Masai Ujiri is no stranger to trading away his team's high paid scorers. In his short tenure as a general manager he's already done so with Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and now, Rudy Gay.
We were pretty high on the Raptors last season, thinking that they could vie for a playoff spot. But before he was "reassigned", Bryan "Colangelol" decided to trade away Jose Calderon -- a high efficiency, pass-first star -- for the type of overrated scorer that he coveted. So when Ujiri joined Toronto this past summer, the team was an even bigger mess than it usually is. Yet in a matter of months he's already lopped two heads off the Yay Points! Cerebus. If he finds a way to trade DeRozan this season as well, I think he deserves a medal. Let's break down the Rudy Gay trade to see how much of a fleecing this was.
Rudy Gay's Impact
The Raptors traded away Aaron Gray, Quincy Acy, and Rudy Gay. Both Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy are under 30, but neither has gotten significant minutes. The only significant player Toronto is losing is Rudy Gay, and is that really a problem? Over his last couple of seasons in Memphis, Rudy Gay was a bad player. When he finished out the 2012-13 season in Toronto, he managed to up his game to mediocre. And so far this season his performance has been terrible. At the moment, putting Rudy Gay out on the floor is like playing 4 on 5!
Gay is a "scorer" who is terrible at scoring. Yes, he's scored nearly twenty points per game across his whole career, but that's only because he takes a lot of shots. His True Shooting Percentage (TS%) -- a measure of shooting efficiency that factors in three pointers and free throws -- has been below 50% the last two seasons. To put that into perspective, the average small forward has a TS% of around 54% (that's with some generous rounding), and star players like LeBron James (68.2%) and Kevin Durant (60.9%) shoot even better. A player like Rudy Gay shouldn't be taking lots of shots!
Besides taking a lot of shots, what is Rudy Gay supposed to be good at? Even according to conventional wisdom he's never been that great. His only NBA accolades are being a top eight pick in the 2006 draft and making the All-Rookie team that same year. He hasn't made any All-Star games or any All-NBA teams, and he isn't known for his defensive prowess.
Return on Investment?
As for the players the Raps are getting back, they turned Rudy Gay into two solid -- but not great -- players. Vasquez and Hayes both offer average production at the two most important positions. This definitely helps, as any time you upgrade your overall productivity, you win the trade, but neither player is likely to be a major win producer. Patrick Patterson is young and has shown some signs of being a decent player, but as a power forward, he probably won't see too much playing time. And John Salmons hasn't been very productive over the last several years of his career, but then again, neither has Gay. Salmons can serve as Toronto's version of Tayshaun Prince: about as good, but much, much cheaper.
The real reason this deal turns out to be a major winner for the Raptors is because of the salaries involved. Hayes' contract is the only deal that extends beyond this season. Salmons has a $7 million deal for next year, but only $1 million of that is guaranteed. It's highly likely that the Raptors plan on doing God's work and will hasten Salmon's departure from Toronto. Ujiri has saved the Raptors $12.3 million in salary next season, assuming that Gay exercises his player option for $19.3 million over the summer (which is certainly not guaranteed: Gay may opt out in order to land a longer-term deal worth more total salary). As for this season, the deal actually adds $672,058 to Toronto's books.
For the Kings, getting Rudy Gay to play alongside Cousins and Williams is a terrible, terrible idea. However, there is a little silver lining for the Kings, as they also picked up Quincy Acy. Acy's minutes have been limited, but Toronto has been great at finding top big men and -- until recently -- watching them sit on the bench behind Bargnani. It's possible that Acy could be a hidden gem that turns the Kings' grade from an F to a D minus, but that's only if Acy sees any court time in Sacramento. As for Aaron Gray, I don't expect him to make a huge impact one way or the other.
Raptors fans may be a little disappointed with this deal, because unlike the Anthony or Bargnani trades, Toronto wasn't able to acquire any game-changing pieces or major draft picks for Gay. However, on the first count, I'd argue that Gay and Melo aren't equivalent players; Melo's an overrated scorer who's perceived as a star, but I think that most teams are onto the fact that Gay is not a very productive player. And on the second count, I'd counter with the fact that the NBA's new CBA says that Ujiri can only abuse the Knicks once every season [Editor's note: 100% factually true]. I'll say that simply dumping Gay would have been a win. But also getting serviceable rotation players and major flexibility next season is another feather in Masai's cap.
Seriously though, what the heck Sacramento? I'm unimpressed by Vivek Ranadivé and the new ownership.