Raptors trade Rudy Gay to Kings in blockbuster deal
Raptors foward Rudy Gay. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun)
The Rudy Gay era is over and the Raptors have finally picked a direction.
It’s all about the future now for the franchise and the present is merely a means to get to those hopefully brighter days.
The Raptors didn’t get a ton back for Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy — a solid backup point guard in Greivis Vasquez, a reserve big man with a nice offensive touch in Patrick Patterson, a wily veteran defender named Chuck Hayes and John Salmons, who likely won’t be around long. None of the newly acquired pieces could be around long, for that matter, and sources say none of their new teammates are guaranteed to be a part of the future in Toronto, either. Not DeMar DeRozan, certainly not Kyle Lowry, and maybe not even Jonas Valanciunas, though he’s the least likely of all to be departing. Still GM Masai Ujiri is willing to deal anybody, should the right offer come along as he seeks to re-work a franchise that Bryan Colangelo had run aground. In the meantime, he has several pieces to offer around in return for youngsters, draft picks or more cap space.
As is, with this trade, Ujiri has saved the team nearly $13 million in cap obligations next summer, or nearly $6 million if Patterson and Vasquez return for the option year of their deals should they make a good impression.
He’s also eliminated the duplication with DeRozan that made the original acquisition of Gay last year an odd one. The two simply could not co-exist effectively, since both favoured long two-point shots and a heavy dosage of isolation plays, effectively freezing out everybody else on offence.
Valanciunas and Amir Johnson should be more effective playing with Vasquez, a playmaker who can’t really shoot or defend, but can run a pick and roll to a reasonable degree. That’s another benefit of the swap.
Patterson still has some upside and can score in a variety of ways and Hayes will help in the locker room and on the practice court or be moved on to a contender.
Most importantly, considering history tells us teams need at least one generational talent in order to become a true title contender and the draft is usually the only way to acquire someone of that caliber, Ujiri has thrown Toronto’s name into the ring in the search for a top pick this year.
Considering this is regarded as the best draft in a decade, it’s the right path. With television numbers and ticket sales declining, the franchise could use the buzz that adding Andrew Wiggins, the Canadian standout playing out his freshman year at Kansas would provide. But the beauty of this draft is the number of potential superstars available, even if the lottery balls don’t gift the No. 1 pick. Julius Randle is a sturdy scorer who has been likened to Chris Webber and Karl Malone. Dante Exum’s game screams Russell Westbrook. Jabari Parker resembles a young Carmelo Anthony. Marcus Smart is a ferocious competitor and a driven leader, while Aaron Gordon could be the next Blake Griffin. It’s not a one-man draft by any stretch and, if the young Raptors stumble a bit in 2014-15, the 2015 draft is also expected to be a loaded class.
Some fans might not like it, but if they want to see a Raptors team that’s actually competitive one day, these painful steps simply must be taken.
Ujiri could have chosen the easy road. Kept Gay, let a 35 win-or-so squad end Toronto’s five-year playoff drought before quickly getting dispatched, but he knew there was little point to that.
Or ,he could have dealt Gay earlier, but tickets had to be sold and the expectation was Gay would raise his value, not crater it by playing the worst offensive basketball of his career.
In the end, he was able to close a deal with good friend Pete D’Allesandro, his former assistant in Denver. Sacramento also is rebuilding, but decided that at this low cost, seeing if Gay could re-discover his game was a gamble worth taking. The draft is deep enough that the Kings still should land a good player.
Gay might be the most talented player Toronto employed since Vince Carter left town, but he rarely showed the total package, because his basketball IQ could not come close to matching his natural gifts, and his inside game abandoned him.
Even just shy of 11 months in, it was time for a breakup.
Ujiri now has a few more easily moveable assets to offer around, a better cap situation and a far greater chance of bringing the next face of the franchise to town.
Ujiri and his boss, Tim Leiweke, have far bigger goals for this organization than just making a playoff cameo on U.S. television.
Nobody knows if they’ll meet them by going down this new path, but they sure weren’t going to by maintaining the status quo.
Age and 2013-14 stats in brackets
- PG Greivis Vasquez (Age 27, 9.8 points, 5.3 assists, 25.8 minutes)
- PF Patrick Patterson (Age 24, 6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 24.4 minutes)
- PF Chuck Hayes (Age 30, 2.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 11.2 minutes)
- SF John Salmons (Age 34, 5.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 24.7 minutes)
- SF Rudy Gay (Age 27, 19.4 points, 2.2 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 35.5 minutes
- SF Quincy Acy (Age 23, 2.7 points, 0.6 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 8.8 minutes)
- C Aaron Gray (Age 29, 1.3 points, 0.8 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 5.0 minutes)
Do you think the Rudy Gay deal is a good trade for the Raptors?