Still lots of upside to Bargnani

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY — When he’s not settling for jumpers, when he’s applying pressure on defences by putting the ball on the floor and playing even token defence, Andrea Bargnani can be a presence.

Whether he’ll ever shed the burden of being the NBA’s first overall pick is an issue that may never get silenced, but he’s beginning to silence his critics and opposing coaches have certainly taken notice of Bargnani.

Given his non-American background and shot-happy nature, comparisons with Dirk Nowitzki have become inevitable, if not unavoidable.

The Dallas Mavs star has won an NBA MVP title and led his team to an appearance in the league final.

Bargnani is far from a finished product, but in the absence of Chris Bosh the Raptors have made Bargnani their first option on offence.

“Absolutely,” OKC Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said when asked by reporters if he sees any similarities between Bargnani and Nowitzki, two seven-footers. “He (Bargnani) has a good first step. He scores around the basket. He makes threes. He’s a very good player.

“We treat him as one of the best shooting forwards in the league. He has one of the best shot fakes in the game and he always seems to get guys on it.”

Bargnani has also become quite efficient in drawing fouls by leaning into his defender.

What Bargnani must do as teams adopt by putting a smaller defender on him, by crowding him on the perimeter, is to develop some back-to-the basket moves.


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