Don't fear Bargnani; don't fear the big frontcourt

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Melo at the 3? Melo at the 4? It's all good.

Training camp is upon us, which means the time has come once again to freak out about the Knicks' acquisition of Andrea Bargnani. Over the summer, both Dylan and I examined Bargnani's potential impact on the team as a whole, but recently much of the talk has turned to his specific impact on one Carmelo Anthony. While some, like Chris Herring and Zach Lowe, are intrigued by the idea, many more are terrified at the idea of Bargnani knocking Melo out of the power forward spot he manned so effectively last year.

OK, so everybody needs to take a deep breath. Before we start to panic at the thought of Melo at the 3, Bargnani at 4, and dogs and cats living together, we really need to settle down and take stock of the situation. First, the starting lineup that dominated the end of the regular season last year is still completely intact, so there's no reason for Bargnani to jump in there from the opening tip. Second, just as Mike Woodson pointed out yesterday, the 3 and 4 spots are often interchangeable in today's game. Melo might not be Lebron (who is?) but he can defend either forward position, which gives Woodson some leeway on who he plays at that other forward spot. And finally, Andrea Bargnani is not the first tall, defensively-challenged forward Melo has had to share the floor with...not by a long shot.

Let's start with Steve Novak. People like to underplay the Money Badger's impact on last year's team, but Novak played 1641 minutes in 2012-13, the sixth-most minutes of any Knick. And of those 1641, Novak played 610.8 of them alongside Carmelo Anthony. So how did Melo fare in those 600-odd minutes playing alongside a lanky defensive sieve like Novak? Pretty damn well, as it turns out:

G MP

Net points

per 100 possessions

Net opp. points

per 100 possessions

Net

difference

Anthony / Novak 65 610.8 118.2 110.0 +8.2

That +8.2-point differential is the second-highest of any Melo pairing of at least 300 minutes -- No. 1 is, of course, Pablo Prigioni. No, the Melo-Novak pairing didn't stop anyone on the defensive end -- a 110.0 opponent DRtg would have been fourth-worst in the NBA -- but they more than made up for it with a staggering 118.2 ORtg, which would have led the NBA by nearly six points. And Melo played even better when paired with another tall glass of no-D, Chris Copeland (Novak and Copeland had the two worst defensive ratings on the Knicks last year).

G MP

Net points

per 100 possessions

Net opp. points

per 100 possessions

Net

difference

Anthony / Copeland 25 215.1 111.1 101.5

+9.6

If we broaden our search a bit to include the Melo-Tyson Chandler pairing, we find something very interesting. I've included two of last year's more popular small-ball lineups, with Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer acting as the small forward. I've also included three of the larger frontcourts, with the defensively-challenged Novak, Copeland and Amar'e Stoudemire. Let's see who comes out on top.


Net (Per 100 Possessions)
Rk Lineup Tm Season G MP PTS
2 C. AnthonyR. BrewerT. Chandler NYK 2012-13 30 404.4 +4.4
24 C. AnthonyT. ChandlerC. Copeland NYK 2012-13 8 76.9 +11.3
28 C. AnthonyT. ChandlerS. Novak NYK 2012-13 47 279.8 +13.4
30 C. AnthonyT. ChandlerI. Shumpert NYK 2012-13 26 365.0 -8.1
32 C. AnthonyT. ChandlerA. Stoudemire NYK 2012-13 26 223.0 +9.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2013.

Holy guacamole! Even the much-maligned Melo/Tyson/Amar'e frontcourt looks pretty darned effective. And, just as with Novak, the overall effectiveness came purely from the offensive side of the court. The Melo/Tyson/Amar'e trio gave up 109.8 points per 100 possessions, but scored 118.9 -- not exactly the strong defensive frontcourt one might hope for, but effective nonetheless. Of course, Amar'e brings a totally different offensive game from Novak and Copeland, but the results were still excellent.

Now does this mean Melo should move back to the 3? Absolutely not! I mean, was Melo playing the 3 or the 4 when paired with Novak? Who even cares? What it really means is that this whole "3 or 4" argument is rather silly: as long as you pair the greatness of Melo with a real center, you can go any number of ways with that other forward spot.

And as for Bargnani, the question isn't whether or not he can play with Melo, it's whether or not he can play at all. He hasn't shot the three nearly as well as Novak these past few years, but he has shot over 40% in the past. If he can recapture a bit of that magic-- through better health, a more suitable role, or just HOPLA-- he'll provide some of the floor-spacing that helped Novak and Copeland pair with Melo so effectively. Bargnani has also shown the same ability to get to the foul line (6.0 free throw attempts per 36 minutes in 2011-12) that Amar'e used so well last season when paired with Melo and Tyson. Neither of these skills were apparent in Bargnani's game last season, but if the Knicks can coax a return to form from the big Italian, then he'll mesh just fine with Melo...as did Novak, as did Copeland, as did Amar'e.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Posting and Toasting

You must be a member of Posting and Toasting to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Posting and Toasting. You should read them.

Join Posting and Toasting

You must be a member of Posting and Toasting to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Posting and Toasting. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker