The Toronto Raptors made the first blockbuster trade of the NBA season on Wednesday evening when they acquired the young, talented small forward Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team trade.
In exchange for Gay, the Raptors dealt veteran point guard José Calderón, a second-round pick in 2013, and promising power forward Ed Davis. Calderón was subsequently dealt by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forwards Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. Also coming to Toronto is centre Hamed Haddadi, though analysts believe that the Raptors will waive Haddadi in the coming days to create some payroll flexibility under the cap.
Gay had long been rumoured to be on Memphis’ chopping block, and had been linked to the Raptors as early as last summer. The Raptors had long coveted the young forward, and the Grizzlies direly needed to shed cap due to the NBA’s new salary cap restrictions.
The acquisition of Gay resolves the Raptors’ long-standing need for a starting-calibre player at the small forward position, and gives the team a legitimate shot creator on the perimeter. Over the past three seasons, Gay has averaged 19.8, 19, and 17.2 points per game respectively.
More importantly, Gay is a legitimate closer capable of making big shots in the fourth quarter and beyond. The inability to maintain leads and overcome small deficits in the fourth quarter has been a weakness of the Raptors’ since Vince Carter departed. Gay’s presence in the lineup will no doubt assist the team in that regard.
The three-team trade is not without risk for the Raptors, however. Gay is set to earn $19 million in each of the next two seasons, the maximum allowed under the salary cap. That amount severely limits the Raptors’ financial flexibility and their ability to make further additions to the team.
There are also concerns about Gay’s value. He is undoubtedly a talented forward, but his production in points per game, field-goal percentage, and three-point percentage is at a six-year low this season. At 26 years of age, Gay still has untapped potential, but he will need to fulfill it as soon as possible to earn his contract.
Since news of the trade broke, fan reactions have been generally positive. “Rudy Gay gives the Raptors a legitimate three and scoring option, but more importantly makes them a legitimate playoff contender. I love the trade,” said Kemal Kemal, a UTM alumnus. “It also doesn’t hurt that Gay is one of the most exciting forwards to watch in the NBA.”
“This was a good trade for the Raptors organization,” said Jack Stuart, a first-year life sciences student. “They needed a scoring forward and they went out and got one of the best young scoring forwards available.”
The consequences of this trade remain to be seen, but one thing is certain: the Raptors will be a different team come Sunday night when they host the Miami Heat. It will be Gay’s first game in a Raptors uniform.