The Brooklyn Nets signed Andrea Bargnani with the hope that he could backup Brook Lopez, but he has been a colossal failure.
By Chip Murphy
It’s impossible to imagine a time when not just one person, but an actual group of people thought Andrea Bargnani was a prospect that a franchise could build around.
The legendarily awful 2006 NBA Draft is noted for Bargnani going No. 1 overall, right before superstar LaMarcus Aldridge. As much as that pick may still haunt the Toronto Raptors, this isn’t about the past, it’s about the present.
The Brooklyn Nets had less than no money to spend during the offseason, reduced to signing career role players to cheap contracts in the hope that they will exceed expectations. One of their free agents was Bargnani, signed to a two-year deal, worth the veteran’s minimum, with a player option for the second year. After watching him struggle mightily with the New York Knicks for two seasons, it made no sense at all.
The Nets needed a backup for Brook Lopez at center, but they could have gotten a Tyler Hansbrough or a Brandon Bass for roughly the same amount, and they would have made a positive impact. The Nets were left without another true center on the roster, forcing Bargnani into a role that he isn’t fit to handle. He’s been such an incredible burden on the Nets’ season that it’s almost impossible to think he is still in their rotation.
Bargnani has always been a liability on defense, but this year he’s taken his incompetence on that end to new heights. The 7-footer is the league’s worst rim-protector, according to Nylon Calculus. A center who only contests 19.1% of the shots he faces at the rim is embarrassing, and the fact that opponents are shooting an absolutely staggering 68.4% against his contests is scary. Bargnani has cost the Nets an estimate of 3.5 points per 36 minutes of play because of his terrible rim protection, and in total he has cost them 49.1 points this season. It doesn’t stop there.
Let's check in on Andrea Bargnani's clutch defense… https://t.co/P0xifgJrz1
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) December 13, 2015
So, about that defense, Andrea Bargnani… https://t.co/jwTy7dL82R
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 11, 2015
Bargnani is tied with Joe Johnson for the team’s worst defensive rating of 112, while carrying a team-worst defensive box plus-minus of -3.8, and 0.1 defensive win shares, via Basketball-Reference.com. That’s probably .1 more than you would have guessed he had though, right? Maybe he fell into an important steal at some point.
According to NBA Stats, in the 578 minutes that Bargnani has been on the court the Nets are allowing an atrocious 111.5 points per 100 possessions, by far the worst DefRtg on the team. In the 1,736 minutes without him, that rating slips to a 104.2. That’s right, Bargs makes the Nets more than seven points worse on defense.
According to NBA Savant, opponent’s are dominating him from all over the court. They are converting an unbelievable 80.9% (55-68) rate of attempts against him in the restricted area, and an almost as embarrassing 52.6% success rate on mid-range jump shots.
So if he’s that bad on defense, he must be shooting the lights out, right? Wrong. He’s shooting just 45.5% from the field with an eFG% (46.1%) that’s wildly under the league average. One of the most debilitating parts of Bargnani’s offensive game is his shot selection. The least valuable offensive play in the game is the long-two and Bargnani launches them more than any other shot, 49% of the time according to Basketball-Reference. Perhaps he just can’t make threes anymore, or he’s just lost all confidence in them, but it’s a huge detriment to the team that only 6% of his attempts are from behind the line.
The Nets have an offensive rating of just 94.4 with Bargnani on the court, and a rating of 99.7 without him. He has the team’s worst NetRtg with an astonishing minus-17.1. Seriously, it’s really hard to be hurt your team that badly but Bargnani pull it off. In total, he constitutes a minus-12.7 points per 100 possessions difference when on the floor. Andrea Bargnani makes the Nets almost 13 points per 100 possessions worse when he plays, yet he’s appeared in 42 of their 48 games, averaging 13.8 minutes.
One of the greatest barometers in judging a player’s success is the ESPN real plus-minus statistic. Real plus-minus is a player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors, via ESPN.com. The simpler explanation is that it shows a player’s impact on their team after taking into account how good the teammates and the opponents are when that player’s on the court.
As you probably guessed, Bargnani is last among all qualified centers in RPM at -5.51. When you look at his plus-minus while playing with certain players on the Lineup Finder, via Basketball-Reference.com, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that he hasn’t found any success no matter the caliber of teammate. While on the floor with the equally struggling Bojan Bogdanovic, Bargnani is predictably minus-13.4 points per 100 possessions but even when playing with Thaddeus Young — in the middle of a career year — he’s still a wildly mediocre minus-12.7 points per 100 possessions. It doesn’t matter who Bargnani is on the court with, he can’t find any success.
Andrea Bargnani has been a self-inflicted thorn in the side of both New York area teams, and will live in infamy as one of the NBA’s greatest busts.