The Raptors have agreed to trade Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, according to multiple reports.
The New York Times reports Sunday that the Raptors will part with the much-maligned Bargnani in exchange for a Knicks package that includes Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, a 2016 first-round pick and a future second-round pick. Yahoo! Sports also reported the agreement Sunday, noting that two future second-round picks would be in New York's package for Toronto.
The New York Times and ESPN.com reported later Sunday that the agreement will not go official until at least July 10, when the free agency moratorium is lifted, and that the pieces involved in New York's package might need to be adjusted to make the salary cap math work. Both teams are said to be committed to the agreement.
Bargnani, 27, averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 35 appearances last season, missing time with an elbow injury. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft is on the books for $10.8 million next season and holds a $11.5 million option for 2014-15.
Camby, 39, averaged 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24 appearances for the Knicks last season. One of the oldest players in the NBA, Camby will make $4.4 million in 2013-14 and $4.2 million in 2014-15, although only $1 million of that figure is guaranteed.
Novak, 30, averaged 6.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 81 appearances for the Knicks last season. A three-point shooting specialist, Novak signed a four-year, $15 million contract last summer that is fully guaranteed.
A good chunk of Raptors fans didn't need to read past the words "Andrea Bargnani traded" before grading the trade an "A." It's hard to blame them. The former No. 1 pick bottomed out last year, both on the court and in the court of public opinion. This was a nightmare season so bad it seemed to be put together in an evil doctor's laboratory. If you wanted to construct the least likable NBA player, he would surely be an overpaid, unmotivated, injury-riddled, poor-rebounding, poor-defending, perimeter-oriented seven-footer who is supposed to be a shooting specialist but can't hit the broadside of a barn and, inexplicably, has the full backing of management. The only way that combination gets worse involves something truly treasonous, like spitting on a fan or getting busted for off-court criminal activity.
New GM Masai Ujiri, hired in May to replace Bryan Colangelo, is wasting no time tearing apart what was one of the worst dollar-for-dollar rosters in the league. Colangelo's reluctance -- or inability -- to move Bargnani was one of the decisions that sealed his fate. That Ujiri will reportedly land a first-round pick (plus an additional draft asset or assets) while taking back two smaller contracts for Bargnani so soon after taking over will surely vault him into demigod status among Raptors partisans.
The costs involved in dumping Bargnani -- and all the pent-up frustration he represents -- are not overly taxing. One would assume the Raptors will pursue the possibility of a buyout with Camby, who can't exactly be thrilled about leaving a potential title contender for a fringe playoff team (at best) at his age. Given that Camby is only guaranteed a little over $5 million combined over the next two seasons, it's possible his contract could be used in a future trade. As for Novak, he is a helpful, reasonably-compensated role player who fully understands that his job is to spot-up shoot (42.5 percent three-point shooting last year) and try not to get destroyed on the other end. There figures to be plenty of minutes available for him in Toronto.
Moving Bargnani also allows Ujiri to use his amnesty clause on one of the other brutal contracts on his books, should he so desire.
This trade isn't going to sit well with the peanut gallery, given Bargnani's substandard play and questions about how his indifferent attitude will play with New York's demanding fans and media. The Knicks are all-in on the possibility of a change of scenery resurgence. At his best, Bargnani has been a fairly dynamic offensive talent that requires attention from opposing defenses. But that player has been gone for years. If he resurfaces, the Knicks will be able to crow about their ability to "buy low" on a player that many franchises surely deemed not worth salvaging at his price. If not, he's one more big contract tying up their flexibility.
The pain of taking on the money owed to Bargnani is lessened somewhat by the inclusion of Camby and the fact that Bargnani's contract expires next season, which allowes New York the ability to shop it for someone else's overpaid/underperforming dead weight again next summer. Ultimately, the reported package paid -- a rotation player, a first-round pick, additional assets -- is just too much to give up for a one-way player who doesn't commit to the glass, especially considering that New York's offense was among the league's best last season.
The uncertain health of Amar'e Stoudemire's knees -- which required two minor surgeries last season -- is a major factor as well. Bargnani makes the most sense in what was essentially Stoudemire's role last year (when healthy): a reserve big man behind Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony who provided some offensive pop and kept some of the pressure off the Knicks' perimeter shooters. It's unclear how both would be utilized off the bench at the same time -- imagine the sieve interior defense that would create! -- or why the Knicks would want to return to a starting lineup that includes two traditional bigs rather than the small ball lineups that worked last season. Does that make this move an acknowledgement that Stoudemire can't be trusted to remain healthy? The Knicks are surely feeling the pressure to keep up with the Joneses after the Nets made the expensive decision to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics. The Anthony/Stoudemire/Chandler trio is set to make $58+ million next season, making game-changing moves difficult, if not impossible. Even with those acknowledgements made, does a fully healthy and productive Bargnani really alter the Knicks' ceiling next year? If not, what's the point? And why spend the money and part with a pick rather than roll with Novak?