Many people agreed that the trade sending Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors on January 31 would not benefit the Raptors. They were buying low on a high-priced, high-usage, inefficient wing that would make them good enough to be average, but never great or bad enough to build through the draft. They traded their way into the place no NBA team wants to be, and they lost a talented young big in Ed Davis and Jose Calderon’s expiring contract to do it.
So, after five games, what are the early returns on the Rudy Gay trade? The Raptors are 3-2 over the stretch with Gay averaging 23.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Basically the only statistic that has drastically changed for Gay since Memphis is he’s attempting five more shots per game, while still shooting only 41 percent.
The highlight of Gay’s time in Toronto occurred Friday night in Indiana against the rolling Pacers. After getting a clutch steal to help Toronto tie the game at the end of regulation, Gay was the focus of the Raptors’ final possession in overtime. Tied 98-98, Gay took Paul George one-on-one off the dribble and pulled up for a difficult, game-winning 15-foot jumper to snap Indiana’s 15-game home winning streak. It was classic Gay and reminded everyone for a moment that, “Oh yeah. This guy is good.”
But then you looked at the box score and saw his line: an incredibly inefficient 9-for-25 from the floor for 23 points and only two assists. This line followed an 8-for-24 (1-for-7 from three) performance for 25 points and three assists Wednesday night against Boston. In Gay’s 42 games with Memphis this season, he shot more than 22 shots only once. In his first five games in Toronto, he’s done it three times. He’s taken hold of the Raptors’ offense and its effects show in the performance of his slightly stagnated teammates.
Since Gay’s arrival, the Raptors have totaled fewer than 20 assists in three of five games. Prior to his arrival, they had only done it 10 times. Of course this, like basically every stat I’m citing, is based on small sample sizes and for assists in particular, Jose Calderon had a lot to do with the high numbers. But there’s definitely correlation between Rudy Gay taking a lot of shots and the team assist numbers going down. So far in Toronto, 22 percent of his shots have been in isolation, 20 percent in spot-up and 13 percent as the pick-and-roll ballhandler, according to Synergy Sports. These are all low-assist, low-movement, low-efficiency plays that can kill the fluidity of an offense. When Gay gets the ball, he’s keeping it and attempting to create on his own. Plays should end with Gay, not begin and end with him.
On defense, Gay’s limitations are showing as the Raptors are giving up 6.6 more points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, according to 82games.com. He won’t have the same defensive help that he did in Memphis so his flaws on that end will become more apparent. He has the quickness, length and smarts to play defense. He just needs to make a commitment to do it.
In his first five games in Toronto, Rudy Gay made his presence felt on the Raptors, but not necessarily in the most positive way. In order for Toronto to be more successful, Gay needs to become one part of the offense. Not the only part. This is definitely possible and it will take time for him to find his best role on this roster. But as it’s currently constructed, he’s proving the early doubters of the trade knew what they were talking about. He’s still inefficient, he’s still high-usage and this team is still only average.
How do you think Rudy Gay has played since coming to Toronto?
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