It has been nearly two weeks since the Toronto Raptors traded away Rudy Gay and greatly altered the complexion of its roster. So what has Raptor Nation seen during that span?
Well most notably — and perhaps most expected — the team has seen a marked offensive improvement already. The Raptors’ field goal percentage has already increased since the departure of Gay. Prior to Gay leaving town, the Raptors were shooting just over 41 percent with Gay himself shooting an abysmal 38 percent from the field. With Gay out the picture, that number has shot up to 46.18 percent — a 5.18 percent increase. The team’s improved field goal percentage is directly attributed to its improved offensive fluidity. In other words, the ball is moving much more with Gay gone. Currently, the Raptors sit dead last in the league for assists per game (APG) with an 18.4 average. Yet, in the four games that the team has played without Gay they are already averaging 22.25 APG which would put them 13th in the league. In considering these numbers, it is important to remember that the Raptors are showing this offensive improvement with having practically no practice time with the team’s new acquisitions. Since the trade, the team could have potentially practiced only four times (this is assuming the team had a practice each off-day that they have had since the deal). That’s quite the improvement already considering the team is practically playing off of instincts when the team’s new acquisitions are on the floor.
On an individual level, Raptor Nation has excitingly seen an increased role for its young guns as Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have had to contribute to the offensive burden much more since the deal. In the four games since the trade, the aforementioned Ross has averaged 13.25 PPG, a 5.35 PPG increase from his season average (7.9 PPG). Ross also poured in a season-high 24 points against the Philadelphia 76ers (Dec.13) on the first day he was united with the team’s new acquisitions. Expect Ross to continue to develop as the season moves forward with his increased minutes, confidence, and newly appointed starting role. Valanciunas has also begun to show signs of development since the Gay trade as he has averaged 13.75 PPG, 10.75 RPG, 1.5 BPG and shot 51.16 percent from the field since the deal.
Ultimately, like any trade in sports, the Gay deal will be evaluated by the bottom line — the wins and losses. If that is so then the Raptors have certainly done well in this deal as they have gone 3-1 since the deal including an impressive overtime road victory against the Dallas Mavericks last night. Yet, admittedly, Toronto has seen modest competition since the deal as they have played against all sub.500 teams minus the Mavericks. In the coming weeks, the Raptors’ front office and its fans may get a truer indicator of the team’s improvement since the deal. The dinos will take on some of the elite teams in the weeks to come as they will square off against the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Indiana Pacers, respectively. Should the Raptors fare as well in these games then GM Masai Ujiri will be put in quite the conundrum. In potentially tanking for the 2014 NBA Draft, Ujiri could risk dismantling a young and promising roster and alienating an entire fan base in the process. Considering all of the recent change, as well as the likely possibility of future changes being made given Ujiri’s reported intentions, the coming weeks in Raptorland should be some of the most exciting yet.