With everything going on in Raptorland in the past 72 hours my head has been on a permanent spin cycle. Prior to all the Hedo hoopla, the Toronto Raptors agreed to keep Andrea Bargnani rolling in spaghetti by signing him to a five year, $50 million extension. The deal goes into effect for the 2010 season and from my understanding the final year is a player option. The contract is a safe signing where giving Bargnani a starting raise of $1.5 million over his current salary may prove to be a steal in the long run. Simultaneously, it also brings a sense of security to the front court, shoring up the Center and Small Forward position for the next 5 years. Along with point guard Jose Calderon (under contract through ’12-’13 season) and swing man rookie DeMar DeRozan, the team looks to be coming together as a strong contender in the Eastern Conference.
Upon hearing the news, the Internets went wild, most of the voices knocking the number for a yet to be proven guy. Sports fans tend to be hard to please when it comes to their team spending money. It’s a dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t situation. Its always a risk to give out these contracts (see: Jerome James) but if there is any man Raptor fans should trust right now its Bryan Colangelo. Looking at the NBA landscape the number is not as absurd as it sounds. Big men are a hot commodity and command a lot of money to start with, let alone a 7-footer with a definitive skill set. Fact is, Bargs was going to get paid eventually. A 7-footer who averaged nearly 20ppg on nearly 50% shooting post All-Star break. If he were to keep up that level of play next season and BC had waited to ink him, $10 million/season may not have be enough to keep his services in Toronto. I think Bargnani’s price goes up to $12 million/season if he repeats the success he had over the final 47 games of last season next year. Just looking at some of the recent contracts handed out to young bigs around the league – Andrew Bynum: 4 yrs @ $58M , Andrew Bogut: 5yrs @ $60M with $12M in incentives, Emeka Okafor: 6yrs @ $72M -Andrea’s extension is a much easier pill to swallow. It doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves the $50M or more $$ with continued growth in performance next season, but helps point out that if the Raptors weren’t willing to pay someone else would.
BC Knows Best
Even if some are okay with the numbers they are asking why now? With the economy the way it is and the cap and tax numbers expected to drop drastically, did Colangelo jump the gun? Part of this quick trigger move could be to defend the initial draft pick. Colangelo hedged his bets on Bargnani and has stood by his decision from day 1. Bargnani will always get every opportunity to succeed as long as Colangelo is the man pulling the strings. This move could also be looked as insurance for the club moving forward as Bosh, seems hesitant to sign an extension and commit long-term to the Raptors. If he does decide to bolt next summer the team will have a solid replacement in Bargnani, who probably is still best suited at the PF position. Then there is the “2010 sweepstakes” effect which may have come into play when making this decision. In 2010, a handful of teams are looking to make a splash in the FA market, Colangelo may have made this preemptive move to avoid risking losing Andrea to a team who may have come short in the 2010 lottery and choose to break the bank on a player like Bargnani. The final factor is the CB4 factor and is probably the most important at this point. Signing Andrea, Hedo and Jose long term is showing the commitment from the team and providing Bosh more reasons to want to stay. Knowing they will be fighting the odds next summer this move works best for all parties involved and there is no better time than the present when it comes to committing to winning.
Il Mago – The Future
Bargnani, the 1st overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, had an good rookie season but followed it up with a horrible sophomore slump. This past season, somewhere along the midway point (or closer to when Smitch was fired), Bargnani awoke. He averaged 19.1 points, 6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game with a .469 FG% and a .435 3PT% through the last 47 games of the season. Those aren’t All-Star numbers, but they’re solid. He also managed to set career highs in almost every statistical category. Add in the fact that he’s 7 feet tall and only 23 years old, things are looking pretty good from my vantage point. The knock on him is the rebounding and defense but I will go on record saying his man defense is better than our current franchise player. He is still expanding his game and there is no question he has a ways to go. Adding a low post game is definitely on the to-do list this summer along with getting stronger to battle other bigs in the league. The rebounding is still a point of issue and I don’t think he will ever be a great rebounder due to the way he plays his position (outside in) but it is not out of the realm of possibility that next season we see him averaging 7+ rebounds – I can live with that.
All this said… if nothing else, we know Dolce & Gabbana is thrilled Andrea has $50Million more to keep him in custom suits for the foreseeable future.