In 2006, the Toronto Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani with the first overall selection. Selecting a number one overall pick isn’t always as easy as it sounds. For every Lebron James there’s a Kwame Brown. The process is, by no means, foolproof. Bryan Colangelo selected the little known, but highly touted Italian, in a year where there was no consensus number one. It was bold move at a pivotal time for the Toronto Raptors, having just come off one of the worst seasons in team history and losing star Vince Carter.
Colangelo passed up the talented Brandon Roy and the athletic duo of Lamarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay. Fans, writers and so-called “experts” openly questioned the move, but Colangelo stuck with his gut and bet his reputation on the 7-ft Italian.
Over the first few years of the “Bargnani Era” there were flashes of brilliance, but also periods of shaky defensive play and inconsistent minutes from former coach Sam Mitchell. The whispers in the ACC grew louder.
“He can’t play defense.”
“He plays the same position as Bosh”.
“He can’t rebound to save his life.”
“He’s just a 3-pt shooter”.
Bargnani responded with inconsistent play. Coaches didn’t know what to do with him. He had the skill set of someone who was difficult to guard, but he just couldn’t seem to put it together and the coaches couldn’t seem to help.
Enter Jay Triano.
No longer would Bargnani have to worry about getting yanked from a game at a moments notice. He was the starter plain and simple. He was a centre and was going to be given time to adapt to that role. No more quick substitutions, no more questioning his position, no more self doubt. This vote of confidence from his coach ignited a flame under Bargnani and he finished the season averaging 20pts a game. He was starting to look like a legitimate number one.
This season has once again been flashes of brilliance and moments of head scratching – until this last stretch of games. Something changed. Something happened. Bargnani has exploded, looking every bit a number one selection, looking every bit a dominant big man.
Over the last 5 games (not including last night) he’s averaging 20pts per game, 9.2 rebounds plus 2 blocked shots. He looks dominant on offense and solid on the defensive end. Not bad for a guy that was openly called a “bust” by many announcers, pundits and media types who believed the Raptors should have gone with Brandon Roy.
What changed? A lot.
Andrea is confident. His teammates trust him in key situations. He isn’t waiting for the ball he’s demanding it. He hasn’t let tough calls deflate his intensity. He’s using his size and jump shot to attack the defense. He’s more passionate. More emotional. He still likes to lurk on the 3-pt line but also takes the ball to the rack – which has made him nearly impossible to guard.
Bargnani doesn’t just look like a kid with exceptional promise anymore; he looks like a star. The countless number of hours he spent in the gym, practicing his post game or his pull up jump shot, has paid off. The amount of times he was called for offensive fouls while learning to drive, has made him adapt. He’s becoming a complete player with a very impressive arsenal of weapons. A skill set approaching unguardable. Especially for a seven footer.
Dirk Nowitzki, a seven footer of his own, mentioned Bargnani’s development. ”He’s way more athletic than I ever was in my career…He’s got a quick first step. What you have to do as a young player is improve year over year and I think he did that. He’s always a tough matchup. … The sky’s the limit.”
It appears that Bargnani has turned the heads of the league’s elite and a corner in his development. He may be on his way to taking the next step towards being a legitimate NBA star.
The Zan Tabak Herald