The Toronto Raptors made big news yesterday, sending Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. This trade rids the Raptors of their biggest name player and their biggest contract, and many were quick to point to this move as tanking from Toronto. That assertion is incorrect, and believe it or not, the Raptors will be better because of this trade.
First of all, Gay was making $17.9 million this season, but his production on the floor wasn’t even close to matching that salary. Gay is shooting only 38.8% from the field this season, and he is averaging more turnovers than assists. His presence was hindering the development of young players like Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, and getting rid of Gay will create more opportunities for those players.
Not only that, but the players the Raptors added should make a solid impact for them. Vasquez and Kyle Lowry give the Raptors an excellent point guard tandem, and the two could actually play together. Vasquez is a much more pass oriented player than Lowry, which should benefit Ross and Valanciunas. Vasquez averages 9.8 assists per 48 minutes, compared to just 8.8 for Lowry, and Vasquez actually finished third in the NBA in assists last season when he was playing starter’s minutes.
Patterson gives the Raptors a scoring option at power forward, which should complement starter Amir Johnson nicely. Now in his fourth season, Patterson has shown the ability to be a productive role player if utilized correctly. Hayes gives the Raptors another solid defending and rebounding veteran, while Salmons could provide some scoring punch off the bench. Making things better is the fact that only Hayes has a guaranteed contract next season, giving the Raptors great cap flexibility (Salmons has a non-guaranteed contract, while the Raptors have team options on Vasquez and Patterson).
The Raptors saved a ton of money by trading Gay, and they gave themselves all kinds of flexibility to make further trades or free agent signings because of it. That alone would make this a good trade, but in my opinion the Raptors actually became a better basketball team as well. The Raptors hired Masai Ujiri to be their GM because he has such a strong track record of building complete basketball teams while being financially responsible, and he is doing it again. Ujiri made a great move to dump Andrea Bargnani, and he has made an even better one by unloading Rudy Gay. This was a fantastic trade by the Raptors, both for this season and the future.