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The Extra Pass: Grading the Rudy Gay Trade

Jan 31, 2013, 8:36 AM EST

Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we analyze the three-way deal between Memphis, Toronto and Detroit. 

Trades born from necessity are often the most interesting to evaluate. Usually the need to deal is lopsided — think Denver having to trade Carmelo Anthony or Orlando trading Dwight Howard — but the need to make this blockbuster trade was shared by both Memphis and Toronto.

The Grizzlies simply had to get under the cap for the future, and the Raptors had to cash in on Jose Calderon‘s expiring deal before it was too late. As for the Pistons? They took the enviable position of third wheel, which is usually the best way to score value in a trade.

So how did they do? Let’s hand out grades for each team in this deal.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Sent: Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto

Acquired: Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and a 2013 second-round draft pick

Memphis wasn’t supposed to have any leverage, but their haul in this deal certainly doesn’t reflect that. By swapping Gay with Prince, the Grizzlies effectively accomplished everything they wanted to accomplish. Prince isn’t as talented as Gay, but the gap in actual production (especially defensively) isn’t so overwhelming as to make you believe the Grizzlies are significantly less capable of contending than they were before.

Perhaps more importantly, Prince will make roughly $22 million less than Gay in future salary, which saves Memphis from the luxury tax hell they were bound for if they didn’t break up their core.

All that is enough to make the trade sensible, but getting Ed Davis makes it a steal. Promising, productive young big men on rookie contracts are some of the most valuable assets in basketball, and acquiring Davis allows for even more future flexibility as well. If for some reason Memphis wants to rip the band-aid off all at once and trade Zach Randolph, Davis and Arthur would be more than capable substitutes at the 4.

As is, Memphis actually managed to get stronger up front and cut salary in their two deals, as they now sport the league’s best big man rotation with Randolph-Gasol-Arthur-Davis.

The downside may be that it’s not popular in the locker room, but the inevitability of it all might make it easier for the players to understand. Again, it’s not like any white flags are being waved here. Prince might make them even better defensively, and the Grizzlies are 29-15 with Gay shooting 40 percent from the field and having a below average PER (14.4) this season. This isn’t an isolated example — Memphis made their deepest playoff run in 2010-11 without Gay’s services. It’s not unfair to ask how much he was really worth to Memphis on the floor. The answer to that, apparently, was not worth the luxury tax.

Grade: A-

Toronto Raptors

Sent: Jose Calderon to Detroit, Ed Davis and 2013 second rounder to Memphis

Acquired: Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi

In a vacuum, Toronto did great here by trading a few months of Calderon for two and a half years of Rudy Gay. Is Gay overpaid in a general sense? Sure, but he’s not overpaid for Toronto. Kooky exchange rates aside, it’s important to remember that Toronto wasn’t slated to have any cap room this offseason or next. Even if they somehow did, would Toronto actually be able to land a better player than Gay at a more reasonable price tag in the always inflated free agent market?

With all that in mind, Gay is a nice acquisition. He has holes in his game, but he can score around the rim and he can use his athleticism to always get you a shot. There’s a value in that. Still, it’s not Gay’s skills that warrant questioning, but rather the fit with his new teammates in Toronto. DeMar DeRozan, who is the other player locked in with Gay long-term for the Raptors, is another wing player who loves to post up just like Gay does. Can an offense survive with two sub-par 3-point shooting wings who prefer to work from the free throw line down? Kyle Lowry is a very good scoring guard, but is he content with consistently feeding DeRozan and Gay post-up opportunities while Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson just try to stay out of the way? And what does this mean for Andrea Bargnani — a player who only has value when he has the ball in his hands? Dwane Casey is a good coach, but he’ll have his hands full trying to craft an offense that will have any spacing or ball movement whatsoever.

These are legitimate issues, but perhaps the most troubling is the burying of rookie Terrence Ross. He’s displayed insane athleticism and a pretty good outside shot in his time this season, but now he’ll have to fight with Fields and Alan Anderson for scraps instead of getting the time he needs to develop into a franchise building block. With DeRozan and Gay both locked in on the wing, where is he supposed to go?

Gay is a good piece to have, but you know who else is a good piece to have? Ed Davis. Toronto may be trying hard to win now, but it feels like their front office just keeps compounding mistakes. Getting stuck with Fields, trading a high first-round pick for Lowry, acquiring Gay but losing Davis and forfeiting Ross’ minutes in the process — the more moves they make, the more the future gets sacrificed. That wouldn’t be the worst thing if Toronto had a potential championship team in place, but even the most optimistic evaluation of this team leaves them much, much shorter of that goal.

Grade: C+

Detroit Pistons

Sent: Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye

Acquired: Jose Calderon

Say goodbye Pistons fans — the last member of the 2004 championship squad has been dealt. Prince had a very nice career in Detroit, but the rebuilding process has already started there with Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. In that vein, it’s important to note that Calderon is a pure rental for Detroit, as the chances of him re-signing in Detroit are slim-to-none.

This is a simple cost-cutting move for Detroit, who will get Prince’s $14.9 million over two years off the books. The Pistons will now head into this year’s offseason with right around $32 million in salary, which theoretically makes them a big player in free agency for the first time since the Ben Gordon/Charlie Villanueva contract debacle.

It might make more sense for Detroit to sit out a year for a better free agency class in 2014, and go the Cleveland route next season by being a trading partner for cash-strapped teams looking to dump assets. Teams will be scurrying to avoid the punitive repeater tax that starts getting counted next year, so the timing for Detroit to clear space couldn’t be better, even if they can’t attract a big free agent.

The Pistons will miss Prince on the court, but more minutes for players who figure to be around for a bit like Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko isn’t the worst thing, even if they’re not as productive. As for Calderon’s addition this year, it’s probably worth it to move Brandon Knight to the bench for a 6th man role, somewhere he naturally belongs.

Giving Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond a taste of what it’s like to play with a real point guard will likely keep them happy for a few months, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Detroit makes a late push for the 8-seed. Regardless of that though, this trade sets Detroit up nicely going forward.

Grade: A

  1. charlutes - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    are you high? Calderon was a throw in, the Raptors can re-sign him in free agency if both sides want to. So your giving them a C for trading Davis for Gay? really? I get that Davis has a nice low contract and Gay is overpaid but your acting like Gay isn’t a vastly superior player. The raptors get him for his prime and now at least they have the chance to try to build a winner. Trading Davis is not selling out their future, that’s ludicrous. You can gripe about past trades but this one is great for the raptors.

  2. lorddarkhelmet - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    I wouldn’t be so quick to assume Calderone is a rental. Joe D has long been trying to acquire him. He is a good, smart PG who shouldn’t be that expensive. He has always been unselfish and could be a great mentor for Knight. Plus, as you pointed out, Knight would be a fantastic 6th man as he is instant offense off the bench (ala the Microwave Johnson).

  3. dabceb - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    “Giving Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond a taste of what it’s like to play with a real point guard…..”

    Hmm…. so what is Knight, I thought he’s a real point guard too. Wasn’t he a point guard at UK?

    • connorchew - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      he’s a hybrid kind of guard. doesnt have the size for a 2, but doesnt have the passing ability for the point. that being said he’s still a good player at both spots,

    • thomaskouns - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      Knight is a nice player but ‘real’ point guards average more than 4 assists a game while playing more than 30 minutes per.

      Calderon has averaged twice that many assists throughout his career while roughly averaging the same minutes as Knight.

      Knight is an undersized two playing the PG.

  4. drunkenjunk - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I agree with you on Memphis, I really think they got the best on this trade. Prince and Davis more than make up for losing Gay.

  5. borderline1988 - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Can’t agree more with your assessments. Memphis did extremely well here – I can’t believe they got off this well considering Gay makes $19 million/year, only one year before the crazy luxury tax system starts. Toronto sports teams always seem to bail out other squads.

    And Detroit simply got what they wanted – dumping salary.

    The Raptors – I like Rudy Gay but this makes little sense to me. Gay and Derozan are essentially the same player. And now they have a logjam at the 2 and 3 positions. And Landry Fields – wow what a terrible signing. $8 million/year to be completely superfluous. He’s going to have to play the 4 to get some minutes, but with Amir Johnson and Bargnani, those minutes will be limited too.

    The only way this makes sense is if Colangelo turns around and trades Bargnani and Andersen for a quality big man. I love the way Andersen is playing, but he’s 31 years old, and this year could be a complete abberation. He’s a guy who can score 15ppg off the bench, play good defense, play multiple positions, and hit 3s. He’s also really cheap, so his value to a contender must be high. I’d trade him now while his value is high.

    At least the Raptors got something out of Calderon – if this was the best they could do, they didn’t really have much of a choice…although it would have been nice if they packaged Calderon and Fields to Memphis instead of Calderon, Davis, and a 2nd round pick.

  6. slowclyde86 - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    “Hmm…. so what is Knight, I thought he’s a real point guard too. Wasn’t he a point guard at UK?”

    As the article mentions, Knight is a decent 6th man. That is all. And what does his having played at UK have anything to do with his place in the NBA?

  7. twreck13 - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    What a turnaround for the Pistons. They seem to have a lot more direction than most middle of the road teams

  8. broncobeta - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    “Giving Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond a taste of what it’s like to play with a real point guard…..”

    Wait a second PBT! I thought even the 12th man in the league is worthy!?

    Kurt Helin quote: “…anybody that thinks the 12th guy on an NBA bench wouldn’t own a major college game, let alone some pickup contest at the Y, is a fool.”

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Are you really that dim about context? By real, he means by NBA standards, which is how all PBT stories are written. We’re not going to explain this every post because people have reading comprehension problems.

      • broncobeta - Jan 31, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        Yes. I am the dim one who can’t get the facts right in the articles.

        No, wait. That’s you.

        “By real, he means by NBA standards”

        No, all that means is that you have no journalistic standards. You write whatever pops into your head and hit publish without any regard to consistency.

      • badintent - Jan 31, 2013 at 7:04 PM

        I got your back on this one !! Just asks MLB has drug testing for it’s players, PBT should have a IQ test for it’s bloggerettes. Half will fail it(spell checking doesn’t count)

  9. mungman69 - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Detroit started out 0-8 but has a huge upside. They will be a force for years to come.

  10. weaselpuppy - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    It helps when schmucks like Ekpe Udoh get taken in the spot before you instead of Greg Monroe, ditto Terrance Ross in front of Drummond. Knight just turned 21 yrs old…let’s not drop him in a casket just yet…it usually takes point guards 3 years to develop (see Lindsey Hunter, not a bad comp actually). Is he a star or will he be? probably no, but can be a solid contributor. $25MM in cap room and a lottery pick(Josh Smith and Trey Burke? OJ Mayo and GR3?) will do a lot to fill out the roster for a long stretch of playoff appearances starting next year, as Drummond is going to tear up this league…

  11. livingsacrifice86 - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    At least Toronto will have some pretty sweet dunk contests during practice….

  12. caeser12 - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Why is Landry Fields still in the NBA?

    • paleihe - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:31 PM

      Cause he’s a decent player.

      • badintent - Jan 31, 2013 at 7:09 PM

        And he picks up stray yuppies on the street , brings them into his monster gas sucking SUV, then plays childrenPlay station games with them before he drops them off in crack ridden areas The man is a beast on and off the court.

  13. misterchainbluelightning - Jan 31, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Kooky exchange rates?
    1 American dollar is worth 1 Canadian dollar atm

  14. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Jan 31, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head here. Colangelo’s entire stay in Toronto has been one where he makes mistakes and then compounds them as he tries to fix them. He’s been with the team for about 7 years now, and what does he have to show for it? A couple of first round exits. His entire time here has been a waste. Nothing has been accomplished and the team is no closer to winning a title or even pretending to compete for one than when he arrived.

    Now he’s living out his 7 year man crush by bringing in the guy he almost drafted, at the expense of the future. Ironically, it may hurt the present as well. Gay obviously upgrades the 3, but at what cost? Davis leaving means more Bargnani if we can’t trade him, and the offense is now full of guys with a “shoot first, pass as a last resort” mentality. The biggest transition between the 4-19 start and the solid turnaround was unselfish ball movement. Good luck seeing that again.

    Meanwhile, we lose a promising young PF, we still have no draft pick in the next draft, and in 2014(the deepest draft in quite a while), we’ll probably make the playoffs as an 8 seed and get swept when instead we should be doing an actual rebuild and trying as hard as possible to acquire lottery picks for 2014. This team has(or at least had) a solid core, but it needs a true star to really go places. Rudy Gay is not that star.

  15. dko83 - Jan 31, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Never will forget this.

  16. joerymi - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Joe Dumars doesn’t draft well, doesn’t sign free agents well (sans Billups and not resigning Ben for big bucks), but there might not be a better GM when it comes to trades.

    Gives the Pistons ridicules cap room and perhaps a viable option at the point with the chance to see if Knight fits better at SG, not off the bench.

    If I am not mistaken, the Pistons lose their pick if they make the playoffs to the Bobcats. So, miss the playoffs and trade Stuckey, then this season might be a re-builders A++

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