The New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors have agreed to a trade which will send Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks in return for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson in addition to a 2016 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017.
What does this trade tell us about how the Knicks will play next season?
It signals more of the same, with a twist.
Last season the Knicks found success by playing Carmelo Anthony as an undersized power forward, creating matchup problems for the other team, and surrounding him with shooters to give Melo room to operate in and around the paint.
Bargnani may be listed as a centre/power forward but do not be deceived by his 7’0 frame; Andrea is a scoring wing player who just happens to be very tall, cut from the same cloth as Chris Bosh and fellow countryman Danillo Galinari.
The ‘big man’ possesses the ability to face up against his opposite number and use his relative quickness to drive to the basket with extraordinarily good handles for a seven-footer. He usually begins his moves from the perimeter so spacing will not be an issue with Melo and/or Tyson Chandler, the Knicks’ current centre, on the floor together. His rare combination of height and skill creates a unique problem for opponents when he is in top form.
Worryingly for New York fans he isn’t as prolific from range as his shot selection would suggest. As per basketball-reference.com he shot just 31% from the three point line last season; 36% is his career mark. For someone who shoots an average of 3.7 threes a game it’s a problematic figure to say the least. In this regard he is similar to the recently retired Rasheed Wallace who shares a strange inclination to shoot from long range, despite his self-proclaimed ability to post up.
The players departing the Knicks as part of this trade will not be missed. Sure, Steve Novak had become something of a crowd favourite with his ability to hit the open three with amazing consistency. But his lack of complementing skills, such as the ability to guard well or dribble with penetration, made him redundant in the post-season when flaws are often ruthlessly exposed. Camby is a fringe player toward the end his career; Richardson played a total of 29 minutes.
The trade puts a spotlight on the role of Amar’e Stoudemire. The power-forward was in and out of the team this past year because of injury, and was therefore willing to accept a place on the bench to avoid disrupting the harmony the group had achieved in his absence. If he stays healthy this season he won’t be as accommodating. In fact, he vocalised his dissatisfaction with the lack of playing time in New York’s recent playoff series against the Indiana Pacers in May:
“We need to understand exactly what my style of play is and what I bring to the table. It’s something I have to sit down with Coach Woody and express to him” (New York Post)
It is painfully obvious to New York Knicks fans that the team played their best basketball with Stoudemire on the bench. This is despite adamant claims to the contrary from both Melo and Coach Mike Woodson. Woodson has to be enterprising with his deployment of Amar’e and Bargnani, as there will surely be no takers for Stoudemire’s huge contract (he is owed more than $21 million next year).
The 27 year old Italian carries the burden of being a number one draft pick, selected ahead of all-stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo in 2006, and it’s a burden he needs to cast aside now. If he felt the pressure of expectation in Canada he had better develop thick skin fast; the lights only shine brighter in New York.
image: © mith17