Raptors' future relies on Bargnani
"The kid is taking strides in the right direction," Raptors president
Bargnani is averaging 17.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-leading 1.4 blocks in his fourth season since Toronto made him the No. 1 pick in 2006. The best players from that draft include No. 6 pick
Colangelo insists he isn't pursuing midseason trades for Bosh in hopes of re-signing him this summer. Should Bosh stay, it will be a strong signal of his faith in a long-term frontcourt relationship with the 24-year-old Bargnani. "They're fluid players who are both capable of playing the '4' and the '5' positions," Colangelo said. "It's a nice mix."
Many rival team executives are predicting that Bosh will move to Miami or another contender because the Raptors are a game under .500 with a capped-out roster. But it's also fair to speculate that the ever-aggressive Colangelo may seek to balance his rotation after overhauling it last summer. One potential move would be to trade point guard
If Bosh decides he is going to leave Toronto, then the next option would be to pursue sign-and-trades for him while anticipating a larger role for Bargnani. Since the second half of last season, Bargnani has been improving a low-post game that was nonexistent when he was drafted out of Benetton Treviso of the Italian league.
"Every time he would set a screen, teams would switch and put a little guy on him, and he still had a difficult time finding his way down in the block, and he'd get frustrated and push the guy off trying to finish," Raptors coach
Bargnani has been working with assistants
Notice that Bargnani didn't mention the option of passing out of the post. "It's not very good now," he said of his playmaking from the block. "I'm just starting to be a little bit comfortable, so once I start into the move, I don't see much [of the surrounding floor] when I dribble."
In all matters, the Raptors are asking him to show patience, to assess his next move and then execute it aggressively. "His greatest strength is his ability to get guys off balance, because they have to honor his shot so they're going to come out at him," Colangelo said. "I've told him, Just study
Bargnani was a gifted shot-blocker in Italy and believes he should be doing better in that area. "If you try to go every time, you get better," he said, laughing before criticizing himself. "If you're lazy, you don't go. I'm tall, I've got good timing for the blocked shot. It depends on me, if I'm active or if I'm lazy."
The Raptors like to hear Bargnani holding himself to higher standards, rather than being satisfied with the improvement he has shown already. After becoming a starter last season, Bargnani averaged 19.0 points from January on.
"His three-pointers are effortless the way he shoots it, and so you'd better be close to him," Triano said. "He helps Chris Bosh a lot because he drags a big guy away from the basket. They have to put a smaller quicker guy on Andrea, so '4s' will guard him, and that means Chris has a bigger guy and can use his quickness to get to the free-throw line. They complement each other very well."
If Bosh should leave, then Bargnani would receive more touches and shots, in addition to more defensive attention. But his ability to start at center or power forward would give the Raptors flexibility to seek a replacement at either position for Bosh, should they be faced with that conclusion.
I didn't ask Bargnani about his future without Bosh. But it's clear that he has grown used to high expectations, dating back to his final year in Treviso, when he was a 20-year-old averaging 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.8 steals for the Italian league champion.
"Every game, every practice, I had the NBA scouts coming and you didn't know what was going to happen, if I was going to come to the NBA," he said. "Two years before the draft, I didn't even know what the draft was."
Now he understands fully what is expected, and he isn't shying away from those demands. "He's got great confidence in himself, that's not the issue," Colangelo said. "He's got to become more of a complete player."
The franchise is counting on him -- whatever Bosh decides.