So, yesterday a trade happened. I'm not going to talk a whole lot about the #BasketballReasons of the trade (other, than, perhaps to take a 5-minute break laughing myself silly at those of you who actually thought Toronto got better here) because I think Ben Gulker and Devin Digham both do a good job of that here and here. I just want to briefly talk about the economics.
Of these players, Gay has by far the biggest salary, at $16.5m annually with 3 more years. The next biggest, Calderon's, is $10m but he is in his final year. And that is why Memphis and Detroit made out like bandits in this trade, and Toronto got hosed badly.
Let's examine this for a minute. Under the new CBA, maximum contracts for most players after their 4-year rookie contracts run out are (ballpark) $15m annually (and will be even lower in a couple of years, when the 2011/12 rookies, who make a lot less in the new CBA, start looking for extensions). Players who qualify under the Derrick Rose rule can get a little more, approaching $17 million (again, this will lower in a couple years). So, essentially, Gay will be making the quivalent of a max contract player AND a midlevel exception player. Given this, Rudy Gay is not worth anywhere close to his salary; this is true even if you think "those #wagesofwins guys are nuts". It's true simply because a) Gay is not a max player and b) Gay's contract is from the old CBA and thus costs even more than a max player.
Do y'all remember a few months ago when James Harden wanted the max, and the internet was awash with
fools folks asking "Does the earth really resolve around the sun?" "Is James Harden really a max player?" That was the James Harden who in 2011/12 scored 16ppg on a mind-boggling 66% TS% (4th in the NBA). Forget about everything that happened this year, and the fact that Harden is still a relentlessly efficient scoring threat even now that he is the "featured" guy, and just transport yourself to September 2012 and ask yourself if you'd trade then James Harden for then Rudy Gay straight up.
I don't think you would find a GM in the league who'd have made that trade (other than one GM, the one who's giving up Rudy Gay). Will you force me to point out that Gay in his best season didn't shoot as well as Harden in his worst?
Harden, a guy that was universally acknowledged as a star-caliber player, and a player that almost everyone acknowledged was worth more than Gay, had plenty of people doubting that he was worth the max. Meanwhile, most people agreed that Gay's contract was awful; even when the ink was still fresh, many around the NBA were scratching their heads at the price he commanded. The only worse contract in the NBA right now is probably Amare's.
Now, instead of having the horrifically overpaid Gay on the books, Memphis has the moderately overpaid Daye and Prince (it's amazing that Dumars gave out a contract this long to a player this old) and the severely underpaid Ed Davis. The flexibility this gives the team has to be considered a huge win.
Toronto traded two underpaid guys (you can argue about whether you think Calderon is good or not; if you consider that it's an expiring deal, he's a huge value) for a laughably overpaid wing who has spent his entire career underachieving to the potential that everyone thinks he has. They're essentially stuck with $40m-ish in Gay, DeRozan, and Bargnani for the next 3 years. The only bright spot for Colangelo and Casey, whose jobs are now going to suck (seriously who wants the job of trying to win with this roster and contract collection!?), is that both are likely going to get fired before the season is out, and their successors will have to deal with this dreck.
Detroit, on the other hand, traded two average, overpaid wings for a good point guard in the last deal of his contract. That's a huge bargain.
Has anyone checked on Joe Dumars lately? Are we sure he's feeling OK?