The Raptors have had five games now to adjust to life with Rudy Gay in the lineup. Are they better off since the trade? The Five-Man Weave weighs in with their early impressions.
Are the Raptors a better team since acquiring Rudy Gay?
Mitch Ward: Better yes, good no. Gay is simply more talented than anyone else on the Raptors' roster or the two players he was traded for. Better talent makes the team better. There's still a few things that need to happen for the team to be considered good though.
Will Strickland: Short term returns say yes. The team is 2-2 since Rudy Gay arrived. He's averaging seven more points a game than he did with Memphis this season, adding the dynamic Toronto sought despite still shooting 41% from the field. Raptors Nation will make the excuse that as long as Gay comes through in the clutch like he did in the big character road win over Indiana, 41% FG from your new star is acceptable. No Bueno! Until February 22, we have no idea how much different this team will be, but so far so good in the Rudy Gay Era.
Josh Lewenberg: Is there really any question? Gay has scored 20 or more points to lead his new team in each of the five games he's warn the red, white and black… Five games, four of them coming against elite opponents… Two of which they won (plus a third over the Hornets)… One of which he won for them as the closer he was brought in to be. Question his shot selection, hate on his contract but there's no denying his immediate impact to a team previously void of star-power. So, yes.
Tim Chisholm: Yes. Rudy Gay is a very talented player, and he has clearly played motivated since being dispatched from a Western powerhouse to an Eastern lottery team. Bryan Colangelo still has work to do balancing out this roster, but the team's best lineup is definitely more potent with Gay in that out of it.
Duane Watson: Without question. You can only wonder how much better they would look with Jose Calderon feeding Gay the ball. He's a scorer who can create his own shot, something Toronto has lacked for years now.
Can Gay be the franchise player the Raptors wanted going forward?
Ward: Rudy Gay can be the best player for a good team, but he's not in the same class as true franchise players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and a handful of other players. The Raptors can thrive with Gay as their focal point, but he will need more help around him than the guys on that list if the team is truly going to contend.
Strickland: Rudy Gay can definitely be a franchise player for the Raptors. He's just not necessarily a franchise player on a championship-level squad.
Lewenberg: There are a small handful of “franchise player”-types in this league and he's not one of them. That said, I still believe he's a game-changing talent… who happens to be paid as a “franchise player”, but such is life in the NBA. I don't see him single-handedly carrying a team to the promised land (although I've been wrong before), but surrounded with the right pieces, in the right situation he is an All-Star caliber player and at the age of 26 the best is yet to come.
Chisholm: No. Rudy Gay is a solid talent, a worthwhile piece to play with, but he is not a franchise-caliber talent. As his first three quarters against Indiana showed, Gay doesn't possess the ability to bend the game to his will. LeBron does this. Kobe does this. Paul does this. Gay does not.
Watson: No, just cause he's paid like one, doesn't make him one. However, he can be the scorer or go-to-guy that this team has sorely lacked. He still needs to improve his stats other than just ppg. For example, his field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage need to go up./p>
Which Raptor has benefited the most from Gay's presence?
Ward: DeMar Derozan. I wasn't sure he would fit along side Gay as well as he has, but the two have already formed nice chemistry. Gay's presence takes much of the pressure off DeRozan and allows him to play more freely.
Strickland: Andrea Bargnani. It would be easy to say DeMar DeRozan, who I have to admit despite my initial misgivings, has adjusted well with Gay in the lineup. For the time being, Bargnani seems to be accepting his role as prime scorer off the bench. Andrea has a chance to heighten his profile before the trade deadline and this move relieves him finally of the mistake Bryan Colangelo made in thinking AB7 was a #1 when he's actually a decent third or fourth option. Whether that's in Toronto, Chicago or elsewhere remains to be seen.
Lewenberg: Although DeMar DeRozan has benefited a great deal, Andrea Bargnani has also excelled in his new role prior to missing Friday's game with the flu. Gay's presence has forced Bargnani into a more appropriate complimentary role off the bench and to his credit he has bought in (disclaimer: small sample size!). Often cast as the number-one option, something he is not, the former first-overall pick is finally able to play within himself and since his return from injury he has done just that. The threat of Gay and DeRozan on the wing has taken some pressure off the Italian, who has been getting better looks and is scoring efficiently as a result. How long will it last? That's the real question.
Chisholm: DeMar DeRozan. After spending the last season-and-a-half having defences key in on him in Andrea Bargnani's absence, DeRozan has been freed up as teams are less apt to double him with Gay laying in wait on the weak side. DeRozan needs to up his efficiency, though, to take advantage of these changed circumstances.
Watson: While DeMar DeRozan is an obvious answer, Amir Johnson has benefited. With more opportunities for rebounds, on both ends and offensively, Gay commands attention from interior defenders on help defence and is making the most of it.
Which Raptors has benefited the least?
Ward: Alan Anderson. Before the trade he was a key part of the rotation, made good decisions and produced very solid numbers. Since the trade he has looked like a player that no longer knows his role. He was benched in the win over the Pacers after playing just four minutes and launching one terrible three-point attempt. You didn't see Anderson doing that type of thing before the trade.
Strickland: Alan Anderson. Landry Fields is going nowhere with that albatross of a contract, Terrence Ross looks to be a future Sixth Man off the bench and Mikael Pietrus is a non-factor. After providing solid leadership, timely scoring and solid defence early for the Raps, Anderson has slumped and needs to find a comfortable medium with Toronto to showcase himself for his next stop with whatever time he gets on the court.
Lewenberg: Well the easy answer is Alan Anderson, who is shooting 23 per cent since Gay arrived but to me it's pretty clear that Kyle Lowry has to be better for this experiment to be a successful one. Lowry has played well in stretches – specifically in Sunday's win over New Orleans – but for the most part, he is yet to find himself with Gay in the lineup. He has to be the straw that stirs this drink but he's still struggling to find a balance between facilitating and doing too much. Lowry just might be the most important player on this Raptors team.
Chisholm: So far? Kyle Lowry. With Jose Calderon gone, Lowry has gone under the microscope and he hasn't fared well in that position. He looks stifled, which may be a result of coaching, but at the end of the day he has to make smarter reads at both ends as the point man in the team's attack. He has the talent to get there, and Casey needs to find moments to unleash him, but right now he looks like a struggling player.
Watson: Kyle Lowry. Sure he's passing more, but knowing he has to facilitate, he can't jack up as many shots and his scoring has suffered. I think he's still trying to find his game.
He's being shopped but will Andrea Bargnani actually be moved before the deadline?
Ward: I sure hope so. Then again, I have been hoping that for a long time now, so I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't.
Strickland: I'm not, nor will I ever be, a Carlos Boozer fan, but he is a significant upgrade over Bargnani. And if Colangelo can fleece Chicago for a guy who is having a resurgent season buoying a Derrick Rose-less Bulls squad, Toronto gets interesting in a hurry and MAYBE even better. Playoffs? A reach. But as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment looks to be ready to roll the dice on eating that Luxury Tax, Bryan Colangelo can count on another of his nine lives to live and grow with the Raptors.
Lewenberg: Chicago's alleged Carlos Boozer offer indicates that there is in fact a market for Bargnani, as my colleague Tim Chisholm discussed last week. However, that doesn't mean Colangelo will move Bargnani simply to move him and he doesn't seem inclined to absorb unwanted salary unless the player coming back is a fit with the group he has assembled. Barring an offer that meets their liking – presumably involving a young big and/or draft pick – I wouldn't be surprised to see the team hang onto Bargnani and continue to shop him in the offseason.
Chisholm: Almost assuredly. The team is looking to move in a new direction and Colangelo knows that can't happen with Bargnani around. He just brings too much baggage to the table. Toronto may not be enamored of the Carlos Boozer proposition, for instance, but presumably it's there if they don't come across anything better between now and Feb 21st.
Watson: If there were discussions for Boozer, there is still interest, but it's too early to tell. He has seemingly settled into a good role as an off the bench scorer. Only problem is Toronto drafted him first overall and are paying him $10 million dollars, he's not a #1 option on most teams and not even #2.
The Five-Man Weave is made up of TSN.ca Raptors blogger Tim Chisholm ( @timpchisholm), TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050), Duane Watson (@sweetswatson) and Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) from TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, and TSN.ca NBA Editor Mitch Ward (@jmitchw).