There are few certainties in sports – that is one of the main reasons why they are so compelling. But one thing is pretty certain – now that Andrea Bargnani is healthy and back playing big minutes for the Raptors, the losses are sure to come. This seems like a ridiculous statement – Bargnani is the Raptors' "franchise player", the #1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, their leading scorer the past two seasons, currently in the midst of a five-year, $50 million contract. Not to mention the star or a ridiculously overplayed TV ad for pasta. How could a man of this stature guarantee losses for the Raptors?!
It's pretty simple – Andrea Bargnani isn't very good at that thing known as basketball. Or at least the form of basketball played in the NBA – he surely would dominate your local pickup league. And the stats this season show that the Raptors are a MUCH better team with Bargnani not suiting up. They are 4-19 with him in the lineup; 13-13 without him. For a #1 overall pick, and a cornerstone player of your franchise, those are shocking numbers. It wasn't always this way – for his career, including this year, the Raptors are 179-233 (.434) with Bargnani suiting up; 44-60 (.423) with him sitting out.
So what's changed this year? The shortest 7-footer in the NBA is still bad at what he's always been bad at (rebounding, defense), but additionally he isn't very good at what he normally is good at (scoring). His scoring average per 36 minutes is his lowest since 2009/10, and he is shooting at the worst clip of his career (48.8% True Shooting). In fact, the advanced stats community are positing that Bargnani is having the worst season a NBA starter has ever had. Imagine that – a 7-footer who can't rebound, can't defend, whose favourite spot on the floor to shoot from is behind the three-point arc (where he is a stellar 31% this year) is having a disastrous season. Who would have thunk it. Additionally, the players getting the bulk of the minutes in Bargnani's absence – Amir Johnson and the now-departed Ed Davis – were among the Raptors most efficient.
The return of Bargnani, the addition of the inefficient Rudy Gay, and the departures of two of the team's most productive players, Jose Calderon and the aforementioned Davis, means the L's are going to start piling up for the Raps (unless they find a
sucker GM who is willing to take Bargnani in a trade). Let the bad times roll.