This 2012/2013 campaign has been a disappointing one for Andrea Bargnani, the 27 year old Toronto Raptor power forward. Through the years Bargnani has never contributed greatly in the defense or the hustle aspects of the game, such as taking charges and diving for loose balls (except for a slightly above average man to man post defense) You will seldom see him displaying strong leadership traits, preferring to be a non- vocal and a non-engaging teammate when on the court or the bench. Worst of all is Bargnani’s rebounding ability, or lack thereof. He has accumulated historically low rebounding per game averages (Career Reb: 4.9) for a 7 footer who plays significant minutes. His value up to this past season has been on the offensive end as a scorer, more specifically a rare stretch four who “spaces the floor”. In his seventh season in the NBA, Bargnani’s shooting efficiency has plummeted to near career lows especially from three, minimizing his greatest strength and effectively taking the “stretch” out of stretch four.
Player A is Ryan Anderson, the most efficient stretch four in the Association this season, and a dangerous weapon that improves the Hornet’s (soon to be Pelicans?) offense. Player B is Andrea Bargnani who no longer provides an efficient scoring punch and as a result effective spacing on offense. Not to mention he’s a ball stopper and doesn’t have the greatest ability to create for others. This is an exacerbated problem because the offense often flows through him, as he receives his designated high volume of touches and shot attempts (15.2 FGA per game this season which ranks second on the roster).
Most of the Raptor’s fan base has responded to Bargnani’s poor performance this season by justifiably criticizing him and wondering if he still is a positive contributor to the offense or has become an impeding force. Below, a statistical analysis is provided, showing the team’s play on offense with and without Andrea in the lineup this season. Let’s let the numbers do the talking.
FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% Off Reb PTS Off Rtg +/-
Provided by NBA.com
Some statistics that stand out from the sample above are that the Raptors shoot better from the field, from three and score more points per game with Bargnani on the court. However the team has a better offensive rating (a crucial statistic in evaluating the effectiveness of a team’s offense) and plus/minus with Bargnani on the bench. Not surprisingly the team also rebounds better on the offensive glass with Bargnani on the bench (he averages 0.8 offensive rebound per game this season)
The Raptors currently hold a winning streak of four in a row and have been victors in four out of the five past contests. While this sample size is small, the impact of Bargnani’s absence is noticeable, drastically changing the performance of the team. Here is a sample of the Raptors per game offensive statistics that are relevant to the study:
Sample PPG FG% 3P% Ast Off Reb OffRtg
Provided by basketball-reference.com
The numbers speak for themselves the Raptors have improved noticeably in PPG, FG%, assists per game and most importantly offensive rating during the past five games.
Kyle Lowry’s absence from the starting lineup during the past five games has to be considered because it coincides with Bargnani being on the shelf. Lowry is a key influence on the Raptors offense as the starting point guard being responsible for running the offense. This season he has averaged 15.8 PPG on 40.6% from the field, 34.2% from three and 5.8 assists. Lowry’s difficulty at times is determining the balance of when to score in isolation and when to create for others. He seems to go with the former more often. And when his shots are not falling, the offense struggles due to the lack of involvement of other scorers. The Raptors have increased their assists during their last five games averaging 25 assists per game, up from 21 assists per game on the season. This increase in assists is likely the result of the team not relying heavily on Bargnani who is a ball stopper, or Lowry’s isolation offense. Instead the team has shared the ball very effectively led by the good playmaking ability of Jose Calderon (averaging 11 assists per game over last five) which has resulted in an improved and more dynamic offense. We will ultimately see how coach Casey integrates Lowry back into the offense, finding a way for him to help the Raptors continue this unselfish, productive basketball.
The return of reserve Alan Anderson (a streaky scorer and underrated play maker) from injury four games ago has also no doubt provided a boost to the Raptors offense during their winning streak. Since coming back Anderson is playing better, averaging 15 PPG shooting 37% from the field and 44% from three.
While the above factors have an impact on our study of Andrea Bargnani’s effect on the Raptors offense during the past five games, they are unavoidable and not defeating. The two statistical samples provided, demonstrate that overall (especially told through the offensive rating comparison) Andrea Bargnani presence in the lineup this year makes the offense less effective. While Bargnani is forced to sit out, he will perhaps contemplate the unpleasant situation where he might not be the future starting PF for the Raptors. In Andrea’s absence, coach Casey has chosen Ed Davis to replace him as the starting power forward and he has responded with good play on both ends. If Davis maintains his strong play, a trade or demotion to the bench would seem to be the logical outcome for the Italian big man.