The Feb. 21 trade deadline is two weeks from the day of this writing, but the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors kicked off the swap meet last week when the Grizzlies essentially executed a salary dump by shipping Rudy Gay to the Raptors. Memphis ended up with Detroit Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince and Raptors young forward Ed Davis (and a few other minor pieces), while Toronto got Gay and shipped point guard Jose Calderon to Detroit.
Memphis broke up its locked-up core four of Gay, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol because it lost more than $12 million last year and didn’t want to pay the luxury tax. Gay was owed some $37 million the next two seasons. The former UConn star is a solid player and will be missed by the Grizzlies, who now lack much perimeter punch. But Gay isn’t a max player and, in fact, was having his worst season since he was a rookie. When Memphis surprised San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs two seasons ago and pushed Oklahoma City to the limit, Gay was out injured, so the Grizz thought he was expendable. One could also argue that Prince is a better overall player (certainly defensively). Plus, Memphis is now comfortably below the luxury tax and has a very nice young player in Davis. In fact, he could have enough potential for Memphis to deal Randolph this offseason to save even more money and get more young prospects.
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Even with Gay’s struggles, it was a solid move for Toronto as it got something of value for Calderon, who was going to walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer. For Detroit, it gets major salary cap relief and should be a player in free agency. GM Joe Dumars finally might be able to fix the mess he created by overpaying Ben Gordon (since dealt) and Charlie Villanueva a few summers ago.
On Wednesday, Bovada unveiled a few props on the Gay trade. Let’s take a look and give my recommendations.
--Average points for Gay with Toronto: “over/under” 19.0 (both -120)
--Average rebounds for Gay with Toronto: over/under 6.0 (both -120)
--Average assists for Gay with Toronto: over/under 2.5 (both -120)
--Which team will Gay average more points for: Toronto -300, Memphis +200.
One problem in speculating on Gay’s averages is that I don’t believe Toronto is done dealing. The Raptors are known to be pedaling disappointing former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani around the league. The Italian returned Wednesday against Boston after missing 26 games with a torn elbow ligament. Why would the Raptors want to trade a sweet-shooting seven-footer? He’s not so sweet-shooting this year, hitting just 40 percent from the field and averaging 15.9 points. He had 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench Wednesday. The team wants to showcase him. Toronto went 13-13 without Bargnani, but Wednesday’s loss dropped it to 4-19 with him. If Bargnani is hanging around on the perimeter, it will take shots away from Gay, who still jacked up 24 on Wednesday and finished with 25 points. I think Bargnani is a goner, although any potential trade for the Lakers’ Pau Gasol is now almost surely dead with Gasol’s injury.
In three games as a Raptor, Gay is averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. I do like the over points and rebounds as well as the under assists. Gay is clearly option No. 1 now (DeMar DeRozan 1A) and won’t be passing much – plus, point guard Kyle Lowry is his buddy. Toronto is an awful rebounding team, ranking No. 28 (Bargnani averages just 4.3 despite his height because he’s never in the paint). So Gay is going to have to be a factor grabbing boards on the defensive end.
Wednesday’s loss was Toronto’s second in three games since the Gay trade. The Raptors crushed the short-handed L.A. Clippers, lost to the Miami Heat and blew last night’s game against suddenly surging Boston. The site listed two Raptors team props: Will Toronto make the playoffs (“yes”-only at +1000) and over/under 31.5 total wins. The playoffs aren’t going to happen with the Raptors 8.5 games out of the East’s final playoff spot. But could they go 15-18 over the final 33 games to reach 32 wins?
On the bright side, Toronto has just one road trip longer than three games the rest of the year, and the Raptors are a lousy 5-19 away from home. Let’s say Toronto manages to win five of its final 17 road games. That means it must go 10-6 in the final 16 at home to win 32. I don’t see that happening. Take the under.
The Grizzlies also were given a prop, with an over/under of 50.5 regular-season wins. Somewhat predictably, they have gone into the tank since the Gay trade, falling to 1-3 with Wednesday’s 103-92 loss at Atlanta. The players obviously aren’t happy about the trade, and the offense wasn’t very good even with Gay. In the four games without, Memphis is averaging 89.0 points per game. The Grizz would have to finish 21-13 to finish with 51 wins. I don’t see that in the ultra-deep West. Take the under.
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