For the second time in less than a year, Rudy Gay has been traded. Once the Grizzlies' franchise player, Gay has now been sent from Memphis to Toronto to Sacramento in the span of 11 months. As Tom Ziller noted, the return package for Gay has dwindled each time, to the point where this is mostly a salary dump for the Raptors.
Nevertheless, Gay is still a well-paid, well-known player and he could bounce back in a new environment. To assess the damage, we've brought on the following people to join me in answering some questions about the deal.
1. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of the Rudy Gay trade?
O'DONNELL: Redo. The trade Toronto made to acquire Gay from Memphis last season was the type of move that ran counter to everything Masai Ujiri has shown in his time as an NBA executive. The last Toronto braintrust only seemed to operate on the surface-level, chasing short-term gains and showing an inability to think three or four moves ahead. That's what Ujiri is doing here. He's been the Raptors GM for six months and he's already traded away $60 million owed to Andrea Bargnani and Gay. Toronto was obviously flawed even with Gay, but the overall crumminess of the East gave them a good shot at making the playoffs and missing out on a loaded draft lottery. Ujiri took that situation into his own hands. What's next for the Raps is uncertain, but they should feel comfortable being led by Ujiri.
HERBERT: Rebuilding. This starts the demolition job in Toronto, and it picks up the pace for a Kings' front office looking to distance itself from the previous regime.
WISSINGER: Change. The Kings front office isn't making moves in a panicked attempt at more wins, they're changing the culture in Sacramento. And while there are valid arguments on whether or not Gay will contribute positively, the Kings sent off several mistakes of the past regime. Removing John Salmons is enough of a change to satiate Kings fans, at least until Gay starts stealing shots from DeMarcus Cousins.
FRANCIS: The first? Relief. The second? Disbelief ... as in, disbelief that Rudy could be moved.
PRADA: Splash. Splash because that's what new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive ostensibly wants to make with this move, where he gave up some spare parts for a name player that casual fans will know. Splash because of the shameless way Ujiri's Raptors are tumbling into tanking position. He has no care for grace, so long as he ends up jumping into the water successfully.
2. Raptors HQ's summary on its initial post suggested that "Christmas comes early for many Raptors fans." Is this trade really as much of a coup for Ujiri as most think?
O'DONNELL: Even though the returning package to Toronto isn't too inspiring outside of Greivis Vasquez, there's something to be said for trading away a player who obviously didn't fit the long-term vision of the team. If the Gay deal felt cathartic to Raptors fans, it would be hard to blame them. Gay was fifth in field goal attempts per game this season, and he was shooting under 39 percent from the floor. He was taking more shots than Paul George, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and plenty of other superior players. Cashing in all of those bad shot attempts for future financial flexibility and better odds at next year's draft really might feel like a gift.
POLLACK: Nah. It wasn't a "coup" as much as a necessary step in cleaning up the mess in the kitchen the previous chef left for him.
HERBERT: It's not a huge coup now, but it opens the door for there to be one in the not-too-distant future. I'd suggest that Raptors fans are more excited about what Ujiri might do with his newfound flexibility than they are about Vasquez. We'll see what Ujiri has up his sleeve.
WISSINGER: It's a great move for Toronto in that Rudy never fit there, and his contract was limiting Ujiri's ability to reshape the roster. Toronto landed three expiring contracts, with Chuck Hayes ending after next season. Those smaller contracts could be flipped again at the deadline or can simply expire and allow Ujiri to start fresh.
FRANCIS: At face value league-wide, I'd say that it's not, but from a Raptors' perspective, it absolutely is. There were multiple reports suggesting that that there was ZERO interest in Gay and the team had been resigned to keeping him for this season, and likely the next. That was a HUGE problem for a team whose edict is to build a contender. Trading Andrea Bargnani was an important first step, but it's moving Gay that truly allows the rebuild to begin in earnest.
PRADA: I think so. There's always the strong chance that Gay does indeed pick up his option for next year, and it wouldn't have been good to keep him around when he clearly feels he would have been the team's best player. Ujiri now gets time to see if his other parts were stifled by Gay's ball-hogging or just aren't any good. He also gets back a useful point guard in Vasquez, who should return to his 2012-13 form once he fully shakes off his summer ankle surgery.
3. And yet, many Sactown Royalty readers are in favor of this deal for the Kings. Why might Sacramento want Rudy Gay?
O'DONNELL: Kings fans have had to watch John Salmons start 112 games over the last three seasons, and let me tell you: no one is happy when John Salmons is starting. The trade for Gay certainly seems questionable to forward-thinking NBA types, but it undoubtedly improves the overall talent base in Sacramento. Gay was the best player in the trade. He gives them some athleticism on the wing they didn't have before and he has the versatility to man both forward spots for the Kings. He should be the Kings first legitimate starter at small forward since Ron Artest in 2008. There's also something to be said for the relief Sacramento must have felt when they realized Isaiah Thomas wasn't going to Toronto.
POLLACK: I chalk this up to the inherent optimism of sports fans. There's really no logical reason for the Kings to be happy about this. Nothing about Rudy Gay joining that team makes them better ... or at least significantly better ... OK, perhaps slightly better. If "slightly better" is the objective, then I guess they win. I hate to say it, but Bill Simmons was right that this reeks of a new owner trying to make a splashy move. Fortunately, it shouldn't hamper them too much in the long term since Rudy only has one more year left on that horrific contract.
HERBERT: Gay solidifies the small forward position in Sacramento, which has been an issue for what feels like forever. He's also far more talented than any of the guys the Kings gave up. The hope is that a change of scenery will be good for Gay, and if it doesn't work out, their plan to have cap room in 2015 will be unaffected.
WISSINGER: Gay, despite his faults, is immediately the best small forward the Kings have had since Ron Artest was on the roster. Small forward has been a pit of despair for years. It's been so bad that the Kings traded down in the 2010 draft for the privilege of John Salmons. John freaking Salmons. And Salmons has been about as terrible on the court as you'd expect. The Kings are not good this year, and this trade won't change that. But Sacramento is building a fun, athletic team, and Gay fits that mold.
FRANCIS: I can't answer on behalf of Sacto fans, but considering how little the Kings gave up talent-wise, this isn't absolutely awful. Despite his recent lampooning, Gay is still a very talented basketball player and perhaps can re-find his game surrounded by a different group of players. My question, though, is why? Did they think acquiring Gay would put them into the playoff mix in the West? Does this mean they've soured already on Ben McLemore?
PRADA: Small forward is Sacramento's White Whale, so I could understand the giddiness at seeing someone remotely competent instead of Salmons. The other upside to this deal: Thomas has been freed. No more weird rotations because they have to justify their summer decision to acquire Vasquez.
4. Most think this is the first of many dominoes to fall in Toronto. Who do you think is the next player to go?
O'DONNELL: It sure seems like everyone outside of Jonas Valanciunas is on the table right now. Remember that Ujiri wasn't the guy who signed DeMar DeRozan to his extension or payed Kyle Lowry. It would make sense if Lowry was the next to go. Toronto has a ton of guards now after this deal, and Lowry has the highest trade value of any of them. He's in the prime of his career and could be a good option for a team fighting injuries in the backcourt. Amir Johnson is another player who could really help out good teams. I don't think any of the players on Toronto's roster should feel too comfortable right now.
POLLACK: I'm still a DeRozan fan and think that a backcourt with he and Ross could be interesting. If they are smart, they will try and get good value for Lowry, but they definitely shouldn't give him away. I'd let things settle in for a while and see how they play without Rudy jacking up all those shots. Run the ball through the post a bit and see how it goes before doing anything else. They have plenty of time to evaluate things before the deadline. I'm not totally convinced this team won't make the playoffs if they get Valanciunas more touches.
Nothing would surprise me-James Herbert
HERBERT: Now that Vasquez is a Raptor, Lowry, whose contract expires at the end of the season, seems the most logical candidate. Nothing would surprise me, though, with a recent Toronto Sun report suggesting that Ujiri could even consider moving Valanciunas if the deal was right.
WISSINGER: Lowry is the obvious choice, but Lowry has now burned bridges in Memphis, Houston and Toronto. I actually think his reputation could make him harder to move for value than Gay was. But if anyone can do it, it's Ujiri.
FRANCIS: Lowry, and not just because of the Vasquez acquisition. Unlike Gay, Lowry is helping this team win games, and if the Dinos really want to tank, they need to move some of their more productive options. That would include Johnson too, but Lowry is the better bet as his contract is up soon, and productive point guards who defend their position aren't exactly a dime-a-dozen in the league.
PRADA: I'm sure anyone's available, but Lowry's a logical next guy to go because he won't cost much and because Ujiri will likely jump at the first decent offer. (Too bad the Knicks have no more picks to trade, because Lowry would be a major upgrade over Raymond Felton). DeRozan is Lowry's top challenger, but I think it's less likely he gets dealt because his contract will scare off suitors and his age and developing game will make Ujiri less motivated to move him. Just leave Amir alone.
5. The Kings are talking about playing Gay with Derrick Williams together in the frontcourt. Can this combination work?
O'DONNELL: The Kings have been starting Salmons and Jason Thompson at the forward spots. Their combined PER is under 20. It's not like that was working or was going to work. Having both Gay and Williams at least adds athleticism and isn't a retread of something Kings fans are already tired of seeing. I'm not sure Williams and Gay have shown anything over the last two seasons that is going to instill confidence in Sacramento fans that great things are to come, but at least it's better and more exciting than what they had.
POLLACK: Sure. It can "work" as long as you have no expectations of ever getting a stop again. Oh, and more importantly, how is DeMarcus Cousins going to feel about Rudy taking up all those possessions? That should be fun to watch.
It can "work" as long as you have no expectations of ever getting a stop again-Seth Pollack
HERBERT: Offensively, sure! Especially if the Kings decide to run. I'm just not sure how that plan is going to help Sacramento improve what is currently one of the worst defenses in the league.
WISSINGER: On offense, sure. Neither player lives in the post, which means more space for Cousins down low. And while you can argue that neither player shoots well enough to be an effective stretch four, I'd remind you that they're replacing Patterson, who completely forgot how to shoot this year. My big concern is on defense. Cousins is by no means an elite post defender, and has openly pined for a shot blocker next to him. Williams and Gay aren't really the answer there. Mike Malone came in with a reputation as a defensive coach. He certainly will have his work cut out for him.
FRANCIS: I'm not sure if Derrick Williams works, period, so I'm going to say no. I get that in terms of size and athletic ability, this could make some sense, but I'm not sure Williams has the skill-set to be very good at either the 3 or 4.
PRADA: It'll work for Williams, who will be able to finally realize his potential as a stretch 4 instead of floundering as a big 3. It won't work for the Kings because they'll give up approximately 130 points a game with a Gay/Williams/Cousins frontcourt. It won't matter for Gay because he'll play the same way regardless.