If the Raptors want to make the playoffs for the first time since the Chris Bosh era, Gay will need to have a career season for the franchise as he enters a potential contract year.
The small forward can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, but he’d leave close to $20 million on the table. However, if he’s able to put up career numbers being the primary option on a team for the first time in his career, it wouldn’t be outrageous for Gay to chase a longer-term contract that would surely pay him close to $100 million.
Ignoring the totals Gay put up after being traded to Toronto since 33 games are too small of a sample size. The swingman hasn’t necessarily lit up the box score with explosive numbers.
His highest scoring average was in his second year when he recorded 20.1 points per contest. He’s never averaged less than 18.2 points per game in a season, which makes him fairly consistent considering he was sharing the ball with talented front court players like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol while with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The big question entering the upcoming year is whether or not Gay can up his scoring output to 24 or 25 points per contest being the main focus in Toronto.
Gay’s assists, blocks and steals all peaked in the 2010-11 season with averages of 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Those numbers have hovered around the same territory for the majority of his career, as he’s always been an above average defender and playing with the likes of Randolph and Gasol, it was easy to pick up assists.
There’s no reason to suggest his defensive numbers will slip given his skills on both sides of the floor. However, can Gay improve or even maintain his assists totals as he’ll no doubt receive numerous double teams being the primary focus on the offensive end. In the past, the opposition couldn’t double-team Gay without leaving Randolph or Gasol wide open but they’ll be able to do that in Toronto as Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas aren’t anywhere near the level of Gay’s former all-star teammates.
One stat that should improve for the small forward is his rebounding average. He recorded a career-high 6.4 rebounds per game in the 2011-12 season and finished with the same total after 33 games for the Raptors. Entering the new season, Coach Dwane Casey has let it be known he intends to play Gay at the power forward at times, similar to how Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James play the position.
Gay packed on a lot of upper-body muscle in the offseason in preparation for playing the power forward position and at 6-foot-9 and over 225 pounds, he should be able to bang around with smaller Eastern Conference forwards.
Along with bulking up, Gay also had laser-eye surgery to help correct a vision problem he was playing through last season. It’s unclear how much he was bothered by the vision problem, but any time you can see the court better it certainly can’t be considered anything but a positive.
Given that the keys to the car have been handed to Gay to lead the way and drive the Raptors back to the playoffs, he’s undoubtedly going to have the best chance since joining the NBA to record career numbers.
If Gay can put up averages somewhere in the territory of 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals, he’ll no doubt be named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and he should also have the Raptors knocking on the playoff doorstep.
If he can accomplish all that, then a nine-figure contract extension will be knocking on his doorstep as well.