I’m stating clearly, from the beginning, that Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay is a good NBA player. Even though he’s the antagonist in this video, I still like him. Despite my respect for his skills, Gay is grossly overpaid. His contract is so debilitating the Raptors are worse off with him on the team.
To begin, let’s play everyone’s favorite game and compare some player salaries from the 2012-13 year, specifically Gay’s, LeBron James‘s and Kevin Durant‘s (all figures courtesy of ShamSports.com).
Only a crazy person would try to trash the Durant and James salaries. The Gay salary? It’s a little harder to defend.
For instance, Gay is a career 18 point per game (ppg) scorer, struggles shooting the three (he shot only 34 per cent behind the arc with the Raptors) and hasn’t shown any real statistical improvement since his second year. Basically, what Toronto received in the Jose Calderon, Ed Davis trade was a near-maximum contract guy who has already likely reached his potential and will earn close to $18 million next year and $19.3 million the year after (if Gay exercises his player option).
With a salary cap projection of $60 million for the 2013-14 season, Gay’s salary will eat up almost one third of the Raptors’ cap space. The Raptors are tabled to pay over $65 million to 12 players next year after Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray exercised their player options (around $7 million). Toronto will need to sign three more players to round out their 15-man roster. Assuming the Raps pay a total of $70 million in salaries for next year, the team will sit $10 million over the salary cap assuming no amnesty or Bargnani deal–not necessarily a bad thing if this roster can perform up to its potential. However, factoring in the inevitable injuries, depressing Andrea Bargnani performances and general underachievement of most Raptors’ teams, Toronto has no financial flexibility to acquire an impact player via free agency.
Financially, the Raptors are still relatively safe for the 2013-14 season. Relatively is the key word here as the 2014-15 season will become a complete mess if Gay exercises his option. Gay’s salary alone is horrendous. Combined with Bargnani’s salary, it’s downright depressing. The combined salaries of the two will amount to nearly half of Toronto’s total cap that season, with two thirds coming from Gay’s contract. A further indication of the upcoming financial trouble for the Raps: after the team exercises its options on Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunus (total combined salaries of $6.5 million for 2014-15) and the above-mentioned option is exercised with Gay, Toronto will have reached nearly $61 million in salaries with only seven players signed for that season! Even worse, Kyle Lowry‘s contract expires in 2014-15. Lowry makes around $6 million per year now. His next contract will surely see him earn $9-10 million per season.
To further rag on Gay’s contract, let’s put it into some more perspective: DeMar DeRozan averaged 18 ppg last season, is only 23 years old (Gay turns 27 in August) and will make $9.5 million per year for the next four years. DeRozan is properly paid, despite the popular belief. If he continues to improve, his $9.5-million price tag will be a steal. Gay, meanwhile, is fast-approaching Joe Johnson territory–he’s becoming an overpaid player who has little chance to play up to his contract.
Conversely, Gay is a high-caliber player, and getting big name players to sign with Toronto in free agency has always been a tough task. The real evaluation lies in whether he’s worth it. Considering his lack of range from deep and his inability to become a big-time scorer by his sixth year in the league, I say no. He’s a good player and brings talent to the roster, but I really find it hard to justify spending superstar money on him.
So, what can the Raptors do with Gay?
Unfortunately, the Raps are stuck with him. Unless whomever Tim Leiweke hires as the new general manager can swing a deal, Toronto fans can only hope Gay doesn’t exercise his player option after next season (which he probably will, since I doubt any team will offer him close to $19 million in free agency). Toronto’s best case scenario would see Gay and Bargnani leave after next season, freeing up huge cap room for a loaded 2014 free agency period. Toronto’s worst case scenario is that Gay posts two decently productive seasons with the Raps, the team signs him to a maximum contract. Let’s hope not.
The bottom line is that Gay’s contract wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the Raptors cap situation wasn’t. Thanks Colangelo.
Now, with all that good news out of the way, let’s continue to enjoy the playoffs and mutter those same words we have been for the last five years.
There’s always next year.