Andrea Bargnani, and the Idea of the Former Overpaid Player

According to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, the Nets signed Andrea Bargnani today.  The deal is for the veteran’s minimum with a year two player option (for those wondering why all these minimum deals are two year pacts: it gives you early bird rights. When the Nets were able if they wanted to give Blatche 4-$25, but not Livingston, it was because Livingston did not sign for a second year).

One thing must be said regarding this signing: Bargnani’s career is in a tailspin.  He has not had a generally healthy year since 2010-2011, missing 31-53 games per year each season since.  His defense is brutal. And last season’s 36.6% from 3 (which is decent, but not exactly “stretch 4” caliber) was his best shooting season since 2009-2010.  He was an embarrassment with the Knicks after a disappointing tenure as a hopeful leader in Toronto.

That all said, the signing may work out, under one guise.  Once a player earns a certain opinion (for better or worse), that opinion tends to stick with the player.  Deron Williams earned a franchise player reputation and was given the benefit of the doubt of a potential resurgence for years, and even to an extent now.  Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson are viewed as overpaid cancers, and neither seems able to shake it — Stephenson was traded for Spencer Hawes’ epically bad contract in a deal that the Hornets were praised for; Smith was a huge asset to a western conference finalist and cannot get anyone to give him a contract this summer.

Here is the thing: just because a player was something, does not mean he IS something. And just because a player was overpaid, does not mean he is overpaid.

Bargnani was a problem in Toronto because he was supposed to become a franchise player, and instead became a drain on the franchise.  In New York, he was a problem because he made $11,500,000 last season, and was acquired for a first round pick in the belief he could be a nice sidekick for Carmelo Anthony.

Bargnani woefully failed in the missions of becoming a franchise player, and earning 8 figures as a player acquired for a first rounder.  However, Bargnani does not have to do either in Brooklyn.  Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young will start, and all Bargnani has to do is provide capable reserve minutes when either player is sitting.

If he can shoot decently from the three point line, and even play bad defense (his defense is normally atrocious, and the Nets cannot afford that, but even bad defense will do), he will be worth his minimum contract.  If he does not, the Nets will go to other options on their benches.

Essentially, just because Bargnani failed to meet the expectations set for him in Toronto (be a franchise player) and New York (be an $11 million player worth dealing a first rounder for), does not mean he cannot be worth $1.4 million as a bench player.  Similarly, just because Josh Smith was not worth a $56 million contract from Detroit, did not mean he was not worth $2.1 million to play a reserve role in Detroit.  Bargnani will always be an epic draft bust.  A player who two teams regretted ever having.  But the Nets are not asking Bargnani to do the things those teams needed from Bargnani.

It is true that Bargnani has struggled shooting (which is awful for a stretch 4), cannot defend a chair, has questionable desire, and Deron Williams is his version of ironman.  But given what’s left on the free agency market, and the tiny salary commitment (the tiniest possible), the move is certainly understandable.  It can be so easy to view a player from one prism, and never change the prism.  The Nets signed a player to a minimum salary to fight for minutes off the bench today: view him from that prism, and forget about his former expectations.  I will not hold my breath, but there is a chance the move pans out.

With That, What Happens to the Rest of the Roster

The Nets have 18 players, and you can only carry 20 preseason, and 15 during the season.  At least three players on the team now cannot be on it in November.  Here are some thoughts on what may happen with the rest of the roster:

Steve Blake is likely on the move: Most teams carry three point guards and the Nets have 4, 5 if you include Markel getting minutes at the position.  Blake is the obvious odd man out.  Jack is Lionel Hollins’ presumptive starter, and the Nets want to give some developmental time to Larkin and Boatwright.  Making just $2.1 million and an expiring, Blake is easy to move.  The Nets could send him to a team with cap space, or deal him for nonguaranteed contracts.

Earl Clark is a likely casualtyClark seems to be the most obvious numbers game victim of the nonguaranteed contracts. Markel is going nowhere. Boatwright and Reed were just added. Jefferson showed flashes last season.

-Can Cory Jefferson fetch a future asset: Jefferson may be next to go.  The Nets have loaded up front with 4’s despite having Jefferson, and he fell out of the rotation.  Unlike Clark, Jefferson may have a drop of trade value; perhaps the Nets can flip him for a future second rounder rather than simply cutting him.

-Brooklyn may not be done: The Nets still may see if any free agents entice them.  At this point, the only obvious thing to acquire is another traditional center behind Lopez, however.


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