By: Daniel Reynolds
Rudy Gay is no longer with the Toronto Raptors. The reaction to this news from Raptors fans has been one of ecstatic release. But please, hold your applause until the end of my column. Just how did we get here? Not long ago, to paraphrase the subtitle of that X-Files movie no one saw, we wanted to believe. We wanted to believe that Rudy Gay was going to change the Raptors in some way. He did, I suppose. But, much like that X-Files movie, no one wanted to watch anymore (outside of Toronto, and even then). Yes, somehow, the Rudy Gay era became even more unbearable than what had gone on before (the Bargnani era? Yikes). The ball was always in the wrong hands, the offense was usually ugly, and despite a few instances of late game heroics, Rudy Gay was no franchise savior (11 for 37 – Never forget). Still, we wanted to believe that Gay would become the dynamic wing player the Raptors had been missing since Vince Carter. Past tense. Today, the Raptors organization (and its fans) are happy to see him go.
That being said, let’s talk about the trade particulars, point form style. As part of the deal, the Sacramento Kings get:
- Rudy Gay – The benefits of Rudy Gay are, at time of this writing, impossible to quantify. Well, OK, not impossible to quantify. He’s averaging 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. His assists numbers are hard to quantify. And let’s be honest, laser eye surgery or not, his shooting percentages have been, let’s say, lacklustre at best. Good luck.
- Aaron Gray – He’s a real man mountain (possibly a mountain man). 7 feet tall, 270 pounds. Slow, not particularly skilled, can’t really protect the rim or jump. But by God, he is a huge man. Despite all the talk of the new NBA valuing multi-skilled shooters, there will still always been a spot on teams for a human giant. Always.
- Quincy Acy – Don’t know who Quincy Acy is? He looks like this. He gets paid $788,872. And he once did this to Dwight Howard. Really hard to properly assess his value after that. Godspeed Quincy Acy, the Raptors will probably miss you more than they realize.
Now I know you come here for cutting basketball analysis so I’m gonna give this a shot. Here it goes: I have no idea what the Kings are thinking here. On the one hand, they definitely wanted to clear some space at point guard to allow more time for Isiah Thomas Jr. They’ve done that. Kudos. The other hand? The other hand probably has a basketball in it because, with Greivis Vasquez gone, no one on this team is willing to pass. Rudy Gay will now be paired with DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins (everybody’s favourite teammate), the team will attempt to run pick-and-rolls that Gay will want no part of, and the Kings will collectively chuck up a ton of shot and lose a bunch of games. It really is just too bad they can’t play with two balls on the court at the same time. Also, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy will resume their duties as end of the bench good guys.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors receive:
- Greivis Vasquez – Aside from having one of the more colourful names in the league, Vasquez is a useful backup point guard (re: he is better than D.J Augustin), being paid a very reasonable salary. Basically, he is Jose Calderon-lite, only bigger and with a less accurate shooting touch. And I swear I’m not just making this comparison because they both speak Spanish.
- John Salmons – Fun story: John Salmons was once this close to signing as a free agent with the Toronto Raptors back in 2006 (The Raps signed Fred Jones instead. Dark times). This was back when Salmons was breaking out as a high scoring small forward (he eventually averaged 18.3 PPG). Ultimately, Salmons fulfilled his destiny by becoming an inefficient black hole on offense and a contract albatross. Basically, Salmons is a proto-Rudy Gay. So there’s that.
- Patrick Patterson – What’s this? A 6’9” stretch forward that can shoot the 3? Is this real life? My mind is already tumbling with excitement around the idea of pairing Patterson with all of the Raptors’ non-shooting big men (no, Amir’s slow-mo full body wave shots don’t count). Let’s just move on before I say something irrational.
- Chuck Hayes – He currently holds the Kurt Thomas Title. What’s that? It’s the player who, despite having an almost invisible impact in the box score, finds himself (a) with a relatively high priced contract (Hayes is paid 5.7 million right now) and (b) on an NBA team. He’s got a blue collar worth ethic and plays tough interior defense. I hope he and Tyler Hansbrough become good friends.
For the Raptors, the reasons for the trade are obvious. Rudy Gay is owed a ton of money. He has one more year on his deal, a player option for 19.3 million. I feel confident in saying that he will pick up that option. Naturally, teams would be set to offer Gay some money, but 19 mil? Gay has to know that he may not see that kind of money again. The financial benefit for the Raptors is only part of the deal, however.
Theoretically, Gay’s removal from the lineup makes them “worse”. How much worse really, though? With Gay gone, the offense simplifies itself to DeMar DeRozan’s driving game, Jonas Valanciunas’ post game, and whatever shooting they can get from Kyle Lowry, Steve Novak, Terrence Ross et al. Speaking of which, now is the time for Ross to finally get his shot (though I’m sure Landry Fields will get a lot of playing time still. Clearly the Raps are serious about tanking). It’ll allow them to play a nice two PG lineup with bulldog Lowry and the cerebral Vasquez. And ideally, the pick-and-roll game will come back to the fore. Still, the Raptors are aiming to be bad. Dwane Casey is still going to coach them into the ground. The mirage of the top 5 pick, the allure of alien potential witnessed in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and the like, starts to more clearly resolve. The Rudy Gay era was extremely short lived. We believed, then lost faith and, thanks to GM Masai Ujiri’s clever work, we’re ready to believe again.