Toronto Raptors: Top 5 Players Affected By the Rudy Gay Trade
Top 5 Toronto Raptors Affected By the Rudy Gay Trade
General Manager Masai Ujiri continued his cap-clearing genius ways by shipping Gay to Sacramento for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. The move could potentially save Toronto close to $12 million in cap space if Salmons is bought out for $1 million in the summer as only Hayes has $6 million guaranteed for next season. The Gay trade along with the previous Andrea Bargnani trade will save Toronto over $20 million in cap space for next season as Ujiri continues to find takers for his team’s awful contracts.
The Gay trade has finally shown what path Ujiri is headed with this franchise as it is now clear the Raptors are building for the future. Fans will no longer have to worry about constantly finishing somewhere between ninth and 12th in the conference, positions that would make the team not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough for a top-five draft pick. Toronto has been living in that position ever since Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach.
Gay proved through 18 games this season that he doesn’t fit with the team as he’s showed he’s an extremely selfish player on the court. He failed to use his teammates and rarely passed the ball once it was passed to him. He’d often grab a defensive rebound or in-bounds pass and dribble down the court only to shoot the ball before any other teammate touched it. He led the team with 18.6 field-goal attempts per game but only made 38.8 percent of those attempts. To top off the awful shooting, he also led the team in turnovers with 3.3 per game while only averaging 2.2 assists.
Removing one of the most statically selfish players of all-time will have an impact on the rest of the roster. Here are the top-five Raptors affected by the franchise trading Gay.
5. Kyle Lowry
The Gay trade all but confirms Ujiri is shopping Kyle Lowry as there’s little doubt he’s not in the team’s plans for the future. Lowry could be a valuable trade chip given his expiring contract as playoff teams looking for bench depth might think he can help their chances of success. Gambling on Lowry for a playoff run is a low-risk/high-reward scenario for any team as if he doesn’t pan out they can simply let him walk at the end of the year.
However, if Ujiri can’t find anything he believes will help him in the future he’ll likely hang on to Lowry and let his contract expire with the Raptors. There’s no point in trading him for nothing as Toronto can simply spend the money from his expiring contract themselves if they don’t find an offer they like. Regardless, just like his best friend Gay, Lowry will be playing for a different team soon enough now that the team is officially rebuilding.
4. Greivis Vasquez
If Lowry is traded or not this new Raptor will likely be given the opportunity to be Toronto’s starting point guard before the end of the season. Raptor management will want to see if Greivis Vasquez can recreate the 13.9 points, nine assists and 4.3 rebounds he averaged in 34.4 minutes during the 2012-13 season, not the 9.8 points, 5.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds he averaged in 25.8 minutes in the 18 games he played with Sacramento.
Vasquez is a pass-first point guard which is exactly what the Raptors need after enduring seasons of Lowry’s selfish ways. Too often Toronto watched Lowry take bad shot after bad shot instead of setting up his teammates, and it’ll be refreshing to see the Raptors now have a point guard who actually enjoys passing the ball.
3. Jonas Valanciunas
One player who will be thrilled to play with a pass-first point guard is Jonas Valanciunas. The big man has been lost in the shuffle this season with DeMar DeRozan and Gay dominating the majority of the offensive possessions. It also hasn’t helped that Lowry has chosen to shoot more himself than pass the ball to Valanciunas. Having previously fallen so far down the team’s depth chart offensively, Valanciunas will now be force-fed the ball playing alongside a pick-and-roll guard like Vasquez. The Gay trade all but signifies an intention to help Valanciunas grow while reaching his potential as a major piece to the team's offense.
2. Terrence Ross
The time is now to find out what Terrence Ross is as a player. Ross is another player lower on the depth chart than he should have been, but he'll now be looked to more than anybody to fill the offensive void left by Gay. He’s proven he can jump and dunk with the best of them, and although he’s not lighting it up from long-range, he has shown he can hit the three-ball. Ross' athleticism and ability to stretch the defense while only being 22-years-old is what made trading Gay so easy. He’s only averaging 18.9 minutes, but expect that number to be bumped up to somewhere in the 25-minute territory. Statically speaking, nobody should see a greater increase in their numbers than Ross now that Gay is no longer on the team. Ross might see the biggest increase in his season averages, however, there’s still one player on the team who’ll be affected even more by the trade.
1. DeMar DeRozan
Nobody on the team will be affected more by the Gay trade than DeMar DeRozan as he officially becomes the man in Toronto. DeRozan is having a great start to the season with his averages of 21.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists, but he’ll now be the primary defensive focus of every team the Raptors face. Although Gay wasn’t playing well with Toronto he was still the first player the opposition worried about when they played the Raptors. DeRozan now becomes that player, but considering he was in that position a year ago before Gay arrived he should be able to handle it better given his growth as a player in the past year. There’s no question DeRozan is a better player today than he was last season which is what could make carrying the Raptors offense a much easier task.
It had become obvious in the first 18 games of the season that Gay and DeRozan couldn’t play together. Both players were similar in their play styles, and because neither has a consistent long-range shot it made it difficult for both to play at the same time since they liked the same areas of the court.
DeRozan was proving he could not only do everything Gay could do, but he could do everything better as he routinely outplayed the now former Raptor. The offense was also much more fluid with DeRozan on the court and Gay on the bench as Coach Dwane Casey would space the floor with shooters which would provide lanes for DeRozan to drive to the basket. DeRozan averages a team leading 6.1 free-throw attempts per game while shooting 80 percent from the line.
DeRozan is the face of the franchise now. He’ll be asked to lead Valanciunas and Ross as both continue to grow, he’ll be asked to lead the Raptors rebuild, and most importantly he’ll be asked to lead the franchise back to the playoffs.