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I don't mean any disrespect to a game John Lucas (19 points on 8-16 shooting) or to the Toronto Raptors (16-30), who showed fire in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 93-92 loss in Atlanta before getting jobbed with yet another last second no-call. However, even though there will be some palpable anger in the aftermath of another officiating travesty that served to the detriment of the Raptors, this day was really about a major trade that brought in the team's new star small forward.
In a three-team trade, Rudy Gay came to Toronto from Memphis alongside Hamed Haddadi. Going the other way were Jose Calderon, who was shipped to Detroit, and Ed Davis, who went to the Grizzlies with Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The Raps also sent their 2013 second-round pick to Memphis in the deal.
The biggest name in the trade heads to Toronto after Raptors brass had reportedly coveted him for a long time. The 17.9 career PPG average looks pretty good, particularly for a player who, at 26, is just entering his prime. What doesn't look as good is $37 million remaining on his deal over the next two years, which will limit the team's cap space moving forward. You need to pay for star power in the NBA, but the questions that remain linger around how much is too much to pay and just how much of a 'star' Gay can be.
It's a bit interesting that the Raps reportedly insisted upon Haddadi's inclusion in the deal - well, after they were denied Darrell Arthur, anyway. Still it's tough to see the 7'2" Iranian having any role in Toronto beyond that of an injury fill-in. Doug Smith is already reporting that Haddadi will likely be waived.
I'm not the sentimental type but I can fully admit to getting hit hard upon learning that - after all the rumours - Calderon would no longer be a Toronto Raptor (for real, this time). Not only was Numero Ocho the longest-tenured player on any of Toronto's pro teams (the distinction now falls to Casey Janssen, for anyone who cares), but he served as the embodiment of class and humility within the organization, all the while being a stabilizing presence on the court. Hard to know what I'll miss more - on-court Calderon, who faced numerous position battles without losing one (he beat out TJ Ford and Jarrett Jack and didn't actually lose the starting job to Kyle Lowry), or off-court Calderon, who, along with his wife and family, was the ideal representative of the organization.
While Davis won't evoke the same emotional response as Calderon does (at least not from me), the talented lefty big man is the more costly loss from a development standpoint. The UNC product was clearly coming into his own as an NBA regular, developing a slew of post moves and an increasingly reliable jump shot. At 23 years of age, he will now come off the bench for a strong playoff contender with the opportunity to eventually take over the power forward position from Zach Randolph.
- Help me out here, folks: have the Raptors EVER acquired a star player that was in their prime before? Carter / McGrady / Bosh were draft picks, guys like Antonio Davis and Jalen Rose weren't really stars and guys like Hakeem Olaujuwon and Jermaine O'Neal were past their prime.
- This deal saw the Raptors deal from a position of strength (the front court), resolve a simmering point guard controversy and add star power while shoring up a position featuring plenty of options (Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, Alan Anderson, Linas Kleiza, Mickael Pietrus) but few viable offensive options.
- Bryan Colangelo isn't done dealing. He admitted as much on the TSN2 broadcast on Wednesday night. That means that an already potent Lowry/DeRozan/Gay/Johnson/Valanciunas core may yet be stabilized with sensible, supporting pieces. You'll notice I didn't mention Andrea Bargnani, who I'd be stunned to see with the club past the trade deadline.
- The scariest thing about the deal? No, it's not the Gay contract, which will be a tough pill to swallow for one season before becoming, at the very least, a valuable, expiring asset. It's not even the possibility of Davis becoming an elite post scorer or of Calderon helping the Pistons enter the playoff picture. The most worrisome aspect to the deal is the very real possibility that it turns the Raps into a middle-of-the-road organization - not good enough to be relevant and not bad enough to secure a high draft pick. The latter part is less of a concern this season, with a weak draft class looming, than it is next season, when local product Andrew Wiggins serves as a tantalizing pipe dream.
- We won't know the truth until we see them on court together over the course of a significant number of games, but it sure seems like Gay and DeRozan may be a redundant pairing on the wing. Both are athletic marvels who look to attack the rim, but they also share common shooting struggles, particularly from deep (Gay is a career 34.4% shooter from the three-point line, DeRozan an abysmal 21.8%). With a combined $75 million committed to the two wings past this season (toss is Fields and that number nears $95 million), the team is taking an awfully costly chance that they can play together.
Gay could well make his Raps debut on Friday, when the team welcomes Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the L.A. Clippers to the ACC. For the Clips, a recent two-game win streak has helped turn things around following a four-game slide.
Prediction: Clippers 96, Raptors 92 (32-9 this season)