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Chisholm: Would Rudy Gay be a good fit with the Raptors?

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Tim Chisholm
1/9/2013 10:45:22 AM
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Well, it looks like the Raptors have re-started their campaign to bring Rudy Gay to Toronto. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Raptors "have definitively decided to make a real run at Gay." This is the second time in under a year that Toronto's intentions to pursue Gay have leaked (the first time was leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft) and until Gay is moved somewhere, it likely won't be the last.

The appeal of Gay on paper is obvious: he's an athletic specimen with a sweet-looking jumper and an ability to pour points on an opposing team. For a Raptors club that is still looking for a go-to scorer on the wing, Gay would seem like an ideal candidate.

There are pesky 'realities', though, that paint a less rosy picture. First of all, Gay is on the trading block because he is having a sub-par year, posting six-year lows in points per game (17.8) and PER (14.9) and career-lows in standard field goal percentage (.408) as well as true shooting percentage (.484). Add this to the fact that Gay has never been known for his commitment to defence and the need to acquire Gay wanes just a little.

More pressing than stats, however, is money. Gay is slated to earn $16.5 million this season and $37.2 million over the next two years. That's a ton of money, especially under the new, harsher conditions of the current CBA. That figure would serve as a significant obstacle for the Raptors going forward, especially if Gay continues to operate at levels below his career norms like he has been this season, and would serve as a sticking point with fans should the team's fortunes not improve measurable with his presence.

Of course, any trade is weighed by the pieces that are exchanged. As ESPN is reporting, Toronto's opening bid is Jose Calderon's expiring $10.6 million contract and breakout power forward Ed Davis. According to ESPN's Trade Machine, that trade would be approved, though it would eat the roughly $3 million Toronto has remaining under the salary cap. Now, that would be Toronto trading two of their best players this season for a guy having arguably his worst professional season, as well as depleting two positions while overstuffing a third, so let's just say that if this trade were to go down as reported (and we're a long way from that yet), it wouldn't be because it balanced Toronto's roster any.

There are fit issues when you talk about bringing Gay to the Raptors, as well. Assuming no wing players are packaged into a trade, Toronto would be facing a wing rotation of Gay and DeMar DeRozan in the starting lineup and Terrence Ross, Landry Fields and Alan Anderson off the bench (with Mickael Pietrus sliding out of the rotation altogether). That's not a great situation for Toronto to be facing.

Right off the bat, you are facing duplication issues between Gay and DeRozan. Neither one is a great shooter (don't be deceived, Gay is not a great, or really even a good, three-point shooter), neither one excels at defence and neither one passes the ball well. These guys don't offset each other's games so much as mirror them, except Gay does it at a greater than 50% financial premium.

Behind them, you have to make a choice about the limited minutes available to Ross, Fields and Anderson, all three of whom have been playing well of late. Since Gay will command roughly 35 minutes per game (as opposed to the 22 that Pietrus is currently logging), that also considerably restricts the amount of time available to those players. How would Dwane Casey manage that situation? If we assume that Fields continues to play way out of position at power forward, that eases some of the logjam, but suffice it to say, it's not a long-term solution.

It should also be taken into account that Ross plays a style of basketball that actually evokes plenty of memories of Gay, except that Ross plays some defence. With Toronto fans' tendency to latch onto young players and reserves, how long would it be before they turned on Gay if he appeared to be stifling Ross's development by eating up all of his minutes?

This is one of those moves that catches the eye because it involves a name player being linked to the Toronto Raptors, but it doesn't take long before one realizes that the fit doesn't make sense. Back in the summer, when the Raptors were still building around Andrea Bargnani and were looking ahead to a free agency pursuit of Steve Nash, then a Rudy Gay trade made a certain amount of sense.

Today, however, circumstances have changed considerably and unless the components of the trade are meaningfully altered, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Bryan Colangelo to crawl too far down this particular rabbit hole.

Rudy Gay (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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