Four weeks ago today, on February 1, Rudy Gay was introduced to Toronto and then later that night, suited up as a Raptor for the first time. When the ball was tipped that Friday night against the Clippers, the Raptors were 16-30, had lost three straight and eight of their last 10. In addition, the Raps sat 11th in the Eastern Conference and trailed the eighth place Celtics by 6.5 games (they trailed the Bucks, who were in seventh at the time, by 9.0 games).
On March 1, with the Raptors set to embark on month no. 2 in the Rudy Gay Era in a matchup with the Pacers tonight, the team is 23-35 after a 7-5 record in February. They’ve climbed to 9th in the East and trail the eighth place Bucks by six full games after narrowing the gap to four games last weekend.
Unfortunately, while Gay’s first month in Toronto can be viewed as a positive overall, we’re still left with as many questions surrounding this team as answers. Let’s examine…
From an individual standpoint, Gay’s basic numbers have been impressive in 12 games as a Raptor, with the forward averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals while logging over 39 minutes per game as the Raptors’ focal point. On the flip side, Gay is shooting a career-low 38.4 per cent as a Raptor (which includes an abysmal 25.5 per cent conversion rate from three-point range despite attempting more than four per game) while posting a true shooting percentage of just .466 and a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.1 which would indicate only a slightly above average player.
Those numbers are only just the beginning, as when it comes to Rudy Gay’s first month as a Raptor, it seems both supporters and critics alike have evidence to suggest that they’re on the right side of the argument.
Supporters can argue that Gay has provided the Raptors what they’ve been missing for years in a capable late game ball handler who can get to a spot of his choosing on the floor and then make big shots. Critics can point to the fact that Gay’s presence creates a stagnant brand of “iso ball” late in games that does more harm than good, no matter how many game-winners Rudy knocks down. Supporters can point to wins over playoff teams like the Pacers, Nuggets and Knicks and easily argue that the Raptors don’t pull out the W without Gay in the lineup, while critics can point to losses against the Grizzlies and Wizards and easily argue that Gay’s poor performance cost the team those games.
The team numbers suggest that Gay’s presence has actually negatively affected the offence, positively affected the defence and slightly improved things overall, though as you’ll notice in those Tom Haberstroh tweets, his departure from Memphis seems to have benefited the Grizzlies in the short term.
In terms of Gay’s affect on his teammates, Andrea Bargnani looks as bad as ever (and that’s saying something, though I don’t think it has much to do with anything outside of Bargnani’s head) while DeMar DeRozan is playing some of the best basketball of his career and it’s easy to see that others have more room to operate with Gay attracting extra attention.
At their very best with Gay in the lineup, while out-grinding the Pacers and Knicks, the new-look Raptors looked like an up and coming team ready to bust into the playoff race this season and potentially go further next season. At their very worst in the Rudy Era while laying eggs against the Wizards and Cavs this week, the Raptors looked no better than the team that was well on its way to 50 losses before he showed up, albeit with less cap space.
The supporters I reference will use the positive aspects of this post to further construct their arguments while the detractors will likely do the same with the negative aspects of Gay’s presence through 12 games. Perhaps the very fact that there exists such a split in both perception and in the numbers right now should simply serve as a reminder that trying to judge the trade from a be all, end all point of view after one month is as foolish as only paying attention to half of the facts.
Some seem frustrated by the fact that the first month of the Rudy Gay Era in Toronto has provided few answers about the future of this club and has only raised more questions, but the truth is that no one should have expected answers at this stage of the process.
As frustrating as it may be for a fanbase that’s been tortured for the better part of 18 years, the most logical answer right now may simply be give it time.