Memphis Grizzlies: Why They Easily Won the Rudy Gay Blockbuster Trade

For the Memphis Grizzlies, sending Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors was primarily based on their financial situation. At least that’s what scribes around the association think.

Following a trade that sent Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Grizzlies cleared enough money (precisely $6 million) off their books to avoid the luxury-tax penalty. So, even before trading Gay, they were in a good position financially.

After trading Gay, though, the Grizzlies now have a boatload of payroll flexibility. Ken Berger of CBS Sports notes that Memphis saves itself $37.2 million over the next three years, which includes the savings from both of their recent trades.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly from Memphis’s perspective, they’re now $8 million under the luxury tax, and will remain under that threshold in 2013-14 as well, barring any significant moves.

But let’s put the money talk aside for a minute, because Memphis did more than just save a few bucks.

Gay is certainly the foundation of this deal. However, he isn’t–at least this season–what he has been in previous seasons. This is mainly due to the fact that his shooting has been a frustrating facet all year.

Gay is still one of the better drivers in the league, but career-lows in the main departments have effected his entire game. His 47.8 true shooting percentage is a career-low, as his 43.8 adjusted field goal percentage. This inconsistency has hindered his ability to penetrate, as defenders often lure him into taking jump shots, which clearly hasn’t been his strong suit.

Tayshaun Prince, who is one of the pieces Memphis acquired, can’t match Gay offensively, even in Gay’s worst offensive season since his rookie year. Prince has played to the tune of a mere 12.9 PER in 32.4 minutes per game, which suggests that he’s also been highly inefficient.

However, Prince isn’t expected to replace Gay’s production point for point. Rather, he will be a nice addition depth-wise, but Ed Davis and Austin Daye have the upside that Memphis ultimately coveted.

Davis, 23, has broken out in 2012-13. In just 24.2 minutes per game, he’s averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and an 18.1 PER. A better barometer, though, is his performance over 36 minutes–14.5 points, 9.9 rebounds. Perhaps in a different capacity–ideally more minutes–Davis could blossom like he has been lately–in 32 minutes, he’s averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Daye, meanwhile, shouldn’t be judged by his point-per-game totals. I’m not denying the fact that he’s averaging just 5.1 points, but that faint total is in large part due to the fact that he only plays 14.5 minutes a game. With a change of roles and scenery, you’d be crazy not to think that he develop into a double-digit scorer.

In the short-term, Davis and Daye could replenish a bench unit that lacks firepower, scoring roughly 30 points a game (19th in NBA).

As for the Raptors…

Well, Toronto did make a promising, yet confusing acquisition in Gay. As such, he isn’t the type of addition that will instantly renew Toronto’s bleak playoff chances.

Though there’s one particular caveat that may spell doom for Gay’s success in Toronto–Gay thrives when he has the ball, more so in the post, but the Raptors have several ball-handlers. So, naturally, there could be a mass confusion, that is until the Raptors’ front office makes the proper adjustments.

Worse, the Raptors’ roster doesn’t have the look of a contender even with the addition of Gay. Although, the hope is that Toronto can use the rest of the season to evaluate their team with Gay, and then make corresponding moves in the offseason to build a contender.

If Toronto’s front office can accomplish these two things, then they may be in business. However, things instantly go south when you realize that they’re in a financial turmoil. This is in large part due to the fact that they’ve committed $127.5 million to Linas Kleiza, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan over the next multiple years.

With the exception of DeRozan, they’re all role players, at best. Moreover, DeRozan hasn’t shown many signs of improvement since showing signs of stardom a couple years ago.

The Pistons, meanwhile, quietly added Jose Calderon. How Detroit fuses him into a guard-heavy Pistons’ backcourt is up for debate. Regardless, he will add depth to the Pistons’ backcourt.

But realistically, acquiring Calderon wasn’t so much of a basketball move as it was a money-saving move. Calderon will become a free agent after this season and it’s unlikely that Detroit will give much thought to retaining him, unless he propels them to the playoffs in some extremely odd fashion.

The Grizzlies got rid of their leading scorer, while the Raptors’ roster now consists of more if’s than anything else. In the short term, no one has the clear-cut advantage given that Toronto isn’t a contender. In the long-term, though, the Grizzlies shed money while simultaneously adding two impact prospects.

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Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference, NBA.COM and Team Rankings 

Topics: Austin Daye, Detroit Pistons, Ed Davis, Memphis Grizzlies, Rudy Gay, Tayshaun Prince, Toronto Raptors

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