Rudy Gay Trade: Winners and Losers of Kings-Raptors Deal
The Raptors will ship Gay, Qunicy Acy and Aaron Gray to Sacramento. In return, Toronto will receive Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.
With the particulars out of the way, it's time to parse out the winners and losers from the season's first splashy transaction.
Right up front, there's a clear winner: the Raptors. Toronto got rid of a player that was hurting the rest of the roster's growth, costing far too much money and simply couldn't be a part of any legitimate rebuilding process.
Naturally, that makes the Kings losers. They took on that same player in a decision that should give rise to major concerns about the mental fitness of the team's new braintrust.
Those are the easy answers, though. Looking deeper, there are plenty of other parties who'll be deeply affected by this deal.
Winner: Masai Ujiri
The deal is an unqualified coup for Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who has now managed to shed his team's two worst contracts (Andrea Bargnani was the other one) in his first few months on the job.
The Raptors are taking on four players whose salaries could total around $20 million next season, so at first glance, it appears that dumping Gay's salary ($17.9 million this year and $19.3 next year) didn't come cheap.
But Toronto can buy out Salmons' contract after the season, saving nearly $6 million in the process. Additionally, Patterson and Vasquez are both owed qualifying offers after the season. So, if the Raptors want to let them walk away, they can save another $8 million in salary.
Gray will be a free agent after this season, and Acy's contract isn't guaranteed beyond this year, so the Raptors gave up a bit of financial flexibility on their end. But all told, there's no way to talk about this trade without categorizing it as an unqualified financial success.
Ujiri didn't just save the Raptors some money, either. He rid the team of a player whose high-volume, low-efficiency scoring was stunting the growth of the rest of the young roster.
If there's one takeaway from this transaction, it's this: Never trade with Masai Ujiri.
Loser: Vivek Ranadive
New owner Vivek Ranadive helped keep the Kings in Sacramento this past summer, making him an instant favorite among loyal fans in California's capitol.
After he green-lit a $62 million deal for DeMarcus Cousins, those same fans should have been mildly concerned. Boogie's talent is undeniable, but his questionable attitude and total aversion to defense made that decision a dubious one.
Now, Ranadive has presided over the acquisition of one of the NBA's most maligned pseudo-stars.
Gay's game not only hamstrung his team's offense, but his refusal to hustle on defense and notoriously poor body language set a dangerous tone for the Raptors. Now, all of Gay's most damaging traits will impact another young, impressionable roster.
And have I mentioned the $19 million Gay will cost next season if he doesn't opt out of the final year of his contract?
This isn't the way to rebuild a team, and whatever grace period Ranadive might have had as a new owner just expired.
Winner: Jonas Valanciunas
It's pretty hard to develop as a big man when your teammates spend so many offensive possessions pounding the dribble for 20 seconds before hoisting a contested jumper. Jonas Valanciunas knows that better than anyone.
But now that Gay's gone, he might soon know what it feels like to be part of a functional offense.
Don't get me wrong, the Raptors still have DeMar DeRozan and his own bothersome penchant for low-percentage jumpers. But the shooting guard is nowhere near as big of an offense killer as Gay was. And who knows, DeRozan might even scale back his questionable shot selection now that he knows he won't have to wrestle Gay for possessions.
But back to Valanciunas.
The Raptors have a potential All-Star in the 21-year-old Lithuanian, and now he's finally going to get a chance to do more than collect scraps around the rim.
The ball should move more freely without Gay around, and Toronto's promising center is going to be the biggest beneficiary of that change.
There's a faint glimmer of hope for the Kings here: If Gay opts out of the final year of his deal this summer, Sacramento will have cleared a ton of salary without giving up any potential long-term cornerstones.
The problem is that Gay is now among the least valued players in the league.
The rise of advanced stats has all but destroyed his reputation as a useful NBA player. So, whatever hope the Kings might have that Gay would forgo the final $19 million on his contract rests on the unlikely proposition that there's a team out there willing to fork over big dollars on a long-term deal.
Gay and his agent might be hoping for a sweetheart deal. But if they've got any sense of what people around the league are saying, they'll collect every cent of that final $19 million before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2015.
It's not completely out of the question that Gay will say "Thanks, but no thanks" to the final year of his contract, but the chances are remarkably slim.
Most likely, the Kings will be stuck with a player who almost single-handedly prevents the construction of a cohesive offense or a committed defense.
Winner: Isaiah Thomas
I've been pretty hard on the Kings so far, but only because they've deserved it.
The deal for Gay isn't all bad, though.
With Vasquez heading off to Canada, Isaiah Thomas, easily the best guard on Sacramento's roster, will now get a chance to start.
The backup point guard has had a terrific year thus far, averaging 17.8 points and 4.9 assists in just 27.7 minutes per game. He's been the Kings' most effective fourth-quarter weapon, and now head coach Mike Malone will find out whether the high-energy spark plug can give Sacramento a jolt right from the opening tip.
There's always a danger that he'll struggle to produce consistently in longer minutes and against more difficult matchups. But it was becoming almost impossible to justify keeping him behind Vasquez on the depth chart.
Here's hoping Gay lets him handle the ball enough to be the effective weapon the Kings believe he can be.
Loser: Mike Malone
Malone's job was already hard enough.
He had to design a functional defense around Cousins, who has made some modest improvements on that end, but still grades out as a player whose presence on the court doesn't improve the Kings' stopping power, per NBA.com.
Cousins' reputation for complaining and emotional immaturity are both so well-documented that they don't bear chronicling here. Suffice it to say that Malone already had his hands full as both a strategist and a babysitter.
Now that Gay is on board, Malone's job might have become impossible.
Cousins and Thomas both need the ball to be effective on offense, but Gay won't exactly help spread the touches around. Plus, the Kings now lack Hayes' toughness and Vasquez's unselfishness.
Worst of all, the Gay acquisition would seem to indicate that ownership is trying (albeit incorrectly) to win a few games this year. So, on top of the mountain of personnel issues Malone faces on a daily basis, he might also have to steer this listing ship while measuring up to elevated expectations.
Somebody get that guy some Tylenol. The rest of this season is going to be one long migraine.
Winner: Stat Sheets
The stat sheets struck back.
Per Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun, Gay instituted a ban on postgame stat sheets earlier this year because he felt they were causing the Raptors to focus too much on individual numbers. Consider that ban lifted.
Gay's exit from Toronto represents a step forward for the franchise in more ways than one. Obviously, cutting ties with an overpaid, underproductive player is a good thing for the team's future prospects. So too is the clear preference for advanced metrics that informed the decision.
In a way, stat sheets (and the untold reams of data chronicling Gay's negative effects on the roster) were integral in making sure he wasn't allowed back into the locker room.
Let that be a lesson to everyone: Don't cross stat sheets.