Yesterday evening, news broke that the Toronto Raptors had traded away enigmatic forward Rudy Gay, along with little used big men Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings, in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes. With the trade, many Raptor fans believe that Masai Ujiri is clearly entering “tank mode” for this season with all courses set for the 2014 NBA Draft. Although that may eventually be what Ujiri is aiming for, he certainly did not accomplish that with this deal. The Raptors get better, not worse with this trade.
This is a classic example of addition by subtraction. Certainly, Gay was a scorer for the Raptors. But Gay also was a ball stopper who possessed consistently low efficiency ratings while in Toronto. Gay’s historic offensive struggles have been well documented so they need not be hashed open one more nauseating time. Just know this: in trading away Gay, the Raptors traded away an inefficient high volume shooter who was more fixated on breaking out of his shooting slump than winning ball games — it’s just that simple. Gay hindered the development and opportunities for other players to showcase their talents. With Gay out of the picture the Raptors’ offense should pick up considerably.
Jonas Valanciunas should now see himself much more integrated within Dwane Casey‘s offensive construct. Sans Gay, one of Casey’s favored offensive weapons, the offense needs to come from another source besides simply the perimeter and Demar Derozan. Expect Casey to adjust his offensive schemes so that Valanciunas can fill that void. The Raptors should see many more looks through Valanciunas (whether that is to passing cutters, kick-outs, or post-ups) and their poor field goal percentage should increase accordingly. As well, the aforementioned Derozan will now have to carry the offensive burden much more with Gay gone. Derozan certainly seems more than capable of excelling in this role as he is experiencing a career year under Dwane Casey. Derozan is averaging career highs in points (21.6PPG), assists (2.8APG) and three-point shooting percentage (35.7), respectively. With more opportunities, Derozan’s confidence and comfort within himself should increase in the forthcoming games. Raptor fans shouldn’t be surprised if Derozan finishes around the 24-25PPG mark by the season’s end.
The Raptors also will improve immensely from the solid bunch that was sent to them from the Kings. Hayes, although undersized and offensively limited, is one of the premier low-post defenders in the league, possessing a rare combination of foot speed and brute strength. Hayes immediately fits into Casey’s defensive oriented team construct. Patterson is another solid big man for the Raptors who will complement Amir Johnson nicely at the four spot. Patterson is a much more capable stretch shooter than Johnson as he is currently shooting a career 34.1 percent from three-point land in comparison to Johnson’s 27.5 percent mark. When Patterson is on the floor, driving lanes will open up as defenses must honor him in a fashion unlike Johnson. Patterson also provides a tenacity and workhorse mentality similar to the aforementioned Hayes, Johnson, and Tyler Hansbrough. When combining all these players together, the Raptors suddenly have one of the more high motored and gritty front courts in the entire league.
In terms of the guards in the deal, Vasquez is a very solid offensive option and figures to make life easier for the entire squad as he averaged a career best nine assists with the New Orleans Pelicans last season. Along with Kyle Lowry, the Raptors suddenly possess one of the better point guard tandems in the Eastern Conference. The last piece of the deal, Salmons, figures to fix the Raptors’ ailing bench. Salmons’ career mark of nearly 10PPG is exactly what the Raptors need as Salmons along with Terrence Ross now can provide an invaluable scoring punch off the pine.
In trading away Gay, Ujiri struck again with yet another brilliant move. He was able to get the franchise out of an ugly contract with an overpaid and underachieving player while also maintaining future cap flexibility and allowing more opportunities for the young Raptors’ core to develop in the future. Yet, if Ujiri’s goal was to tank with this deal it certainly wasn’t accomplished as the team dynamic has now become stronger than ever. Expect more moves in near future from the former Executive of the Year.