A trade went down on January 30th, 2013. The Toronto Raptors were on the road to take on the Atlanta Hawks. At about 3:30 PM Eastern time, Jose Calderon and Ed Davis were sent to the Memphis Grizzlies, who than flipped Calderon to the Detroit Pistons for Austin Daye, and veteran Tayshuan Prince. Toronto than received Rudy Gay in return. Yes, Rudy Gay. I honestly jumped out of my seat when this trade originally went down, but everyone brought my spirits down. I asked “Why people?! Why?” And, people were giving me reason, after reason, and next thing you know, everyone sounded like a broken record.
It made me think though. He’s a big name, and is known to be a really talented player, but I was hearing and reading things I’ve never really heard of in the past about him. So, I let time past, I gave a sample number of games before I would see these things with my very own eyes.
Games came by, and I was very impressed with Rudy Gay. Did all Raptor fans and spectators feel the same way? Nope, actually, some changed their tunes about Rudy, and the clear cut impact he had on the team in his early Raptors career didn’t seem to change the original naysayers either. You might ask, “well, what exactly was said about him?” “Rudy Gay is inefficient.” “Rudy Gay is lazy.” “Rudy Gay has a terrible, terrible contract. He’s so overpaid.” “Rudy Gay is only a scorer.”
Rudy Gay has his flaws, every NBA player quite frankly has their flaws – unless your name is LeBron James. With that being said, he’s evidently a talent, and brings star power to Toronto, something that has been lacking for far too long.
Rudy Gay might be inefficient, but he clears up space for his teammates by attracting defenses. The others – specifically DeMar DeRozan – on the team possibly become the biggest beneficiaries of having Gay around. DeMar’s numbers have risen ever since the arrival of Rudy Gay, and his averages have jumped to 18 points and 5 rebounds. This allows DeMar to be guarded by the lesser defensive wing, with most attention being paid on Rudy. DeRozan’s free throw numbers have jumped through the roof as well, with near 8 attempts at the free throw line, and shooting near 85% from the stripe.
Rudy’s averages as a Raptor have increased from the past games as a Grizzly, having his point production jump from 17.2 points, to nearly 21 a game. Assists, rebounds, and steals have taken increases as well, respectively rising from 2.6, 5.9, and 1.3 to 2.7, 6.6, and 2.5. Also, Gay’s scoring in per 36 minutes has increased to 19.6 points, which is tied for his best as an NBA pro. His effective field goal percentage dropped, but the usage rate has increased, which means he’s getting his opportunity to play freely on the court. That freedom on the offensive end should not be taken for granted, but he’s doing a really good job in terms of scoring, and allowing himself to help others get better opportunities at the tin.
Rudy Gay clearly does more for this team than put up the shots on the offensive end, but he’s an impact player on the defensive end. Via NBA.com, The Raptor’s 5 man lineup of Kyle Lowry, Derozan, Gay, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas was named the best defensive lineup that has played at least 100 minute according to advanced statistics. That is quite the impressive stat, considering how underachieving this Raptors squad has been on the defensive end, going from 14th in defensive ratings, to currently 23rd in the league.
He’s been tasked – also admitted wants to take the challenge – of guarding the opposition’s best player. This is definitely a great sign for a player that’s looking to make an impression as an impact, and all-around player. They added an elite wing defender. Rudy’s defensive ratings of 97.3 makes him one of the best at guarding his position in the N|BA.
So to answer to those negative speakers. Rudy Gay is definitely going to be a positive player for this team. Since the acquisition, Toronto has played solid basketball, beating teams like the New York Knicks (twice), the Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets, and the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s brought a winning attitude, which he told the media about, in being apart of a process on a team that’s going through winning, but being on the other side of that as well – which is losing. Nonetheless, the way he has played as a Raptor, his contract isn’t looking bad, and there’s no denial he is a talented, talented player who should have been an all-star by now. The team is only going to get better as they mesh, and there’s no doubt that this has the potential to be the best Raptor squad yet.
He’s going to be here for awhile, and Colangelo has made it clear that he is a core piece moving forward. I for one, am supporting him, because he’s shown flashes of brilliance, and it’s really all about him being consistent, getting efficient, and keeping up the defensive effort and play. When he’s playing at his best, the team plays like a contender. When he’s off, it still puts less pressure on the team, and they still have somebody who can close even when they aren’t playing well because that’s what big time players do.
Toronto’s got a fine player, and not one that’s leaving with potential, but one nearly entering their prime. He brings a new dynamic to Toronto, opens up the floor for everyone, and at the end of the day, the Raps needed star power, and they got it.
The Raps will likely be very happy with this deal down the road. As long as they are willing to swallow his issues, and the salary hole created, that is.
Photo credit to Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports.