ESPN Insider: Grading the Andrea Bargnani Trade – Raptors Kill It

Some days, it’s good to be alive. For extensive analysis and grades on all the deals, check out the ESPN Insider article.

Raptors: A
Masai Ujiri was quiet on draft night, when the Raptors were the only team not to make a pick. The new general manager’s effort to clean up the Toronto roster begins in earnest with this move. After a frustrating 2012-13 season, Bargnani had to go. The only question was how bad the return would be for the Raptors. This move saves them $7.6 million in salary in 2014-15, provided they waive Camby (whose contract is guaranteed for about a million), and possibly even more if Camby simply decides to retire rather than reporting.

For Toronto to accomplish that kind of savings and also get three draft picks out of the deal is almost unthinkable. There’s plenty more work ahead for Ujiri in undoing Bryan Colangelo’s mistakes, but this is an ideal start.

New York: D-
Here’s the disturbing thing about this deal: The 2013-14 SCHOENE projections suggest Bargnani will be less effective on a per-minute basis than the stretch big man he’s replacing at Madison Square Garden, Novak. Bargnani’s superior ability to create shots made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 and landed him a $50 million extension three years later, but Novak’s willingness to efficiently play a smaller role has made him just as valuable to his teams.

If the Knicks wanted to swap Novak (and Camby and Richardson, to make the cap math work) for Bargnani, fine. The extra money — about $3.3 million in salary this year and $7.6 million in 2014-15, both of which will increase the team’s luxury-tax payments — obviously isn’t a big deal to New York, and the Knicks actually created more cap space for when they’ll next be under the cap in 2015 by shedding the final year of Novak’s deal. Now only Raymond Felton has a non-rookie contract that extends beyond 2015 (a player option) in New York.

I’m not crazy about the fit. Bargnani’s ability to play center, a big part of his additional value over Novak, is problematic because the Knicks have such poor defenders at power forward in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. A Bargnani-Stoudemire frontcourt would be an open invitation to opponents to drive to the rim, and putting Anthony alongside them might be the closest we ever get to replicating a player “on fire,” “NBA Jam”-style, in real life.

But the real problem here is that New York had to give up draft picks for the right to make a questionable swap. Over the next four years, the Knicks now hold the minimum possible two picks — their own first-rounders in 2015 and 2017. New York can always buy back the second-round picks, but giving up a first-rounder in this deal is inexplicable given the Knicks were doing Toronto a financial favor. They had the leverage, and it’s unclear why they didn’t act like it.

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