On the heels of reaching an agreement with prized free agent Hedo Turkoglu, the Toronto Raptors have further solidified their frontcourt by signing center Andrea Bargnani to a five year, $50 million extension. Bargnani has been inconsistent since entering the league three seasons ago as the first overall pick in the draft, but he had a terrific 2009 calendar year.
It seems reactions have been mixed on this move. Some people will tell you he’s worthless, as his admittedly awful rebounding for a big man harms him when it comes to certain statistical metrics, much like Glen Davis. Some will tell you that what he’s shown thus far is reason enough to lock him up at this price, right now.
I’m in the second camp.
See, good centers are hard to come by in the NBA. If you have one, you want to hold onto him. Andrea Bargnani is a good center. His averages since January 2009 are stellar, save for the rebounding. His defense still needs a lot of work, but the improvement that Raptors fans saw on that end of the floor last season is certainly promising. The man is only 23 years old, so we have reason to expect that he will continue to improve. It’s possible that, if Bryan Colangelo did not make this deal, Bargs would have played himself into a higher salary by the end of the upcoming season. This is the same reason why the Lakers gave Andrew Bynum a four year, $58 million extension last season. Let us not forget that the dearth of good big men in the NBA is also what has led to the overvaluing of players such as DeSagana Diop and Jerome James, but I believe Andrea Bargnani to be much closer to Bynum’s end of the spectrum.
Now, let’s contrast this to the signing of Hedo Turkoglu, who is admittedly a more proven NBA commodity than Bargnani. Both of these Europeans possess offensive skills that are rare for players of their size. Both leave much to be desired in terms of defense and rebounding. The Raptors will be paying both about $10 million a year for five years. The key difference here is that Bargnani is a young, developing player and Turkoglu’s best days are behind him. With Bargnani, Toronto has secured a valuable asset that they assume will pay dividends a few years down the road, when Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh enter their primes. With Turk, Toronto has acquired a player who may not be much of a factor a few years from now. This is why I find myself bizarrely defending the contract handed to an unproven three-year player, over the contract handed to an important contributor on a team that was playing in the NBA finals a month ago.
If you’re Chris Bosh (and I’m Hubie Brown), it feels good to have quality players at the point guard and center positions on long-term deals. And, if we’re judging by his tweets, then it seems you’re happy about your new teammate as well. This bodes well for Raptors fans worrying about Bosh’s long-term plans with the team, and, dare I say it, it puts the team in a better position if Bosh decides that Toronto is not the place for him.
-Vittorio De Zen