The Memphis Grizzlies have put star forward Rudy Gay on the trading block, and the Toronto Raptors are the latest team to show interest. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the wing-needy team has decided to make a run at Gay, hoping to swing a deal for him before the league-imposed February 22 deadline. Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated later confirmed the report, via his Twitter.
As @espnsteinline reports, Toronto definitely has interest in Memphis' Rudy Gay. They want a dynamic wing.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 9, 2013
This is a trade that would work out well for both teams, especially the Raptors. Thus, GM Bryan Colangelo must double and possibly triple his efforts to acquire Gay. Toronto's troubles at small forward this season have been notable, and a reliable wing player would diversify their attack while also bringing them one giant step forward.
Look at it this way. For the 2012-13 season, the Raptors have used four players at small forward: Alan Anderson, Mickael Pietrus, Linas Kleiza and Landry Fields.
Each player is talented in their own way, but nowhere near what Toronto needs in the starting lineup. Anderson and Pietrus are three-point threats, and bring little else to the table. More importantly, both are more shooting guards than they are wing forwards.
Kleiza has size at 6'8" 234 pounds, but gets injured easily and is not worth the $9.2 million remaining on his deal. Fields has spark potential, but his low ceiling makes him little more than a good role player and nowhere near worth the three-year, $20 million deal he signed over the summer.
Moreover, the average efficiency and field-goal percentage of all four players combined is deplorable. The average player efficiency rating (PER) of the quartet is a measly 8.92, and they have only made 37 percent of their field-goal attempts. This certainly is part of the reason why Toronto ranks 24th in field-goal percentage at 43.5 percent.
Considering how Kevin Durant, one of the best small forwards in the league, has a PER of 28.11, it's easy to see Toronto's problem.
That isn't to say that trading for Rudy Gay would immediately solve the Raptors' issues at the 3. Gay himself has been having a bit of an off year despite leading the Grizzlies with 17.8 points per game. He has made just under 41 percent of his field-goal attempts, as his offense in the paint has been subpar and his PER is just 14.94.
That isn't even among the NBA's top 100 and below his career PER of 16.2.
Gay would still be a major improvement over Toronto's current options even with his off-performance this season. He holds career averages of 17.9 points and 5.9 rebounds, and has a career field-goal percentage of 45 percent.
He would also be a good fit on the wing for the Raptors. Toronto needs a dynamic forward who can stretch the floor while also providing tough defense, and Gay can do both.
He'll need to cut down on his contested fadeaway jumpers, but with time and patience he can become the No. 1 scoring option for a rising squad. More importantly, Toronto has go-to scorers in guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, plus power forward Andrea Bargnani (now injured). Should Gay have an off-night, the team's offense is not exactly sunk.
We still must not get ahead of ourselves, as Memphis must agree to a deal first. Fortunately, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace has one good reason to make a trade involving Gay. In fact, he has 53.5 million reasons.
That's how much money Rudy Gay is owed over the remainder of his contract, a five-year, $82 million deal he signed in July 2010. As good as Gay has been for the Grizzlies, to say that he is worth that much money is a bit farfetched.
Don't get me wrong. He is a very good player, but not exactly what one would call a great one. He has never really been an elite scorer or defender, and the Grizzlies would love to dump that salary to avoid paying a hefty luxury tax penalty, and enjoy some financial flexibility that could allow them to go after a great player in free agency.
The Grizzlies could also acquire some key pieces from Toronto, likely guard Jose Calderon and forward Ed Davis, as Stein's report mentioned.
Davis is averaging 8.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Raptors this year, and those numbers don't seem like much for someone 6'10", 230 pounds. However, his PER is a respectable 18.3 and he is only 23 years old, so there is plenty of time left for him to grow and blossom into an elite big man. Should the injury bug bite Zach Randolph once again, Davis could easily step in and take over.
Calderon is the more interesting piece, as he fits a key need for Memphis. Splitting time between the Raptors' starting lineup and the bench, he has averaged 10.1 points and 7.7 assists and has also shot 42 percent from three-point range.
Thus, especially since Quincy Pondexter is injured, the Grizzlies should use Calderon as their sixth man if a deal for Gay is made. He can score points effectively from either long range or by driving to the basket, and is also a fine distributor.
Seeing as how the Grizzlies really do need help off the bench, Wallace would be wise to consider this deal. Yes, losing Gay would mean losing a key piece of the offense and leave a glaring hole at small forward, but that can be addressed by either another trade or the free-agent market.
The team's attack would not suffer either, as head coach Lionel Hollins could easily work with a trio of Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. This group did fine work together in the 2011 playoffs, which Gay missed with a shoulder injury, and adding Calderon to the mix would make them even better.
Should the Raptors trade for Rudy Gay?
That all being said, there is really no reason for the Toronto Raptors to not go all in on Rudy Gay. Even if they do acquire him and he isn't a good fit, he can become a valuable trade chip since he can opt out of his current deal after next season.
But neither team is thinking about that right now. The Raptors need a reliable wing, and it would be in the Grizzlies' best interests to dump some salary while receiving solid talent in return.
Toronto can provide just that, so it's time for Colangelo and Wallace to sit down and talk some business.