Raptors News

Andrea Bargnani reportedly close to signing overseas

Andrea Bargnani is close to signing a two-year deal with Baskonia, according to a report from Alfonso Azkorreta passed along by Sportando.

This deal raises a number of questions:

Why the hell am I reading about this on Raptors Republic?

Well, the short answer is that the news has gotten very slow of late, and I’m kind-of-not-really-but-supposed-to-be on vacation, so content’s been light. The longer answer is that Bargnani holds an immense place in the history of the Toronto Raptors. In 2006, then-general manager Bryan Colangelo made Bargnani the No. 1 pick in the draft, tying the franchise’s future to Il Mago’s success. When a player is a franchise’s only ever No. 1 pick, when it defines a failed era, when his subsequent premature contract extension more or less costs the GM his job, and when his ouster becomes the beginning of the best era in franchise history, well, he kind of holds an important place in team lore.

Also, his career is just super interesting to me. The two years in New York didn’t work out, and I thought that was it. Brooklyn weirdly gave him a shot, that didn’t work out, and now, after 10 years, it seems like his NBA career is probably done. That he’s still playing at 30 isn’t all that surprising, but the move overseas feels like the closing of the book on Bargnani’s NBA career.

Is Bargnani the biggest draft bust ever?

No, definitely not. As much as Bargnani never delivered on the promise of a No. 1 pick – and proved a worse selection than several of the names taken after him – there have been worse No. 1 picks. It was a bad selection, to be sure, but it’s hard to call anyone who lasts a decade in the NBA and has one or two near-All-Star seasons a bust as a player overall.

Solely as a No. 1 pick, here’s how Bargnani compares to his peers in Basketball-Reference’s database of 67 No. 1 picks:

Win Shares: 50th
Win Shares per-48: 57th
PPG: 40th
RPG: 46th
BPG: 27th
FG%: 49th
3FG%: 2nd (this one kind of shocked me since he shot 29.8% over his last five seasons, but he shot 37.1% on 3.7 threes per-game over his first five years)

Wait, two near-All-Star years?

Let us not forget that for a brief time – longer than just “the 13 games” – Bargnani looked like he may pan out as at least a valuable offensive piece. Over 2010-11 and 2011-12, he averaged 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with a 53.4 true-shooting percentage and a 16.9 PER. Of course, topping out as roughly average in terms of efficiency, while using 28.3 percent of your team’s offensive possessions, isn’t a great look, and injuries and the loss of his 3-point stroke conspired to nip that progress in the bud pretty quickly.

And of course, there was that 13-game stretch. From Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 25, 2013, Bargnani averaged 23.5 points on 57.6-percent true shooting with 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a massive 36-point outburst in his penultimate game before suffering a calf injury (which, not coincidentally, was also his first game back from injury). Sigh…the good times.

Does Bargnani have any sort of lasting impression on the franchise?

Yes. Not only are we cursed with bad jokes every draft cycle, a fanbase aversion to European bigs who can supposedly shoot, and the earworm TBJ-cum-StartersBargnani All-Star anthem, but Colangelo’s replacement, Masai Ujiri, was able to unload Bargnani to the New York Knicks. That package included Marcus Camby (bought out), Quentin Richardson (waived), Steve Novak and a 2017 2nd-round pick (traded together to Utah for Diante Garrett, who was subsequently waived, in a salary dump), a 2014 2nd-round pick (sold to Brooklyn to select Xavier Thames), and of course, a 2016 1st-round pick that became Jakob Poeltl.

Raptors fans would have been happy to unload Bargnani’s deal for nothing at that point. Three years and two weeks later, that the Raptors have a promising lottery pick to show for it seems a minor miracle.

Because he lasted seven seasons in Toronto, he’s also all over the franchise leaderboard:

Games: 6th (433)
Minutes: 6th (13,130)
Points: 4th (6,581)
Rebounds: 5th (2,095)
Blocks: 5th (382)
Threes: 3rd (579)
Win Shares: 12th (16.3)
Missed Field Goal Attempts: 5th (3,115)

I also still have a signed Andrea Bargnani jersey somewhere in storage.

What the hell is Baskonia, and are they better than Aquemalaga?

Saski Baskonia is a team in the Spanish ACB league, generally considered to be the second best league in the world. Now sponsored by inappropriately named credit union Laboral Kutxa, they’re also the former team of Raptors legends Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa, as well as some other NBA notables (Roddy Beaubois played for them last season). If it doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because they’ve long been known as Tau Ceramica, their sponsor from 1987 to 2009. They’ve also been moderately successful, winning three Spanish Championships and six Spanish Cups. Last season, they finished fourth in the ACB and fourth in Euroleague, their best season since their last title, in 2009-10. In short, this is about as close to an NBA-caliber situation he could land in outside the NBA.

There are just so many Outkast jokes to make with a team named Baskonia, we can’t get to them all here.

How badly would Jakob Poeltl have to mess up to make #TakeThatMasaiUjiri stop being funny?

Infinity bad.

Closing thoughts

I wish Andrea Bargnani all the best and actually hopes he kills it in Spain so that another NBA team takes a chance on him in 2017 or 2018. Il Mago’s greatest trick yet may be convincing us all he’s disappeared – Europe is just his second act, and every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call Il Prestigio.

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