Rudy Gay’s arrival in Toronto was not only much needed for the fans, but it was just as crucial for a franchise that was desperately in need of star power and a face to sell to the Raptors faithful.
It may have cost them Jose Calderon and Ed Davis, but ultimately the move needed to be made.
DeMar DeRozan is an athletic talent that oozes potential, but he’s not that guy. Teams don’t truly fear him and he doesn’t sell tickets unfortunately.
Andrea Bargnani is often injured and when he’s had a chance to play this season, fans have booed him and gone to message boards to contemplate the multiple trade scenarios in which they could potentially involve him in to get him out of Toronto.
But Rudy Gay is different.
He isn’t a superstar, but he’s an established player in the league with talent. Someone in the same tier as Andre Iguodala, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Danny Granger, Chris Bosh (ironic I know) and Eric Gordon to name a few.
Gay might not be able to carry a franchise all by himself like say a Kevin Durant, but put enough good parts around him and the team might thrive.
That’s important in Toronto because the Raptors haven’t truly been relevant since Chris Bosh led them to the postseason in the spring of 2008.
Last Friday night, the Raptors hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in a contest in which the UCONN product came off the bench. The moment he checked into the game he was met with a chorus of cheers and applause as fans stood up to officially welcome him to the Air Canada Centre.
The forward didn’t disappoint, as he got out in transition within minutes to throw down a dunk that sent the home crowd into frenzy.
Chris Paul may have been absent from the Clippers’ lineup that night, but the Raps still played hard and with a lot more energy as the crowd seemed to carry them to a blowout of Lob City.
Gay was a stud as he produced dunks, converted tough layups in traffic and hit a few shots from 3-point range.
Rudy Gay was exactly what Toronto wanted and needed on this night.
Despite not yet being entirely in sync with his teammates and the team concepts, Rudy Gay used that contest against the Clips to catapult his production as a Raptor to 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game on 42.9 percent field goal shooting in the three contests he’s played in as a new member of the franchise.
The numbers are impressive in their own right but the shooting leaves much to be desired. It goes without saying that the lack of familiarity plays a part in Gay’s offensive struggles given that he does not yet always know where to go on the floor based on his teammates’ tendencies, but there are still some other areas of concern.
For instance, the former Grizzly has gotten his fair share of open shots, but hasn’t been able to hit them with much regularity. In his three games as a Raptor, the new Toronto resident has converted 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) spot up jumpers per MySynergySports. Given that the sample size is quite small, let’s take a quick look at his shooting numbers in the 42 games he played with Memphis this season according to MySynergySports: while in a Memphis uniform, he converted 42-of-131 (32.1 percent) spot up jumpers.
The Memphis numbers suggest that what Raptors fans are getting at present time is as good as it gets and that’s a little problematic.
Again, Gay is the guy that Toronto needs at the moment given what he brings to the team, but shooting is not one of the added benefits of the Rudy experience. Dwane Casey will have to figure out a way to get his new forward closer to the basket in his sets because unfortunately he tends to float around the perimeter and just wait for the ball there. And when it hasn’t come to him, well he hasn’t gone out of his way to get it either. Part of that is because that’s who he is as a player but the fact he’s operating with new players has to have him on edge a bit about stepping on other players’ toes.
For instance, last Sunday against the Miami Heat, the Raptors called plays for Gay to get the ball either in the post or at the wing against LeBron James, but once the reigning MVP challenged his position on the floor, he stopped aggressively flashing towards the ball, which in turn prevented his teammates from delivering the rock to him in scoring position.
This is a huge problem because it means that his inability to fight for the ball stymies the offense and when he finally does get his hands on it late in the shot clock, it leads to poor shots given that he doesn’t have the required set of skills to consistently score on opponents in isolation situations. MySynergySports tells us that he’s converting 62.5 percent (five-for-eight) of his field goals in isolation situations as a Raptor but in his 42 games with the Grizzlies this year he only converted 35 percent (41-for-117) of those such field goals, which means we shouldn’t expect him to continue to shoot a high percentage in this specific scenario.
Rudy Gay has executed some highlight reel type of plays in his three games with the Raptors, but the previously cited issues have led to the offense suffering to some degree with him on the court.
NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that Toronto scores 114.2 points per 100 possessions with their new highflying forward on the bench — a mark that would actually lead the league — but that figure drops to a staggering 97.8 points per 100 possessions when he hits the court, which would be 29th in the NBA.
It’s worth noting that the bulk of his offensive impact on the Raptors was measured against the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat; which respectively position themselves as fifth, sixth and 11th in terms of top defensive efficiencies in the league.
Hence, his struggles have come against some of the Association’s fiercest defenses, which is somewhat forgivable; but if he is going to bring the Toronto Raptors back to their glory days, he may need to (gulp!) borrow the Vince Carter 2000-01 season playbook and be aggressive early, play a little in the pinch post and attack the basket often to set the tone for his team and allow them to play with a supreme air of confidence.
Raptors fans may very well deserve it.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.