NBA / Feb 11, 2013 / 4:30 pm

The Rudy Gay Era In Toronto Is Off To An Up-And-Down Start

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay (photo. Douglas Sonders)

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?

Follow Jon on Twitter at @jhartzell2.

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  • Daniel

    Well written article and spot on with your analysis.

  • Pun

    You know, the big thing people do nowadays is look at the statistics, and forget the little things that fly under the radar that can’t be quantified my numbers and stats, but make a huge impact in the game, regardless.

    For one, lets take a look at the perception of the Raptors since Rudy Gay has joined the ranks. Teams are respecting the Raptors franchise, applauding it even. The whole league is looking at Toronto as a team on it’s way to becoming a perennial play-off team. Analysts are talking about how athletic and talented the wing players of Toronto are. Fans are beginning to get excited about the run and gun style of play this young and explosive team is becoming–and I’m not sticking that fact solely to Raptors fans. The perception is this: The Raptors are turning that corner, and are quickly becoming a team that is both exciting and relentless.

    Two.

    Lets look at what having a player of Rudy Gay’s star-caliber presence has brought to this team.

    The Raptors have elevated their thinking in that they don’t see themselves as just mediocre team anymore, but a young group that can straight up compete. The Raptors have a closer. Period. A reliable shooter, who may miss shots during the first three quarters, but will explode when it counts the most–closing time.

    What I’m really getting at is this: The Raptors have been playing with a ton of heart and confidence since Rudy Gay has joined them, and there are no signs pointing to them slowing down–as long as injuries are a non-factor.

    Three.

    Players are surely falling into line in what they’re roles are, and aren’t being pressured to be something that they’re not. The pressure is off DeRozan to be the star player, and the same is true of Bargnani. They look so much more comfortable on floor, and it makes it so much easier for them to just do what’s expected of them–play smart, simple basketball.

    While these statistics put on here by Jon are numbers, truths, and facts, they are painting an ugly picture of Rudy Gay, and he deserves a lot more credit than that. The guy ain’t Lebron James or Kevin Durant, and guess what, even they need the help of quality players around them–even other star players on their team–to be at their best.

    I’m just getting sick and tired of all these writers down-playing Rudy Gay as some guy who’s just hurting your team, when in reality, he’s helping his team–even if the statistics don’t agree.

    Does it bother you that much that he got traded to the Raptors and not some other team? Your favorite team perhaps?

    Is this game all about statistics or combination of stats with those little things that make the whole dish work?

    Quit the bullshit downplay that Rudy Gay isn’t all he’s perceived to be, cause I’m pretty sure Memphis fans wish he was still in Memphis–I know Lionel Hollins does.

    Easy.

  • Daniel

    I’m a Memphis fan and no, we do not wish that.

    *NOT easy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.i.jarrell Rob IronMan Jarrell

    i agree with Pun… Bringing in Gay brings in a guy who can handle the spotlight and create specific roles for other guys on the floor. Coangelo was trying to make other guys THE GUY on the team and lets face it: DeRozan and Bargnani were not first option players and at best second option players. Gay can come in a n make and impact…plus with the athelticism of this team (Gay, Derozan, Ross, Anderson, Johnson) makes them potentially one of the most exciting teams in the NBA and because of their youth, they will have a short memory and play hard. They WILL put butts in the seats..they WILL play hard….and they WILL create excitement in Toronto. They just need a coach to bring it together. They might be one of the most athletic teams in the nba (along with LAC, Portland, OKC and Miami).

  • core Bean

    Actually Dwayne Casey isn’t a bad coach for the next few seasons. Raptors need to focus on defense, as the offense will take care of itself.

    And it is a good article Dime, but I can’t wait for Rudy to make you all look silly.

  • Pun

    You can definitely speak for yourself, but to try to sound like the collective fan base of Memphis just makes you look like a douche.

    Easy.

  • Garrett

    I’m a Memphis and all of my friends are Memphis fans. We all like watching Rudy play ball, but glad his inefficiency is Toronto’s problem now.