By Rob Mahoney
Andrea Bargnani has spent the 2012-13 NBA season oscillating between two distinct states: injured and underwhelming. When he plays, he regularly disappoints; not only does Bargnani fail to provide a good offensive fit or meet the defensive needs of the current Toronto roster, but he generally fails to produce effectively even on an individual level.
Beyond that, Bargnani further torpedoed the Raptors' efforts to trade him with an unfortunately timed mid-season injury. There was no guarantee whatsoever that Bargnani could return even a decent trade package given his performance and contract, but a potential deal was made more difficult by his inactive status.
Useless on the court and as a trade chip, Bargnani was one of the emptiest commodities in the league this season.
And now, the cycle begins anew. After returning a month ago to continue his run of disheartening play, Bargnani has again suffered an elbow injury that will likely rule him out for the rest of the season. The official diagnosis is a right elbow avulsion strain, and according to Raptors PR, it is unrelated to Bargnani's prior elbow ailment.
Bargnani was giving the Raptors so little on the court that shutting him down for the year is the only sensible play. At this point, Toronto has little choice but to bank on a hope that some team can be convinced to take on Bargnani's deal, likely as a reclamation project. That promising stretch at the outset of the 2011-12 season now seems like a lifetime ago, but perhaps Bargnani might still vaguely intrigue a team looking to fill out its lineup with a floor-stretching forward. Either way, Bargnani's short-term relevance to the Raptors has come to mirror his lack of long-term importance. Today, he's a Raptor in name only, and frankly it'd be a bit surprising if we can say even that much about Bargnani by the start of next season.