The first trade of the 2013 NBA free agency period came out of left field. The New York Knicks acquired Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, a 2016 first-round pick and two second-round picks -- one in 2014 and the other in 2017. Quentin Richardson was given a three-year contract with only the first year guaranteed to facilitate a sign-and-trade that would allow the salaries to match.
Here are our grades for each team.
FOR THE KNICKS: This is a confusing transaction, typical of the Knicks since 2000. With two years and $23 million left on his contract, Bargnani was a liability, not an asset. And yet, the Knicks dumped three future draft picks in the transaction just for the right to acquire him.
A couple caveats: the picks aren't very valuable and the Knicks' roster situation is unique. The Nuggets have the right to swap the 2016 first-rounder with their own by virtue of the Carmelo Anthony trade, and both second-round picks are likely to be in the middle-to-late stages. (The 2014 pick is originally from Oklahoma City, so it's essentially useless). The Knicks also would have lots of trouble functionally retaining the cheaper Chris Copeland because they are over the luxury tax and thus only have the mini mid-level exception to split among Copeland, Pablo Prigioni and any other free-agent move they wanted to make. Bargnani essentially replaces Copeland's role in the rotation.
The problem is that Bargnani has not been a useful player for many years. I'll let Tom Ziller have the floor:
You'll be pleased to learn that over the past two seasons Bargnani, a 7-footer, has shot 72-238 (.302) on three-pointers. Novak, a far cheaper piece headed to Canada in the deal, is 282-633 (.445) in that same span. And stunningly, Novak -- who is an awful rebounder at power forward and even mediocre at small forward -- is an equivalent rebounder to Bargnani adjusted for position. Among all 7-footers in Basketball-Reference's database who played at least 1,000 career minutes, Bargnani has the third lowest rebound rate. Also, he's terrible on defense, has a career assist-to-turnover deficit and is often injured.
Bargnani would never play center, not with Carmelo Anthony at power forward, so his most likely use will be in lineups with Anthony and another big man. If he continues to sling errant perimeter shots off the front rim, his value as a floor-spacer is essentially nonexistent. And if he's not making shots, what value is he really providing to a team that has enough three-point shooters, but lacks strong defenders, rebounders or screen-setters?
While the first-round draft pick is likely to be in the 20s, it's still a potential asset to use to acquire cheap talent that could fill the role Bargnani would play anyway. Many picks in the 20s don't pan out, but by surrendering the selection, you're not giving yourself a chance. For a team that is consistently up against the luxury tax, finding useful players late in the first round, like the Knicks did with Iman Shumpert, increases the ceiling of the roster.
FOR THE RAPTORS: Toronto probably would prefer to have more payroll relief instead of having to deal with Novak's $3.75 million salary on their books in 2015-16, but the three draft picks will have to do instead. The good news is that Masai Ujiri has hit on late draft picks in the past, and he now has three chances to do so again. Also: no more Bargnani.