If Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t sure how the New York Knicks felt about him, the team’s offseason actions should provide a big hint.
The Knicks recently completed a trade with the Toronto Raptors for forward Andrea Bargnani. The move will ship Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and a 2016 first round pick to Toronto.
The Knicks are also reportedly interested in free agent forward Elton Brand.
The trade wreaks of gut-reaction to the Brooklyn Nets blockbuster deal, but it has some upside.
Clearly, Stoudemire’s injuries have frustrated the front office and highlighted a lack of depth in the front court. The 6-10 big man has missed 72 games over the last two seasons. Meanwhile the oft-injured rotation of Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby combined to make only 84 regular season appearances.
Bargnani is a good fit offensively, but the move is far from a slam dunk. He’s a versatile scorer inside and, when healthy, a dead-eye shooter outside. The former first overall pick scored 21.4 point per game in 2010-11 while shooting .345 from beyond the arc. Fans will miss Novak’s discount triple check celebrations, but Bargnani’s more complete repertoire will play better in Mike Woodson’s offense.
Those are the positives. But the negatives make the trade a bit of a head-scratcher. Bargnani managed only 25 starts last year before an elbow injury sidelined him for the season. He’s an injury-plagued insurance policy for Stoudemire’s injury-plagued knees.
And talk about a log-jam. Stoudemire has already announced that he wants to reenter the starting lineup, Anthony just won a scoring title playing mostly as the four-man and now Bargnani needs significant minutes. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.
Also, it’s fair to assume a 7-footer would bring some much needed grit, but the Knicks won’t get it from Bargnani. His 4.6 rebounds per 36 minutes is well below league average for power forwards, and NBA executives have questioned his heart and desire to continue playing in the NBA. The Knicks are banking on Woodson’s motivational skills to resurrect Bargnani’s declining numbers.
If Carmelo Anthony moves back to small forward, and Bargnani and Stoudemire can stay healthy and share minutes, and IF the Knicks can find a capable, cheap backup point guard and another rotational big man, and IF top pick Tim Hardaway Jr. can contribute off the bench right away, the Knicks should be in great position to defend their division title and challenge the Miami Heat for the conference crown. But those are a lot of ifs.