First-overall picks in any sport will always be heavily scrutinized and expected to contribute much sooner than other young players. They’re expected to blossom into superstars, All-Stars, and franchise cornerstones.
The reality, however, is that it’s pretty much a crap shoot. These guys often need a few seasons to develop–especially in the NBA–and there’s no way of being absolutely certain that you have a Dwight Howard or a Tim Duncan on your hands; you could just as easily end up with a Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi.
Or an Andrea Bargnani, who by all counts was a major disappointment last season for the Toronto Raptors in his second full NBA season. He won’t turn 23 years old until October 26, but already many NBA observers are pegging him as a potential bust despite his unique skill set and ability to play both forward positions and, perhaps, center as a 6-10 big man.
Just how “bad” was he last year? Compared to his rookie season, all of Bargnani’s per-game averages took a dip as he finished with 10.2 points, 3.7 boards, 38% FG, 0.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks in just under 24 minutes per.
Anomaly or sign of things to come?
Hoops Addicts’ Ryan McNeill recently caught up with Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell to get the scoop on Bargnani’s development (or lack thereof), and if you believe Mitchell there are much brighters days on the horizon for his young Italian. He cites, amongst other things, Bargnani’s incorrect foot- and legwork as a reason for his struggles last year:
“It’s a lot of technical things with Andrea,” says Mitchell. “It’s the weirdest thing: someone told me they teach players to jump off the wrong foot when they drive to the basket in Europe. I’m right-handed and I’m trying to jump off my left leg, every time. Andrea’s right-handed and a lot of times he plants with his right leg.
Jay Triano was telling me they teach them that over in Europe because a lot of times if they take that extra step, they call them for traveling. So we’ve been trying to break Andrea of something he’s been doing for how many years? We’re trying to get him comfortable jumping off the left leg when he shoots with the right hand. The right leg when he shoots with the left.
Now I know it sounds simple, but if you haven’t done it… you watch him. Most of the time when he gets stuck going to the basket he’s thinking ‘I need to be jumping off the other leg’ and he gets caught jumping off the wrong leg.”
Check out the rest of the interview here.
Andrea Bargnani Photo Credit: Icon SMI