Jones on Raptors: Gay an upgrade in Toronto

January 31, 2013, 2:13 PM

He could have been a Raptor back in 2006, and employing the phrase better late than never, Rudy Gay is now a Toronto Raptor. In fact after acquiring Gay, Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said that the 6’8″ forward asked him, “Why didn’t you just draft me in the first place?”

Put aside all the salary numbers, this trade is talent upgrade for the team.

Is there positional duplication? Will there be a logjam on the perimeter? The answers are yes and yes, but Toronto does have a player with star potential. It also means that there are more than likely other moves coming in the reshaping of the roster.

In the words of one scout, “That’s a big hit for Toronto. They now have a star and they’re right on the edge ready to breakthrough with another couple of moves. They’re really close. ”

For those that like to crunch the numbers, you can debate whether he’s worth it or not but there are things that come with a player like Gay that can’t be quantified. He’s a wing player that can create his own shot and has, albeit limited, some experience in big moments. Gay’s a player that can take the ball and make a play when the system breaks down, which is an absolute necessity in today’s NBA.

As the Raptors continue to accrue more talent, perhaps in this league where, at times, perceptions outweigh the true reality of situations, what Gay also brings may be more of that nebulous quality, respect.

There will be an adjustment period where he will have to learn a new system, and more importantly, develop chemistry with new teammates.

The most important part will be assimilating Gay’s skill-set not just offensively, but on the defensive end as well. With his talent and athleticism there is no excuse for Gay not to be a major cog in improving Toronto’s defence.

The biggest question mark about this year’s squad is: what happened to the defensive identity? It’s possible that Toronto could put out an athletic line-up with Kyle Lowry starting at the point, DeMar DeRozan and Gay on the wing along with Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas up front. It’s a potentially solid grouping at both ends of the floor.

Oh yes, about those other moves.

Toronto will have to make some changes to streamline the bench. They will need to address the point-guard situation as the trade sent a valuable commodity in Jose Calderon out of town. With his expiring contract, the Calderon trade was imminent. It will be tough to find one but at some point the Raptors will need to unearth a pass-first type point guard to run the second unit and become a compliment to Lowry.

There are other questions to be answered as well with a stockpile of wing players in Alan Anderson, Terrence Ross, Mickael Pietrus, Linas Kleiza and Landry Fields. It’s possible Quincy Acy could see more minutes and the biggest question is what happens with Andrea Bargnani?

Addressing the media in Atlanta following the game Colangelo hinted that there are more moves on the way.

“That’s not to say that is the last transaction we make either,” said Colangelo. “You still have a trade deadline three weeks away. You have activity this summer. Anything can happen. This business is fluid.”

Bargnani could be a piece that’s put into another deal as there have been inquires about his availability.

“That’s not to say we’re going to trade Andrea,” stated Colangelo. “He’s a unique talent, but sometimes a change of address is not bad. I’m not saying he’s asked for a trade, but he would certainly not fight or resist a situation if it was the right situation.”

The loss of Calderon and Ed Davis will be tough for some Raptor fans. But the deal is the way things work in professional sports as Calderon had an expiring agreement and Davis was just starting to blossom. Toronto chose to move Davis when his value was, in their estimation, at or near its peak.

But it also changes the team dynamics when players that are popular in the room are moved out. Alan Anderson ran from the court and headed to the locker room during the end of his pregame shooting session in Atlanta when he heard that the trade was almost finalized. Davis left the locker room with a towel over his head trying to control his emotions as he strode toward the team bus on the way back to the hotel. Calderon, the consummate professional and genuine person he is, stopped to talk to the media then turned away with emotion etched on his face as he walked toward the bus. It’s human side of sport that some fans don’t get to witness when transactions happen. Athletes and their family’s lives are changed. Calderon actually flew back on the team plane with the Raptors.

So the reshaping of the Raptors roster continues. For some, the jury is out but it says here, Rudy Gay is an upgrade. Regardless whether Toronto fans like the trade or not, in the words of head coach Dwane Casey, “The wagon rolls on.”

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