The Italians in the NBA: 2013 Preview by Gia


During this hyperactive free agency of summer 2013 we’ve seen a lot of start movement and a change of balances in the NBA. We’ve experienced blockbuster trades, like the one between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to play alongside Deron Williams in Brooklyn. We also watched the latest episode of the Dwightmare saga, with the Superman finally deciding to join James Harden in the Houston Rockets. Several teams will try to dethrone the Heat this upcoming season and especially in the Eastern Conference, things will look drastically different. The New York Knicks also made a significant move, by trading for Andrea Bargnani, who will play alongside Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt, sending Marcus Camby and Steve Novak to the Toronto Raptors.

The 7-footer Andrea Bargnani will have a unique chance to resurrect his career now that he’ll be with a new team, under a new coach and playing together with superstar Carmelo Anthony. It’s true that during the last couple of years, Bargnani went off course. His numbers dropped, his morale followed the decline and the injuries he suffered only came to complete the doom of his tenure in Toronto. Even the fans wanted him out, expressing their disappointment whenever they got the chance to see him on home court.

It was just a matter of time for the former No.1 overall pick to find his next destination and now he did. Stepping into a big-market city, like New York and playing in a competitive team will give the 27 year-old center a unique chance to return to his normal level of play. Although last season, in 35 games, he averaged 12.7 points per game, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks, while shooting 40.0 percent from the field, there’s no doubt he can perform way better. At least that what’s he was accustomed to do, during his first seasons in the league. Now, entering the 2013-2014 season fully healed, he’ll have to prove he can return back to his 20 point-per game performances and also find his touches from long range. Being a 36.1 percent three-point shooter for his career, Bargnani went on a shooting slump over the past couple of seasons, shooting a combined 30.4 percent from beyond the arc. Standing at 7 feet and weighting 256 lbs, one of the main strengths of his game was outside shooting. That’s how he made a name for himself in the league and that’s an aspect of the game he’s missed the last years.

As a member of the Knicks team, he is projected to get many chances to find his shooting pace once again, as New York has two of the best penetrators in the league, Melo and J.R. Smith. With those two drawing the most attention from the opposing defense, Andrea Bargnani will have the opportunity to find more open shots than he did with the Toronto Raptors. As he’s just entering his prime, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if we see him making a strong and emphatic comeback next season.

Another Italian player, Danilo Gallinari, still remains an unsolved puzzle for the Denver Nuggets. The team recently lost its star forward Andre Iguodala, who decided to join the Golden State Warriors. That leaves Gallinari as the lone option for the starting small forward position with Kenneth Faried most probably switching to the starting power forward. The only problem for the Nuggets is when and if Gallinari will return back fully healed and what his condition will be.

After suffering a season-ending torn ACL injury, back in April 2013 things don’t look very good for the 24-year old ace. He will definitely miss the start of the season and in fact he could remain sidelined for the biggest part, eyeing his return somewhere around before the start of the playoffs. It’s a real pity for him and the Nuggets to see him out of action, as until getting injured, he recorded one of the best seasons of his career. With a career-high 16.2 points per game and also 5.2 rebounds last season, Gallinari had emerged as a centerpiece in the Nuggets team. Considering the young of his age, his performance was and still is projected to go only upwards. The truth is that ACL injuries tend to be the trickiest ones for players in any kinds of sports. Hopefully Danilo Gallinari gets back on track next season at his 100 percent. The Nuggets will definitely need him to repeat the success of this past season and go even further. The Denver Nuggets recorded one of the best seasons of their franchise history last year and they are looking to repeat a successful course next year. Considering the young average in their roster, they surely have the potential.

The third Italian player of the NBA, Marco Belinelli saw big changes in his NBA career over the span of the couple of years. After spending last season with the Chicago Bulls, he will now be a member of the San Antonio Spurs for the next season and the one after. He signed a contract worth $5.6 million for the two years. Though he, too, experienced some injury issues during the last portion of the season and against the Miami Heat in the playoffs, Belinelli had a solid season in general. His 9.6 points per game along with his 2.0 assists and 39.5 shooting from the field are definitely not jaw-dropping. Nonetheless, he greatly assisted the team to stay at a high level, keeping in mind that the Chicago Bulls lacked of their superstar point guard Derrick Rose.

Now, with a new and proven team in San Antonio, he will have yet another chance to chase a ring. After reaching the NBA Finals only to lose the 2013 NBA Championship with a dramatic finale in Games 6 and 7 this past season, Greg Popovic’s team is projected to make a strong comeback next season and play one of its last cards to win another Championship. Marco Belinelli can be a great member of that squad and the presence of Popovic could only benefit him get better as a player. He is expected to be yet another threat on the three-point line, together with sharpshooter Danny Green and the rest of the crew. In fact, several Spurs players have the ability to knock down threes and that has become a big element of their game during the last seasons. He is expected to start off the bench, playing as a backup guard, with some ball handling responsibilities, too.