Gay is both talented and expensive. He is having the worst year of his career since his rookie season, averaging 17.2 points while shooting just 41% from the floor and 31% from three-point range. However, his career statistics are 45% and 34%, and it is very rare for a player to start declining at this stage of his career. It is likely he is just having an off-season. Almost certainly, Gay would slide in as the Raptors’ best swingman since the departure of Vince Carter.
Gay’s deal has two years and almost $37 million left — he has a player option for 2015-16 — and adding it will greatly reduce the “flexibility” that Colangelo speaks of often. But, and this is the question he has to be asking himself, is there a better player at a similar cost that Toronto would have a legitimate possibility of getting? The Raptors are not one of the great free agent destinations, it could be the general manager decides it’s better to trade for high-priced talent rather than try to convince someone to come play in Toronto.
From a strictly human perspective, the Raptors lost two great people in Ed Davis and Jose Calderon in this trade. Calderon was the longest serving Raptor on the roster — at the time of the trade he was just 17 games away from being the franchise’s all-time leader in games played — and a player that is professional in every sense of the word. Seeing Calderon go is perhaps the toughest part of the deal to stomach for many Raptor fans.
John Lucas III was the Raptors MVP in tonight’s game. In a matter of hours he went from 3rd string PG to the only PG, as Jose Calderon was shipped out of town, and Kyle Lowry was struggling with some sort of injury. Lucas, who’s played most of his minutes in garbage time this season, was thrown into a much larger role, and took full advantage of it. He ran the offense fluently, scoring 19 points, and managing 2 assists in his season-high 25 minutes of court-time. John Lucas was able to step up in his teammates absence, and was a major factor in the Raptors ability to keep up with Atlanta.
The other way to look at it is that the Raptors sold high on Calderon and Davis and bought low on Gay, who would never have been available for just the combination of Calderon and Davis before the season started. That’s because coming into the season, Rudy Gay was a perennial borderline All-Star and top-30 player (In five seasons from 2007-08 to 2011-12, Gay averaged 18.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes while posting a PER of 17.8 in his last two seasons) . The obvious question here is does one very discouraging half-season change that, as Gay has looked like a shell of his former self so far in 2012-13.
We’ll start at the end. After a bit of a scramble, Alan Anderson came out with the ball and took an absolutely pathetic shot with still so much time left on the game clock (around eight seconds) and the shot clock turned off. While I’ve praised Anderson in the past for his journey from China to 10-day contract to legitimate NBA rotation player all in less than a year, I’ve got to say, his veteran presence is starting to become a burden with some of the horrible shots he takes in close games. Having said that, DeMar DeRozan fought for the offensive rebound among Hawks bigs and got ridiculously hacked right in front of a ref going back up for the potential game-winning shot. No call. Just the latest example in a long line of comically incompetent NBA officiating.
In desperate need of both a massive shakeup and star talent, Bryan Colangelo got busy on Wednesday. In a deal that will have consequences that will reverberate across all facets of the organization, the Raptors acquired small forward Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies, in exchange for promising young forward Ed Davis, longest-serving Raptor Jose Calderon and the team’s second round pick this summer.
We’ll begin with the man Colangelo once aptly termed, the enigma of enigmas.Bargnani followed up the best season of his career — albeit an injury-plagued one — with a disastrous stretch this year, before getting hurt again. It has been obvious for some time that it is time for Bargnani to move on, for his sake and for the Raptors, and Colangelo indicated a move could happen soon, though it is not a certainty.
A player that the Raptors could regret dealing, Ed Davis is a 23-year-old power forward/centre who had made significant progress in his third NBA season, averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 54.9% shooting overall but, as a starter with Bargnani out, Davis has put up 12.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, shooting 55.7% from the field. Davis’ minutes will be cut back with Gasol and Randolph starting in Memphis, but he’s poised to be the first big off the bench.
So how do we evaluate this trade? That’s hard to say. Since it is almost a near-certainty that more trades are in the offing, we don’t yet have an accurate portrayal of the team’s rotation or salary cap structure going forward. One can make a pretty strong case that Gay is now the team’s best player, and anytime you can get one of those in a trade without giving up your current best player (Kyle Lowry) or best prospect (Jonas Valanciunas) that’s a plus. It’s also worth remembering that, given what the Raptors had to peddle, getting a player of Rudy Gay’s caliber is pretty impressive. If Gay can bounce back post-trade then the Raptors have received a heck of a player for two quasi-starters, even if there are now redundancies that need to be addressed.
Gay is ridiculously talented. He’s available cheaply — it’s pretty unlikely that a package of Ed Davis and Jose Calderon’s expiring contract and a second-round pick would have been enough to pry the high-flying small forward from the Grizzlies two years ago when he was in the midst of his best season at age 24. Presuming he’s only having an off-year at age 26 as he heads for career lows while shooting just 40.8 per cent from the field and 31 per cent from the three-point line, the Raptors are buying low.
At the end of the day though, this was just another addition to the Raps’ endless stream of close losses. It’s tough to point fingers, especially with the team undermanned due to the trade, but when John Lucas is your secondary scoring option, you clearly have some guys that need to step up. Anderson continued his run of atrocious shooting, and Amir Johnson looked like he had a hitch in his jump shot.
Give Colangelo this for whatever you think of him he does have a way of making the big deals happen. That said the history of his past big deals should cause you to be very worried about the future. They have never exactly gone as planned. One thing this does suggest is that his future is likely fairly secure as this is a serious investment he has been given the blessing to make by the MLSE board. That is not a sign of a guy on his way out the door.
For the time being, the Raptors potentially have a lineup of Lowry, Ross, DeRozan, Gay, and Valanciunas once everybody is healthy. The bench isn’t ideal yet, but the structure of what the Raptors need to do with this lineup is apparent. They need to cause chaos. That five-man lineup is one that can pressure the ball on the perimeter, protect the rim, and turn stops and turnovers into quick baskets the other way. Dwane Casey isn’t the type of coach that likes to push the ball a ton (Raptors are 24th in the NBA in pace) but they are a team that benefits best when they’re playing quick basketball without rushing.
In this deal Toronto has traded away two very productive players for two rather unproductive players. As a matter of fact, Calderon and Davis have produced the second most and 10th most wins at their respective positions this season. On the other hand, Gay and Haddadi have both produced at a below-average level this season. In Kyle Lowry, Toronto still has an excellent point guard who can replace Calderon. But Lowry has missed significant time with injuries this season, and the trade leaves the team without a productive backup point guard. With Ed Davis gone, the team does not have a productive power forward at the moment — except for Quincy Acy, a rookie who has only played 140 minutes so far this season.
“I’m tired of losing games because of missed calls at the end of games. I know the league is going to come down on me, but I don’t care,” said a seething Casey, smoke practically billowing out of his ears. “These guys have fought their hearts out, played their hearts out and at the end of the game, we get cracked, (league sends out an) apology, go back to Canada. I’ve been in this league 18 years and I’ve never seen so many missed calls at the end of the game to cost us the game. We’ve got great officials in this league, and too good to miss calls and short-change young men like this. It’s not right. I watched the replay three or four times, hoping that they (somehow made the right call) but they didn’t,” he said. “This is fourth time this year that we’ve been in this situation.”
Josh Smith said the Hawks “played some pretty good defence” in the closing seconds, though he added with a smile “I don’t know what happened” after Anderson’s miss.
Anderson is 30 and doesn’t fit into the Raptors’ future plans. The Raptors aren’t going anywhere this season and he just takes minutes away from rookie Terrence Ross. Anderson would be a perfect fit coming off the bench for a playoff team. Imagine him in an Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs uniform. He reminds me of many other Gregg Popovich projects. Many Raptor fans remember Jamario Moon. He had the same early career as Anderson, bouncing around until he found he stride in Toronto. He even competed in the dunk contest. The team wasn’t going anywhere, so the Raptors did the right thing. They packaged him and Jermaine O’Neal in a trade with the Heat for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. In the end, the trade didn’t amount to much, but at the time they got something in return for a player who had one good half season.
I like this move for Memphis — it saves them money — $5.8 million this season and $26.4 million over the course of Gay’s contract — getting them under the luxury tax line in future years. Plus it gives them a player in Prince that fits well for them as a replacement for Gay. Prince is not as good an all-around player as Gay, but he’s a better three-point shooter and is not a massive step down on defense of driving the lane. In addition they get a quality young four in Ed Davis to provide depth up front and Daye.
To steal one of Larry Drew’s favorite phrases, the Hawks came out with zero energy and it nearly cost them an embarrassing loss to a severely undermanned team. Toronto learned just prior to tip off that they were involved in a three-team trade that sent Jose Calderon to the Pistons and Ed Davis to the Grizzlies in exchange for Rudy Gay. That left the Raptors with nine healthy bodies to go up against the Hawks.
Notes: Want your links in Morning Coffee? Hook me up [email protected]