The dust has settled on the Rudy Gay trade, and the principle players — Gay to Toronto, Jose Calderon to Detroit and Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis to Memphis — have started to settle into their new homes. It is far too early to have a long-term sense of the winners and losers in this deal, but a week after it happened we have enough distance from it to give it analysis without emotion.
As a Canadian I feel some attachment to the Raptors. They sure don’t make it easy, though. This has long been a horribly-run organization, and this is a pretty horrible deal. It has all the hallmarks of a typical Raptors deal — short-term desperation blocking out long-term common sense. GM Bryan Colangelo is fighting for his job — a losing battle if there is any justice in the world — and he seems to hope that this big splash can make a difference. Maybe, but there is a lot not to like:
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1. Gay ties up large chunks of salary and puts the team in an inflexible position. You don’t want to be in this position at the best of times, never mind with an overrated guy with a bad attitude who has never been an all-star.
2. Gay is far too inefficient offensively. So are DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and Alan Anderson. Those guys will also eat up a lot of time. Guys who shoot poorly at the core of a team — seems like a perfect recipe for success (tongue firmly planted in cheek).
3. Calderon was a strong player and presence. Ed Davis is about two years away from being the best player in this deal. They gave up far too much — especially when past history suggests that the chances of resigning Gay if he did turn out well are between slim and none.
4. The success of this deal depends on Gay and DeRozan finding chemistry and making each other better players. I obviously like gambling, but that’s just too much for a team to bank on.
5. They will likely move Bargnani to change the roster further, but this still doesn’t give them the flexibility to add more pieces. The top teams in the league are built around two or three superstars. These Raptors have a couple of guys who can be decent if you don’t value shooting or consistency. This hardly makes them a contender.
6. In the short term this probably makes them a little more competitive. What’s the best-case scenario, though? They pass Boston, grab the eight seed, and get smoked in the first round by Miami or New York. That would cost them a lottery pick and a better chance to improve than they have now. Stupid.
Very nice deal. They get rid of a guy who was too expensive and had attitude concerns. They get the best player in the deal at a bargain of a contract, and they add depth and experience. Most importantly, though, they add all sorts of cap space and flexibility going forward. Davis adds flexibility to the front court, and that opens up the possibility for more deals — like shopping Zach Randolph. It is never easy for a team to get rid of a player like Gay — he led the franchise in games played — but they are better today than they were before making the deal. At this point it is a business deal. If Davis can find playing time and blossom then it could turn into a defining deal. Prince fills a defensive role and adds experience and depth, but I don’t get too excited about his role in this deal — it’s just gravy. This was a move for the future, and the future is brighter as a result of it.
Sometimes the team that tags along on the deal does particularly well, and that’s the case here. Prince wasn’t a good fit here — an aging player on a rebuilding team that is far away from contending. In Jose Calderon they get a significant expiring contract that will allow them to be active in the offseason. That would make the deal a win by itself. Calderon is a very good ball-moving point guard, though, and he has a lot he can teach Brandon Knight over the next three months before he heads out of town. He also certainly doesn’t hog the defensive end of the court, so guys like Andre Drummond are going to see their role grow when Calderon is on the court. Masterful move.
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