MacKenzie on Raptors: Gay trade a bold move

January 30, 2013, 10:53 PM

In 2006, the Toronto Raptors, armed with the first overall pick in a weak draft class, toyed with selecting Rudy Gay. They ended up drafting Andrea Bargnani instead. For the past six and a half seasons, the Bargnani experiment has done little more than fizzle while Gay has flourished and leveled out in Memphis.

Wanting Gay for the better part of those six and a half seasons, the Raptors now have him. Agreeing to send veteran point guard Jose Calderon and emerging big man Ed Davis to the Grizzlies in exchange for Gay and centre Hamed Haddadi. Toronto will also send a 2013 second round draft pick and cash considerations to Memphis.

After acquiring Calderon, the Grizzlies sent him to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.

This is a bold move for the Raptors. Yes, the immediate payoff is turning Calderon’s expiring US $10.5 million contract into the best player in the deal in Gay, but the 26-year-old forward comes with a hefty price tag. Gay has two years remaining on his contract and is owed more than US $37 million. In addition to giving up Davis as he has emerged as a solid young big man, blossoming as a starter starting in place of the injured Bargnani, the Raptors also give away a player still on his rookie deal that will pay him just $3.5 million next season. In parting with Calderon, they send away the longest tenured player on the roster. Calderon trailed only Morris Peterson for most games played all-time in a Raptors uniform.

The Raptors add a big-name swingman, something they’ve desperately needed for years, and they resolve their point guard controversy, putting Kyle Lowry back into the driver’s seat after he had been coming off the bench backing up Calderon. They also take on the remaining $37 million contract of Gay just months after Bryan Colangelo elected to outbid himself by inking swingman DeMar DeRozan to a $38 million extension. This doesn’t include off-season acquisition Landry Fields and his three year, $19 million contract.

What are they getting in Gay? “…A dynamic wing that elevates our talent level significantly,” says Colangelo. Gay is also an athletic 6-foot-8 swingman with an impressive 7-foot-3 wingspan who is a proven scorer and explosive player. He has had a subpar season thus far, his shooting a lacklustre 41 per cent from the floor, down from his career average of 45 per cent. While he has hit just 40 three-pointers on the season so far (connecting on 31 per cent of his attempts from deep), he’s a better shooter from long-range than DeRozan and forward Landry Fields.

On the season, Gay is averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, both higher than Bargnani’s 16 point and 4.3 rebound per game averages, if you were curious. Only DeRozan is averaging more points per game on Toronto’s roster, with his team-high 17.3 points per contest.

Despite not being known for his defence, Gay’s athleticism and length will help the Raptors. Coming to Toronto frees him from having to play for a team amid rumours of being moved and also reunites him with close friend (and former Grizzlies teammate) Lowry. During preseason, Lowry identified Gay has his best friend in the league.

A bold and expensive mid-season move that wipes away the flexibility the team would have with Calderon’s contract off of the books, this is a move that Toronto’s front office is hoping will pay dividends sooner rather than later. With Colangelo’s contract expiring at the end of the season, it’s interesting that he has been given the okay to make a deal that will have a lasting impact upon the franchise past this season. Regardless of Colangelo’s fate with the franchise, this roster will have his fingerprints all over it.

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