Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors have finally acquired Rudy Gay after a pursuit that lasted roughly seven months, if not more. We’ve spent a ton of words on the proposed deal and rumours over the last couple of days. Now it’s time to dig in and analyze an actual deal.
First, the details. The Raptors acquire Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi, the Grizzlies acquire Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and a second round draft pick (from Toronto) plus cash considerations, and the Pistons acquire Jose Calderon.
Alright, now here we go…
Trading Jose Calderon and subsequently turning the team over to Kyle Lowry at the point (Lowry and Gay are best friends, by the way, with Gay being Godfather to Lowry’s child) will polarize Raptors fans on its own, but I’m firmly on board with that part of the deal. While I’ve often picked apart the flaws in Calderon’s game, I’ve always appreciated his offensive game and his love for Toronto, but it was well past due time for the Raps to move on from the Calderon Era, and I still believe Lowry can be a big time point guard in the NBA.
Where the deal is incredibly tough for Raptors fans to swallow is in the trading of Ed Davis, a young player enjoying a breakout season at 23-years-old who looked very capable of becoming one of the NBA’s better power forwards going forward, potentially setting up a promising frontcourt with Jonas Valanciunas. On the surface, it appears the Raptors traded a young big man on the rise in Davis for an overpaid wing player who’s already hit his ceiling and is on his way down.
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.
Even despite his recent struggles, there’s no denying that this trade is an immediate upgrade for Toronto. The Raptors pick up their most talented asset in the Post-Bosh Era, finally plug what seems like an eternal hole at the small forward position, and perhaps most importantly of all for this season, finally add an NBA “closer” who should and almost surely will get the ball in the game’s biggest moments.
If the Raptors have a healthy Kyle Lowry at the point and a Rudy Gay at the three who resembles the Rudy Gay of old, then they’re already well on their way to putting together a playoff core in the weak Eastern Conference, with expected developments from prized rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross at centre and shooting guard being the deciding factors in whether the team can become a semi-contender in the future or an expensive treadmill team.
When it comes to DeMar DeRozan, I, like others, don’t see how he and Gay can effectively co-exist at the wing positions, since neither is a very good three-point shooter or facilitator. I’m willing to wait and see how the two look side by side, but if it looks as redundant as I imagine it to be, then I’d prefer the Raptors look to move DeRozan (possibly in a package for a power forward) and go forward with Ross and Gay manning the two and three in what could be a very dangerous and balanced wing combination.
As for Ed Davis and the Grizzlies, I feel like this move could be a sign that they’re also willing to break up the frontcourt combo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol after this season. I understand that moving Gay was as much about saving money and avoiding the more punishing luxury tax in the future than it was about basketball, but still, why trade one of your core players for a promising young big man who needs minutes to continue to develop when as currently constructed, you don’t have many minutes to give him (Randolph plays over 35 minutes per night at power forward and Davis isn’t big enough to play centre)? Does Memphis envision a frontcourt going forward that consists of Davis and Gasol?
For the Pistons, trading Prince and Daye for the expiring Calderon clears some more cap space for them going forward and also doesn’t hurt them this season while they chase the East’s eighth seed (Detroit is 5.5 games back of Boston and one game ahead of Toronto). It’s a pretty nice move for them, but I imagine Jose must be pretty bummed out. Sure, Calderon is still making a ton of money and he’ll get to choose his own destination as an unrestricted free agent this summer, but for now, he leaves the only NBA city he’s ever known (where he was very comfortable) to go to a much less attractive city (sorry, Detroit) without really upgrading teams or even upgrading his role, as he’ll likely be sharing minutes with 2011 Pistons draft pick Brandon Knight.
Lastly, there’s Hamed Haddadi. With all due respect to the big man, he has no role or future here and was pretty much just filler in this deal. In fact, reports are already surfacing that the Raptors may immediately waive him, so I don’t think we really need to go into detail about Haddadi.
Back to the Raptors. They leave tonight’s controversial loss in Atlanta 6.5 games behind the eighth-seeded, Rondo-less Celtics and 3.5 games back of ninth-place Philadelphia, who the Raptors lost the season-series to by blowing a 19-point second half lead earlier this month. Even with Gay in the fold, I still don’t expect them to climb out of that hole, but if they can stay healthy, they should ensure that the pick going to Oklahoma City (as part of the Kyle Lowry and then James Harden trade) is a later lottery pick in a very weak draft while going into next season as a team that should absolutely be thinking and talking playoffs.
The real debate among passionate Raptors fans, though, isn’t about what’s left of this season or even next season. It’s have the Raptors helped or hurt their long-term chances to become a contender, because that’s the only question that should have been addressed by the organization today (they obviously must have felt that this helps them). The difficulty with trying to answer that question right now is that as mentioned, the answer will depend as much on Valanciunas and Ross as it does on the health and attitude of Lowry and Gay.
Bryan Colangelo has taken a huge swing here, and in the past, those usually result in comically failed misses, so I fully understand why jaded Raps fans see this as yet another short-sighted move that will likely cost Colangelo his job. After all, I’ve said countless times that I’ve always feared Ed Davis will become the latest in a long line of promising young Raptors who “got away” only to blossom elsewhere, and that fear has now gone into full on phobia mode. But it is important to remember that again, up until the last few months, this move would have looked like a steal for the Raptors, who are acquiring the best player in the deal right now.
It is the definition of a high risk, high reward gamble for the team, the general manager and the organization as a whole. History suggests that those don’t usually work out for the Toronto Raptors, so their rabid fanbase will have to hope that the Rudy Gay they are acquiring gets back to being THIS GUY at the Air Canada Centre…
Come on, you didn’t think I was going to end this with anything else, did you?