When the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, a lot of us cocked our heads. It didn't make much sense, to be perfectly honest. A non-defender, non-rebounding big man that focuses on offense and wants to stretch the floor but has struggled with his shot? Is there anything that is less of what they need?
Our offseason report was pretty much one big head-scratch. It's not necessarily bad. It's just weird.
So trying to figure out how Bargnani will fit in is kind of difficult. Knicks blog Posting and Toasting took a swing at it and the idea is something we've touched on, but it's still kind of interesting to explore.
And that's the Novak problem, in a nutshell. The inherent spacing value his shooting brings is undermined by his inability to capitalize on overzealous closeouts. Defenses know this, and actively run him off the three-point line with full sprint closeouts and without consequence. And because they're running at top speed, they can stretch their coverage distance. The result is more help on the strong side, reducing the threat of a, say, Carmelo Anthony drive. Novak's essential spacing purpose is rendered moot.
Enter Andrea Bargnani. Say what you will about his offensive repertoire, but at the very least he's fully capable of punishing defenders who rush towards him too quickly.
Because he's more than a spot-up shooter, defenders play him differently -- or at least treat him as a viable threat in other offensive functions besides standstill shooting. That's what Louis Scola does here, trying (and failing) to close out with choppy steps to prevent a drive.
And the benefit of this defensive technique is two-fold: First, that Bargnani -- should he receive the ball on a swing or kick out -- will actually have room to shoot, with defenders closing out more cautiously. And second, that Bargnani can actually, well, drive the ball to the basket and make something happen.
Novak essentially had to be removed from the equation for the Knicks in the playoffs, playing just 5.6 minutes per game due to his defensive liabilities once it was clear teams had figured out how to scheme him on the other end.
But is $23 million over two years too much for a Steve Novak upgrade? Sounds obvious, right?
Except that if you're a title contender without any sort of concern for price, you overpay for role players. The Clippers have shelled out money over the past three years to get Chris Paul weapons to use. The Heat have tossed whatever they can scrape together to get shooters and defenders. You're not looking for major upgrades if you're already a title contender. You want to find that component that makes the engine just the extra little bit faster and more efficient enough to win the title.
This is about as close as I think I'm going to get to "Why the Knickst traded for Andrea Bargnani without going to "they thought his hair looked good" or waiting for him to become an All-Star this season.