The one that got away. I mean, the second guy that got away. Or was it the third?
Regardless of whether it was Rudy Gay (one of the subjects of this report), LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy or even Rajon Rondo, the 2006 NBA draft—in which new general manager Bryan Colangelo decided to draft Italian Andrea Bargnani first overall, ahead of the aforementioned four—will go down as one of Colangelo's biggest blunders as Raptors GM.
As we approach the 2013 trade deadline, Memphis has reportedly started to field trade offers for Rudy Gay (according to Grantland). After their blistering start to the 2012-13 season, the Grizzlies have cooled off, and their efficient offense has come back to Earth, currently ranking 19th in the league.
Rudy Gay, however, has been one of the better steals of the 2006 NBA draft, as he was taken eighth overall by the Houston Rockets.
Gay, since he was drafted, has gone on to be a defensive force with Memphis and is easily one of the better small forwards in the game. His ability to hit open shots, hit clutch shots and defend in the dying moments of a game make him an All-Star in my books.
Gay owns one of the more expensive contracts in the NBA and trading him won't be easy, as only a limited number of teams A) have the cap space to add him and B) have the talent to give up to get him.
A few likely trading partners might be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who could throw Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams the Grizzlies' way. Another team listed in the report was Toronto, with their likely trade bait being Jose Calderon and his expiring contract. Raptors fans, Andrea Bargnani is not likely a fit in Memphis and probably won't be discussed much in trade talks.
Flashback to 2006, when some NBA general managers embraced Bargnani's potential to be an elite level talent at the power forward position. Here was a seven-footer who can show a bit of a face-up game and an exceptional touch from three-point range. His potential alone was worth the risk in selecting him first overall, rather than trading down and possibly getting him a tad lower or selecting a better fit with the No. 1 overall pick.
In recent years, questions have arisen about Bargnani's character and his ability to be pushed by his coaches. Former coach Sam Mitchell said he had to coach Bargnani differently than Jose Calderon:
"I wasn't allowed to coach Andrea the same way I was allowed to coach Jose (Calderon)," Mitchell told Tim & Sid on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday. "I was a hard ass on Jose; I was hard on him, but look at the type of player he turned out to be.
"I was not allowed to be that tough on Andrea because within the organization we felt he couldn't take it. And my whole thing was if he can't take it then we can't build around him. And no one thought Jose could take it, and Jose did."
Mitchell added that it was determined early in the process that he should go easy on Bargnani.
"I think because he was the No. 1 pick and a lot was invested in him, I just think people in the organization thought my coaching style would be too tough on Andrea."
Given his initial mistake in picking Bargnani over the likes of Gay, Aldridge (a personal favorite of former Raptors superstar power forward Chris Bosh), Rondo and Roy, bringing Gay to Toronto before this year's trade deadline might give Colangelo some measure of redemption.
Of course, Toronto was not the only team to pass up these players. After all, Shelden Williams, Adam Morrison and Tyrus Thomas were all top-five picks and all flopped in the NBA.
Do I think the Raptors will get Rudy Gay? Not likely. Do I think they can put together a reasonable package in order to get him? Definitely.
Do I want Gay's contract on the books? Only if the Raptors get rid of Andrea Bargnani.
Raptor fans, is this the motto of the 2013 season, "Get rid of Bargnani?" Hopefully something is done sooner rather than later, but given the team's success lately, I can handle them standing pat for the time being.