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Join Date: May 2008
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Lowe: Casey speculation, his take on the Rudy deal
The Raptors canvassed damn near the entire league in their quest to become the second team in two seasons to dump Rudy Gay well in advance of the trade deadline, according to sources across the NBA. They went to every team that made at least some theoretical sense: Detroit, with expiring contracts and at least some need on the wing; Milwaukee, with fading postseason ambitions and a massive hole at small forward the Greek Freak isn’t quite ready to fill; Cleveland, with a playoff mandate, a GM on shaky ground, and perhaps the worst group of starting wing players in the league; and many others.
Everyone said no, and they did so abruptly. This is how far Gay’s value has declined league-wide over the last 18 months. I know GMs who say they wouldn’t touch him now in free agency for the midlevel exception. Only one team was left: the Kings, with a new ownership group determined to make a splash and a new GM, Pete D’Alessandro, who worked with Toronto GM Masai Ujiri in Denver. The Kings’ wing rotation is a disaster, even after the recent acquisition of Derrick Williams, who has never resembled an NBA-caliber small forward. The Williams swap and DeMarcus Cousins max-level extension left Sacramento without meaningful projected cap room this summer, putting the Kings in a position where they could plausibly look at Gay’s $19 million player option for 2014-15 and say, “No harm, no foul.” The Raptors were betting Gay would pick up that option given his poor play this season, and dealing Gay allows them to plan with more certainty.
And so here we are: The last remaining Rudy Gay suitor has agreed to send four rotation players to Toronto in exchange for Gay and (very tall) salary filler. If you’re even a medium-level NBA fan, you probably know the names of all four players going to Toronto. But don’t be fooled: This is a salary dump. This is not about Patrick Patterson, or Greivis Vasquez, the league’s second-leading assist man last season. This is about Toronto sloughing off Gay’s endless barrage of midrange bricks and beginning a full teardown — with the potential for a top-five pick in this draft, max-level cap space this summer, and similar space every summer going forward.
Here’s the thing: This deal, by itself, may well make the 2013-14 Raptors better. And that’s why we should expect the Raptors to begin (or continue) gauging the market for both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as we approach December 15, after which most free agents who signed over the summer are trade-eligible again. Dwane Casey, the team’s head coach, may also be in trouble, depending on Ujiri’s timetable with the position, per several league sources.
A New King: What the Rudy Gay Trade Means for Toronto and Sacramento - The Triangle Blog - Grantland
DeRozan has shot better this season without Gay on the floor, per NBA.com. The Raptors’ starting lineup, torrid to finish last season, has scored just 98.9 points per 100 possessions this season — about equivalent to Orlando’s offense, ranked 24th in the league. The Raps turned into world-beaters when Casey separated the two wing gunners: 104.2 points per 100 possessions when DeRozan played without Gay, and 112.7 when Gay went solo. (This did not happen last season.) DeRozan has improved incrementally in almost every one of his pro seasons, and he has much wider appeal around the league than Gay. He’s passing better and shooting the 3-pointer at a career-best rate, though we’ve seen DeRozan have hot 3-point streaks that prove fleeting. He’s still a midrange type who plays (mostly) below-average defense and is due $9.5 million in each of the three seasons after this one.
In any case, the Raps have separated Gay and DeRozan permanently. Redistribute some of the leftover possessions to Kyle Lowry pick-and-rolls with Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, and to Valanciunas post-ups, and the Raptors may develop a more efficient offense.
There are other benefits: Toronto adds two legit big-man rotation guys in Patterson (struggling horribly with his shot) and Chuck Hayes to a three-man front line leaning too heavily on Tyler Hansbrough before Hansbrough’s injury over the weekend. Vasquez is a giant upgrade over the D.J. Augustin–Julyan Stone–Dwight Buycks pupu platter, and brings the delightful possibility of another point guard controversy for Casey and the ornery Lowry.
But again, this deal is about dumping Gay and getting that cap space. Toronto could have about $18 million in room this summer, depending on where it picks in the draft, but getting all that dreamy space requires some work. The Raptors will have to buy out the final year of John Salmons’s deal for $1 million (easy) and renounce their rights to Patterson and Vasquez — both restricted free agents this summer — at the outset of free agency. Vasquez’s cap hold is about $2 million less than Patterson’s, meaning Toronto could maintain its matching rights on Vasquez and still have about $12 million in space. The point guard position is otherwise bare, given that Lowry is also a free agent and unlikely to return or finish this season in Toronto. Vasquez is a nice player, but he's not fast enough to turn the corner off the dribble or credibly guard his position. He has compensated by using his height to float runners over shorter defenders, and he can switch over to defend shooting guards on the other end. But he's almost 27 and looks like a high-quality backup rather than a pricey starter.
It’s popular to say that no major free agents will go to Toronto. It’s cold, it’s in Canada, the Mountie was a mean WWF villain, and signing there brings tax issues. Perhaps. But cap space isn’t just for LeBron James. It allows teams to act as predators in lopsided trades, gobbling up extra assets (first-round draft picks, young players) in exchange for taking on short-term toxic deals. And there are sub-star free agents who sign in less glamorous markets — Josh Smith, O.J. Mayo, Kyle Korver, Monta Ellis, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, etc. Some of those deals were smart; others were less smart. Ujiri is very smart, and he’ll maximize returns on this cap space.