The New York Knicks are planning on giving their marquee addition of the offseason a big chance to prove himself. Andrea Bargnani, who was acquired from the Raptors this summer via trade, will start at power forward, according to the Wall Street Journal. The change at the four effectively ends the small-ball starting lineup New York utilized last season -- at least at the start of games.
How will Bargnani fit in New York? What other ripple effects will this cause throughout the roster? We examine some of the questions that loom with Bargnani now installed at power forward.
Melo moves back to small forward
Carmelo Anthony was markedly better on both sides of the ball as a power forward last season. Anthony took full advantage of power forwards who were unable to keep up with him on the perimeter and decimated small forwards in cross-matches. Last season was, arguably, Anthony's best in the NBA.
Slow-footed defenders couldn't effectively contest his shot when Anthony spotted up on the perimeter. He hit career-highs in both three-point percentage (37.9 percent) and three-point attempts (6.2 per game). The defenders, who were mostly larger and slower, couldn't defend Melo in the pick-and-roll either. Anthony scored 1.07 points per possession as the ball handler in such situations, per MySynergySports.
If hockey assists were a thing in the NBA, Anthony would have racked up a ton last year. Teams were forced to send an extra defender at Anthony in the post. When he skipped the ball out to the perimeter, the ball would zip around the three guards sitting on the three-point line and result in an open jumper. The small-ball approach led to New York finishing No. 4 in team three-point percentage (37.6 percent) and they most made shots from range (10.9) per game.
What made the Knicks small-ball style good for 54 wins and an Atlantic Division title was Anthony's defense as a power forward. He's often labeled as a lazy defender, which is true at times, but he is a sneak-good post up defender. He gave up just 0.64 points per possession (good for 16th best in the NBA) in post up situations last season, again per MySynergySports. He's a big body down low and has deceptively quick hand speed when guarding one-on-one in the post.
His 0.9 blocks and 4.8 rebounds per game for his career suggests that Andrea Bargnani will not bring that type of interior presence. Bargnani is often slow to rotate on the back line and struggles keeping his man in front of him in one-on-one situations. To his credit, Bargnani has never played alongside someone as good at protecting the paint as Tyson Chandler. The former Defensive Player of the Year won't magically make Bargnani a plus-defender but he should help in masking some of the 7-foot Italian's shortcomings provided he can stay healthy.
The Knicks might be able to hide Bargnani if the opposing team trots out a non-shooter. It's the same principle they used last year when Anthony would pair with the sharpshooting Steve Novak. Two of the three most effective lineups last year for New York were a combination of Novak, Anthony and Chandler on the front line. The effectiveness of those lineups hinged on Novak's ability to consistently knock down three-pointers at an over 41 percent clip. Which brings us to the final issue:
Is Bargs really a floor spacer?
The big man hasn't shot better than 31 percent from three-point range since 2011. In 2008-09 he shot 41 percent; in 2009-10 he shot 37.2 percent. Some Knicks fans are wondering if he'll be able to get that shooting stroke back. But mull over this: In four of his first seven seasons in the NBA, he has shot less than 35 percent from behind the perimeter.
Some of Bargnani's shooting struggles stems from him being the Raptors' main scorer for the majority of his career. In certain lineups with the Knicks, he'll be the fourth option which should make the workload that much easier for him. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs and it's tough to imagine him being much worse than he was in Toronto last year.