Bargnani is a prototypical player in terms of the physical attributes and raw skills that scouts salivate over in their search for the next young European (star?) big man.
First his physical attributes. He's tall (easily a 7 footer), and a very fluid athlete that runs the court very well, has a very nice first step and is a decent leaper. He'll never be a power player in the paint, but his frame suggests that his bulk will be adequate for the power forward position in the future.
Second are his skills. What distinguishes him from most American prospects his age is his complete outside game. He can handle the ball pretty well, and has a great stroke from anywhere on the court, complete with a quick and high release point. He can catch and shoot or put the ball on the floor to beat any big man off the dribble, going aggressively to the rim to finish, or stop and pull up for a sweet jump shot. What sets him apart from other 7 footers is his coordination and quickness to put the ball on the floor to drive to the basket.
He's going to be a match-up nightmare in his prime once he gets stronger, probably being the player most resembling a young Dirk Nowitzki that you've seen in a while.
This season he didn't have too many opportunities to demonstrate his skills, but showed great flashes when given a chance while playing against the best competition you will find outside of the NBA.
NBA people surely remember him because of the very solid performance he had in a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors, showing he can beat players off the dribble numerous times, even a very quick power forward like Chris Bosh.
Bargnani always plays in the flow of the offense, being too young at this point to afford any kind of selfishness on a veteran team with a defensive minded coach like Ettore Messina. He sometimes forced a few situations this year, but those were usually on broken plays, showing personality and creativity while trying to solve tough situations rather than selfishness to take more shots.
Andrea is very active on defense, being more effective than what someone would expect against European small forwards thanks to his quick feet. He tries to do his best against big men too, the kind of players he will likely be matched against in his future career. While it's not easy to imagine him guarding small forwards full time in the NBA, his versatility won't expose his team defensively in cases of rotations and switches on pick and rolls.
His main asset is also his biggest problem: while his versatility makes him a potentially very unique prospect in a positive way in the long run, it's also difficult to immediately project him at one specific position in the NBA. At some point he will have to decide between the small forward and power forward positions, but he will have his weaknesses playing at both, especially defensively.
Because he's probably still not done growing (rumored to have grown as much as two inches over the last year), his body still isn't mature at this point and he is right now lacking in bulk.
That means that in the NBA he will most likely play as a small forward on offense, but he will probably have trouble finishing at the rim after beating his man off the dribble because of his lack of strength and only average use of his off hand. He has no post game at this point and lacks the lower body strength to play near the basket.
On defense there's no way he can guard NBA small forwards, as he discovered during the 2004 Hoop Summit when he was unable to slow down the much quicker Josh Smith. His lack of bulk will make him a huge liability early on defensively and on the glass, where he's very active, but lacks the positioning and physical ability to box out. This will likely all come with time, considering how much he has improved his rebounding during the season, but how long will the team who drafts him want to wait?
Plays for Benetton Treviso, a very important team in Europe with great expectations. His team is currently leading the Italian league and recently came close to making the Euroleague Final Four.
Andrea has a marginal role on this team, but he was able to find some quality minutes on the court and he's now more used to play under pressure. Considering how high the expectations are from this team, making rookie mistakes is rarely accepted, and Bargnani has been forced to adapt quickly to this.
Looking at the way he rebounded from playing poorly in a few games, after which his own fans were questioning if he was ready to play at this level, should tell you a lot about his mental toughness.
Also to his credit is the fact that he never lost the faith of his coach during the year, and has always been praised for his work ethic and ability to accept limited playing time.
Bargnani and his agents have been wavering back and forth all year long regarding whether to enter his name into the draft. The pressure from Benetton Treviso and the Italian media to keep him in Italy for at least another year has been immense, and they will likely go back and forward quite a bit until the deadline to enter rolls around.
If he enters, he is almost a sure-fire lottery pick, maybe even top five, and while that is a very hard thing to turn down, Bargnani and his people appear to be more concerned with the team he gets drafted by and the situation he will fall in. No Italian player has ever been taken in the first round of the NBA draft, with Stefano Rusconi being the highest Italian player ever drafted at #52 in the 2nd round of the 1990 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Do not be surprised to find his name on the early entry list for international players, but whether or not he stays in is something that will only be decided in time and after intense deliberation between all parties involved. A team that would be willing to draft him and let him play one more year overseas would be ideal, but that type of agreement would be hard to come by. His buyout is reportedly reasonable enough for it not to be an issue.
Bargnani is potentially a great player, but joining the NBA now very likely means a few years without significant playing time. He has a long way to go before finding a position and being a complete forward instead of a tweener, and until then he'll face harsh criticism and pressure that could kill his confidence and development. The higher he's going to be picked, the worse it will end up being.
The recent struggles of another Benetton top pick, Nikoloz Tskitishvili (#5 in 2002, in front of current allstar Amare Stoudemire), aren't going to make scouts more confident. Most of the comments you read about Andrea, both positive and negative, would have easily been applied to Skita 3 years ago. While Tskitishvili's career is far from done, it's not even a question anymore whether Denver's top pick was completely wasted, and people often lose their jobs for decisions like that.
The biggest question mark about a player like Andrea, and in important factor in deciding how likely he is to accomplish his vast potential, is his character. While there have been only positive comments about him during the past year by his coach, teammates and the organization, nobody can foresee how a young player will react to the rigors and the pressure of a season spent on a NBA bench, that will probably be the difference between a successful career or years of frustration.
Bargnani is a very talented player; otherwise he wouldn't be considered a likely lottery pick. But make no mistake: he's a project, a project that won't pan out that early. He's in a very risky position, as he needs to find the right team and the right coach, a coach who is committed to his development.
While his talent is enough to earn quality minutes on a top European team, it's hard to imagine him on the court in the NBA right now if it's not in garbage time situations.
Most people in Italy believe that the best route for him to reach his immense potential is to wait to become an impact player in Europe first and then cross the ocean. But keep in mind that a lottery selection will make him at least fifty times his current salary, and it's hard for anyone to pass on such a chance.
To understand why we say the guy is far from contributing in the NBA, just look at his game-by-game stats this year in the links section. It doesn't say much about his talent, but it shows that Andrea is guy that has still a lot to prove and a long way to go.