Rudy Gay made his much-anticipated debut for the Toronto Raptors on February 1, and it could not have gone better. Playing against a much better team in the Lob City Los Angeles Clippers, Gay helped Toronto immensely en route to a blowout 98-73 victory.
On January 30, Gay was traded to Toronto from the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team deal that also involved the Detroit Pistons. Memphis received forward Ed Davis from Toronto and forward Tayshaun Prince from Detroit, while the Pistons got point guard Jose Calderon.
Now that he is in more of a free-flowing offense and not such a specific system, Gay will be allowed to use his talents better to their advantage, from his scoring to his defense to his ability to create plays for his teammates. If his Raptors debut is any indication of what the Toronto fans should expect, then they're going to be in for some happy days in the near future.
Offensively, Gay was an absolute beast. He may not have started the game, but did plenty of good work in the scoring department.
In 33 minutes, the former UConn Husky scored 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Gay also hit a trio of three-pointers, exhibiting a part of his game that has never been his strongest suit.
Gay also showed great court vision in knowing when to pass the ball. He only notched one assist, but his mentality was in the right place. As much as the Raptors needed him to score, he was more than willing to dish the ball off to a teammate.
We'll get to the overall chemistry later, but there's only one grade that can be given to Gay's offensive game. To give anything less would not only be wrong, but unfair.
One of the best and most underrated aspects of Gay's game is his defense, and he made sure that came out to play against the Clippers.
For his career, Gay has posted 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
He only pulled down three boards and had one steal in his Toronto debut, but that's not a bad thing. In Raptors coach Dwane Casey's system, the small forward's job is to be on the wing and provide offense with some solid on-the-ball defense.
The stat sheet may not reflect that type of play, but Gay was incredibly tenacious from start to finish. If he saw a rebounding opportunity, he went after the ball. When it came to guarding his man, he was pesky as ever and didn't take one possession off.
Granted, he'll need to put up better numbers in rebounding now that he is the team's go-to guy at the 3, but this is just one game. Once Gay fully adjusts to Casey's system, he's going to be an absolute godsend for this young and talented team.
Chemistry with Teammates and Final Thoughts
On the whole, Gay had a solid first game in Toronto. He provided plenty of offense, was reliable on the defensive side and, most important of all, he meshed well from his teammates.
This can be attributed to Casey's system just being a better fit for Gay. Not that the man was bad in Memphis, but Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins' system is very specific and flows through the bigs. As a result, a lot of work is done in the paint.
Gay is not a bad interior player by any means, but he also likes to use his jump shot as a stretch 3. Casey's system is more fast-paced isolation, similar to that of Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, and Gay is going to be allowed a bit more freedom with the ball.
That said, what of the rest of the Raptors? DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson have proven themselves as reliable go-to scorers, so will they be able to play with their new teammate?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, Gay proved last night that would not be a concern. DeRozan and Johnson finished with 19 points apiece, and Toronto shot a collective 47 percent from the field.
It was almost as though Gay's mentality throughout the game was "I'm here to be the main guy, but I can't do it without support. I should be sure to get my teammates involved whenever possible."
The end result was a blowout victory of one of the NBA's best squads, one that Gay and the Raptors will always treasure. His debut with the team may have been good, but his chemistry with his teammates was great.
Final Grade: A-