 2 of the draft – behind Rondo (and yes, it’s a bit sad). Gay and Alridge might be at the level, but considering their salary, I prefer Andrea. Roy would be nr.1, including his contract, but his health – unfortunately – disqualifies him.

  • arsenalist

    Just came back to see this thread since I posted it:

    – I’m speculating he’s not injured, obviously I don’t know for sure. The thing at the end was a joke, albeit it wasn’t funny (apparently).

    – The person who made the Bogut comparison is bang-on. Billups was also a good example. Disagree about McGrady, he had PT issues his first couple years which held him back.

    – I’d say depending on Roy’s injury, Bargnani could be between #1 and #3 (not counting Rondo here, nobody saw that) depending on how you rank Aldridge and Gay. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that there was no consensus #1 pick that year.

    • Dookielover

      thx 4 telling me to keep roy and not trade him for jose arse.

      • arsenalist

        Oh ye of little faith, season’t not over yet.

        Besides, I’m not a doctor.

        • Dookielover

          stick a fork in roy. he’s done…he’ll sit then play if they make the playoffs. then in the offseason he’ll retire.Portland will apply for a medical exemption….no cartilage=no basketball.

    • Theswirsky

      ummm… Paul Milsap?

      • arsenalist

        Are you seriously going to compare the 47th pick with the #1 pick here? The question is about top picks panning out, not second round steals.

        • Theswirsky

          not quite sure it matters where someone was picked.

          He is still one of the better players from that draft, if not the 2nd best.

  • Neddamb

    I don’t understand why people would think that Peja is faking an injury. No team is going to want to bring him in not knowing his health. You would think he would try and grab some minutes and show off that he is healthy and as good shooter around.

    • Mediumcore

      You could use that same argument to apply to him not being injured…meaning all teams screen for injuries before making a trade official, so why would they bring him onto the team if he was injured? I think they just want his contract and not the player. He is probably more valuable as an expiring contract and are going to let the dollars come off the cap once it expires, or perhaps trade him to a team looking for cap releif. But I don’t think they have any intention of playing him and taking minutes from the young players on the roster.

  • KJ-B

    I think the Raps have come to a similar crossroads that the Blue Jays came to a couple of decades ago when they just couldn’t climb over the hump with their two most influential players in the lineup, Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez… In the Raps world that would be our ‘beloved’ PG/C combo of Calderon and #7

    It must have been a tough day when they got traded but when Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar came on board to lead the young Kelly Grubers, Ed Spragues of the world (DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Bayless? Amir?–next yr’s picks) they moved from a contender to champ…

    On the hoops side of the equation this organization needs to get unstuck from being perennial chumps to contenders…

  • Thrillhouse21

    It really makes you wonder how much Bargs would have to do to pacify these “Raptors fans”. What? 35 PPG 15 RPG 5 BPG? I mean come on! The guy just had a 30 point, 8 rebound game… and made the opposing defense look like swiss cheese. Give the guy his props. And obviously BC is aware of his short comings as a defender (presently) because that’s what the attempted trade for Tyson Chandler was for wasn’t it? So what do you think a priority would be with 18 mil in cap space and 12 mil in a TPE this summer? People seem to be shi*ing all over a player that seems to be the only one bringing any credibility to this team at the moment.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      This whole “what does he have to do” argument is a tad overused especially when anyone in their right mind knows exactly what he needs to do to pacify fans like me: NOT BE A MASSIVE LIABILITY ON THE DEFENSIVE END.

      If the guy has to score at least 26 points in a game for him not to be an overall liability on the floor, then I’m not quite sure him scoring 21.5 ppg is something to be excited about.

      I think the big issue is that I value defense. You, apparently, do not.

  • Ottis Chase

    Why would the raptors help move melo to a divisional rival?

    What team would pay more then a second round pick for Paja? And if the team needs Paja for vet experience in the playoffs it will be a late pick anyhow.

    Stop playing fantasy GM and get real….

  • Sheptor

    I blame the media for most fans perceptions of need for a “franchise player”. This is where the the phrase got coined and most think you need one stud to “build around” and the rest to do their best next to this mega star…Also fans all expect #1 picks to be these “franchise” players. Bargs in this case is hit with a double whammy. If Bargnani is not a franchise player who cares. He’s the only player in the league who can do what he does at his position, is 24, and is getting better.

    Whether or not he’s ever considered for MVP, or if he only makes it to 1 or 2 All-star games when it’s all said and done doesn’t matter. The guy is a beast and can help any team win. The problem is the Raps are young, collectively are bad at D and lose a lot of games. What are ppl expecting. Bargs to carry this team to a 55 wins. The team is as bad as predicted (actual a bit better) and Bargs is better then predicted.