By: Jordan White / @jordanswhite
Let’s consider Anrdea Bargnani for a moment, shall we?
In my season preview, I wrote about Bargnani’s awful rebounding, his propensity to play like a guard rather than a forward or a center, and his inattention to defense. I doubted that even Dwane Casey could help the former number one overall pick.
I will never doubt Dwane Casey again.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Bargnani is that much of a different player. His points per game is up by only one point from last year (21 to 22), and his rebounding has increased just slightly more so (5.2 to 6.5).
In fact, his three point percentage is down by six points, as he’s only making 28.2 percent of his deep balls, a career low. Delve deeper into the statistics, and you’ll see Bargnani has quietly undergone a drastic transformation.
One that might even earn him some All-Star consideration.
Gone are the days of the inefficient shooting guard in a power forward/center’s body who would settle for jumpers. In his stead is an aggressive, efficient weapon who wisely picks his spots and is learning how to use his size to his advantage. Take Bargnani’s PER, for example, which this year is 22.21, good for 22nd overall. Again, maybe not the most impressive numbers, but when you consider that last year, Bargnani posted a PER of 16.50 (then a career high) which ranked him 82nd overall, the improvement is truly eye-opening.
Il Mago’s improved aggression is really apparent when looking at his range-specific field-goal percentage. Often criticized for not using his size correctly, or perhaps not knowing how to, Bargnani’s field goal percentage at the rim this year is 71 percent. Last year, it was 57 percent.
One might imagine that this increased percentage is due to increased attempts, but that’s not the case here. Bargnani’s attempts at the rim this year, 3.7, are practically identical to last year. He’s not taking more shots; he’s taking better shots. Whereas before, Bargnani was content to settle for mid-range jump shots, this year he’s decided to be aggressive and drive the ball to the rim more, which has resulted in better shots at the rim.
Bargnani still has work to do. His notoriously poor rebounding is still just that. His defense, while improving, is still nothing more than average. But, as coach Casey is quick to point out, the effort is there:
Andrea’s done an excellent job defensively, impacting pick-and-rolls, playing the post, doing the things we need him to do defensively to make an impact on the game, so that’s been a huge surprise – how talented he is, not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end.
Before this season, I would have laughed at that quote. Bargnani? Aggressive? Defense? Ha!
But it’s all true. And while some of it could be contributed to the light finally going on in Bargnani’s head, it would be a disservice to attribute the majority of Bargnani’s remarkable transformation to anything but the fantastic coaching of Dwane Casey.
Follow Jordan White on Twitter at @jordanswhite.