NBA: 5 Ways in Which Rudy Gay Has Already Improved the Raptors

Justin HussongContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

NBA: 5 Ways in Which Rudy Gay Has Already Improved the Raptors

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    The Toronto Raptors surprised us all with their blockbuster acquisition of All-Star Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies. It was a bold move that required them to give up a couple of valuable building blocks in Ed Davis and Jose Calderon.

    That being said, it was a move that absolutely had to be made for so many reasons.

Star Power

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    With all due respect, no one is really afraid of a team coming into their arena with Andrea Bargnani as their No. 1 option on offense.

    Toss Rudy Gay into the mix, and you have a legitimate offensive force who can win you games in crunch time. Slide Bargnani to the second scoring option and, hey, time to make some noise.

    By adding a big-name star, the Raptors immediately command more respect upon walking into the opposing arena. Their starting lineup can compete with almost anyone, and on any given night they can catch even the best teams off guard and steal a victory.

    The recipe for success has been laid out rather clearly in recent years: You aren't winning any titles on potential. Stars run this league, and for Toronto to make this move instead of wallowing in mediocrity and attempt to make a run is admirable.

Spacing

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    Although it has been a small sample size, teams cannot focus all of their attention on DeMar DeRozan on the perimeter anymore.

    Having Gay in town has allowed DeRozan more room to operate and do what he is most comfortable doing, which is attack the rim and put defenders on posters.

    In their last game against the Miami Heat, DeRozan converted all 14 free-throw attempts. With Bargnani, Gay and Kyle Lowry punishing teams from the outside, DeRozan has a golden opportunity to turn back the clock to the Air Canada Centre days of Vince Carter.

Stability

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    Aside from Kyle Lowry and the two years remaining on his contract, the entire core of this team is signed for at least three more seasons.

    This franchise knows what it is going to look like for the foreseeable future. A deep core of prolific talent looks to be the foundation of their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings.

    If this group of players can grow together, they have no real limit.

    While it may be optimistic, this team could eventually work its way up to the Miamis and Chicagos of the East.

    The Raptors are deep across the board, though one could argue they lack a big defensive presence in the paint. They have shown they are not content with being mediocre and have significantly upped the spending, signing Landry Fields this offseason, taking on Lowry and Gay's contracts, as well as making a big run at Steve Nash.

    This team is very hungry, and the Raptors are ready to eat.

Youth

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    Gay, Lowry, Bargnani, DeRozan, Fields, Amir Johnson, as well as highly touted rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are all 27 years old or younger.

    That is a frightening thought for the rest of the conference.

    A team that goes eight deep with that talent level will be a threat for years to come if it can develop chemistry. If Valanciunas can live up to his billing and show why he was worth the fifth pick in the 2011 draft, it will give this team the bona fide center it has needed.

    Ross has shown his athletic ability with a number of devastating dunks this season, and if he continues to develop his all-around game, he will give this team a plethora of uber-athletic wing players.

    Rudy Gay truly has the opportunity to make this his team in a way that he never could have in Memphis. He likely took that team as far as it would go.

    But joining a new crop of talent with the Raptors, Gay looks to take charge and be the real veteran presence that will get this ship moving in the right direction.

Relevance

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    Raise your hand if you can recall the last time Toronto was on prime time?

    When Chris Bosh took his talents to South Beach, he took with him the only household recognition this franchise had had since the days of Vinsanity. Adding Gay immediately makes this team much more compelling.

    Good or bad, people will want to watch this team. After making such a bold move, the Raptors not only turned heads, they broke necks. With No. 22 in town, they can smile big knowing fans will start filling the seats and the media will once again put them on the map. 

    The coming months will be very telling of how relevant this team becomes in the near future. With Bargnani expected back on Wednesday, a new era of Raptors basketball will be ushered in. Whether they flourish or collapse will be some compelling basketball.