After a crazy few days for the Raptors last week, the only news to come out of the weekend was that the team has reportedly come to terms on a new contract with Aaron Gray. Woj later tweeted that it would be a two-year deal, though a couple of days later, financial details still haven’t been leaked. Hopefully we’ll know more by the time everything becomes official on Wednesday.
While the re-signing of Gray will likely be seen as one of the more minor moves in what should go down as a busy summer for Bryan Colangelo, if you’ve been reading RaptorBlog, you’ll know that I’m definitely in favour of it.
Despite the comedic “M-V-P” chants that Gray received in the Air Canada Centre last season, no one expects the guy to be a star, or anything close to it. If you look at his career numbers of about four points and four rebounds per game, you might laugh at the fact that I’m even writing about him staying on board.
But guys like Gray are still invaluable in the NBA. He gives you everything he’s got, night in and night out, whether you call on him for three minutes or 20 minutes. He never tries to do anything outside of his job description. He rebounds, he bangs in the post, he sets hard screens, and if he finds himself in a golden opportunity to put the ball in under the basket, he’ll take it. Gray also averaged a career-high 5.7 rebounds last season in under 17 minutes per game.
On top of his impressive 51.2 career field goal percentage, a testament to his knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot, Gray’s career numbers per 36 minutes are a good indication of his nightly production, where the Pittsburgh big man posts 10.6 points and 11.4 rebounds.
What I really like about keeping Gray around though, is that he gives the Raptors a competent “true centre” to play every night, which should help smooth Jonas Valanciunas’ transition into heavier minutes over the next couple of years. If Aaron can continue to give Dwane Casey and the Raptors about 15 solid minutes per night, and if one of Ed Davis or Amir Johnson can slide to the five for 10 minutes or so, then realistic goals can be set for Valanciunas, who would only need to stay on the court for about 20 minutes.
Despite his veteran demeanor, Gray also fits in nicely with the youth movement the Raptors have been building towards, as he’s still just 27. Lastly, while signing a much more veteran big man might have been more costly, Gray can provide everything I’ve discussed without the Raptors needing to use up too much cap space going forward. He’s never earned more than $2.5 million in his five-year NBA career, and I can’t imagine this two-year deal can be worth more than about $6-8 million, can it?
It’s not a big move or an attention-grabbing move, but re-signing Aaron Gray is a smart move, and is most likely a sound economical move as well.