Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay Trade Makes Dollars, But Not Sense


The Memphis Grizzlies kept on dealing on Wednesday, trading leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in a three-team deal that brings Ed Davis, Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to the Grizzlies and ships Jose Calderon to the Detroit Pistons.

That move comes less than two weeks after Memphis swapped Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Jon Leuer.

The first trade with Cleveland got the Grizzlies under the luxury tax for this season. By dealing Gay, Memphis now gets under that threshold for next season, as well.

There are parts of the trade that makes sense … sort of. Davis is a solid pickup, but any value he brings gets lessened by the fact he will be fighting for playing time with incumbent bigs Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur. Daye and Prince do little to nothing to solve the spacing issues the Grizzlies have on the offensive end.

Mostly, it seems surprising that this was the best available deal for Gay.

From the Raptors’ standpoint, Gay has his issues, but he is a major upgrade over anyone else Toronto had at the three spot. But it also creates a problem on the perimeter. Gay and DeMar DeRozen become one of the worst-shooting wing duos in the NBA. It will be interesting to see how much that affects the spacing of the Toronto offense going forward.

Detroit probably comes out of this the best. The Pistons clear cap space for the summer to see if they can find some pieces to put with their young, emerging core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. Adding Calderon, even if it’s only as a rental for the remainder of this season before he enters free agency, will give the Pistons something they’ve lacked for a long time—a true facilitator at the point.

At best, his ability to see the floor and pass will give Detroit the boost it needs to chase down the Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At worst, Knight and Rodney Stuckey get a chance to see their offense orchestrated by a traditional point guard for the first time since they’ve been with the Pistons.

The move also cuts the final ties to Detroit’s 2004 NBA title team as Prince was the last member of that team still on the roster.

If Detroit can grab the No. 8 seed for the playoffs, it would continue a trend in the East of young teams using that as a springboard to bigger and better things. The Atlanta Hawks did so, first qualifying for the playoffs and giving the top seed a stiff fight in the first round before losing. So, too, did the Indiana Pacers. Coincidentally, Memphis did the same thing out West.

Toronto, meanwhile, will miss Davis … a lot. It’s also possible they will get a player in Gay whose pride will be hurt by being dealt from a contender to a bad team. If Gay comes to Toronto determined to show how good he is, there could be an awful lot of contested midrange jump shots in the Raptors’ future—never a good thing.

The young owner of the Grizzlies, 34-year-old Robert Pera, isn’t afraid to do things a different way. He’s shown that a number of times since leading a group of 17 investors into the purchase of the franchise last fall.

He brought in Jason Levien to run the franchise as CEO and managing partner. Levien had been on both sides of the industry as a player agent and as an executive for the Sacramento Kings. He brought in an NBA outsider, Stu Lash, to run player personnel and added a veteran journalist who specialized in advanced statistical analysis, John Hollinger, to be the vice president of basketball operations.

The good news for Pera, operating a team in what is only the No. 48 media market in the U.S., is that the luxury tax is avoided not only for this season but also for 2013-14. What remains to be seen is whether or not the product on the court will remain among the Western Conference elite or whether the Grizzlies will slide back into the pack after swapping their top scorer.

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