On July 1st,The New York Knicks made a push to bolster their front-court by acquiring the Toronto Raptors seven-foot forward/center Andrea Bargnani. In exchange for Bargnani, the Raptors received Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby, a 2016 first-round pick and second-rounders in 2014 and 2017 from the Knicks.
I believe this is a good trade for both the Knicks and Raptors. In Toronto’s case, they know that they are not a playoff team right now so they need to stock pile as many draft picks as possible. Also, Bargnani has been injury prone, missing a total of 82 games in the last two seasons, and has not delivered as a Dirk Nowitzki type franchise player that the Raptors had envisioned when he was selected #1 overall in 2006.
For New York, they are only giving up two end-of-the-line players in Camby and Richardson, and one marginal rotational player who is completely one dimensional in Novak. As for the picks, it is very rare that second-round picks can contribute to an NBA team, and the Knicks first round pick will likely be a middle to late-round selection. Also in the Knicks favor, they won’t require Bargnani to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, which he clearly failed to live up to in Toronto. The Knicks just need Bargnani to be a poor man’s Toni Kukoc in order for this trade to be a success. This is one of the few times where being traded to a New York team will result in LESS pressure for a player to produce.
Moving forward however, this trade may signal the end of the Amar’e Stoudemire experiment in New York. It is pretty obvious that “Stat” does not fit offensively with Carmelo for whatever reason, and the younger Bargnani (27) will probably be given every opportunity to snatch playing time away from the older incumbent Stoudemire (30) if both are healthy. Amar’e, who has missed 72 regular-season games over the past two season due to injury, may have to settle in as a role playing big who comes off the bench for any one of the three starters: Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, and Andrea Bargnani. Trading Stoudemire seems unlikely due to his albatross of a contract ($45 million over two years un-insured), so he may have to remain a Knick for at least one more season.
Bargnani’s presence in the lineup also means a change of responsibilities for Carmelo Anthony as well as Tyson Chandler. Anthony, who spent much of last season moonlighting at the power-forward position, will most likely be fully entrenched at the four-spot for good if the Knick roster remains as is. This means Melo will have to do more of the two things he is not known for doing: playing defense and rebounding. As a natural small forward, it was acceptable for Melo to compile a career average of 6.4 rebounds per game. But with a fading Stoudemire, and a weak rebounding Bargnani (career 4.8 RPG), Melo must be willing to mix it up with the likes of Kevin Garnett, David West, and Joakim Noah, play strong post defense and grab double-digit rebounds per game. Melo is more than physically capable, the real question is his desire to do so.
As for Chandler, it is vital for him to step up his overall production in 2013-2014. The Knick big man must bounce back from his dismal performance against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 playoffs. In the six-game series vs NY, Hibbert average 13.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG. Meanwhile, Chandler averaged a woeful 6.2 PPG and 6 RPG during the series with Indiana.
If Chandler is to re-gain his Defensive Player of the Year form of 2012, learning to play with fouls is essential to his success. Too often, Chandler would lose all aggressiveness after committing fouls and Hibbert was able to get any shot he desired against the Knicks center. It is also important for Chandler to develop some kind of offensive move as well. Whether it be a hook-shot, a mid-range jumper, or some type of drop step move, it is completely un-acceptable for Chandler to continue his offensive ineptitude. Stalwarts like Serge Ibaka and Joakim Noah are prime examples of defensive-minded players who enhanced their offensive abilities through hard work and dedication and it’s about time that Chandler’s offense follows suit.
It still remains un-clear what other moves the Knicks will make to add to their core unit. As it stands now, the manhood of the entire Knicks front-line will be put to the test next season. All four key players in the Knick front-court are clearly at a crossroads and their ability or inability to evolve their games will be the determining factor on whether or not New York can overthrow the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat.