Let’s Talk Trades: Rudy Gay, Sacramento King

26 Dec 2013 by Winston Zhang, No Comments »

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So, quite obviously, this trade was all about Rudy Gay. It’s all about the Kings swinging for the fences a little bit to upgrade their talent level by acquiring him. It’s about the Raptors unloading said talent for a little more financial flexibility going forward and a bit of savings this year. Before I get into talking about that though, I noticed something while doing a little research for this post:

SOMEONE GAVE JOHN SALMONS $39M OVER 5 YEARS.

The last time he was worth anywhere near that kind of money, he was splitting time between the Bulls and the Bucks back in 2008-2010. And even then I don’t think his talents warranted a 5-year deal, even if the money (on a per year basis) was still fairly understandable for a 15+ PPG player. This is probably as good an example of any of how the new CBA saves owners/GMs from their own bad decisions more than anything else. You’d NEVER see such a contract given to such a player in the current landscape.

Anyway! Back to Rudy. In this modern world where advanced stats are becoming increasingly important when teams make personnel decisions, Rudy seems like a relic of the past, never to be valued again the way he once was. And uh, they have a point.

Everything I read about him always starts with some variation of ‘He’s definitely a talented player’ and then is always immediately followed by a ‘BUT’. The general consensus is that he’s a very talented player who just doesn’t maximize his strengths while continuing to rely on his weaknesses (namely, poor shot selection and shooting sub par percentages). As per Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

But a player who hijacks an offense this way mostly does harm. A lot of Toronto’s offensive possessions look fine for the first 10 or 12 seconds of the shot clock — until the ball ends up in Gay’s hands at the elbow area. Too many possessions devolve from there into a useless pile of slow-moving jab steps, sideways dribbles, pump fakes, and other “full of sound/signifying nothing” nonsense until the merciful 15-foot miss. Gay by all accounts has better intentions than this — plans to cut off the ball, pass more, and act more decisively with the rock. He just hasn’t been able to execute those plans or come close to doing so.

via A New King: What the Rudy Gay Trade Means for Toronto and Sacramento, Grantland

So what is Sacramento actually getting here? It almost seems like they were just looking for a semi-big name to add to the team to make it sound more interesting and exciting on paper, maybe to bring in more casual fans. But I’m not sure what it adds to the team on the court.

Talent-wise, Gay is an obvious and significant upgrade over Salmons. But this is a team built for and around DeMarcus Cousins, or at least that’s what they intend to do right now. I’m not sure how they’ll fit in another player who needs and wants the ball in his hands, especially one who’s not likely to help others to score (the most assists he’s averaged across a full season is 2.8).

I’ve read and heard about ideas for him to concentrate on playing off the ball, looking to make cuts and to focus on rebounding. I think those are sound ideas, but colour me skeptical. I don’t think a player goes from making buzzer beaters over LeBron to playing an emphatically secondary role on offence that easily or that quickly.

Part of this might be Masai “convincing” his one-time protege Pete D’Alessandro to make the deal. I think we all know by now how much of a sweet-talker Masai can be. The argument for Rudy Gay isn’t terribly hard to make either. If he could convince someone to give up a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani, he can convince anyone to take Rudy Gay without giving up or taking back too much.

In fact, I think it’s impressive he managed to get Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez in the deal. Patterson’s numbers aren’t earth-shaking, but I think he’s a solid option as a stretch-4 to help space the floor or to give the offence a different look. His 3-point shooting has been a dreadful 26% this season, but after shooting at a 38.6% clip from downtown last season (and at 44% after he’d join up with the Kings), I’m backing him to find his shot again.

As for Vasquez, he really surprised me when I saw him finish 3rd (THIRD!) in APG during the 2012-2013 season, behind only Rondo and CP3. At 6-6, it probably helps that he can usually see over his matchup, but production is production and I’m not going to downplay it just cos he’s tall.

There’s been lots of talk that his defence leaves much to be desired, but I don’t think Toronto is too worried about making too much noise in the playoffs (or even making the playoffs, if the rumours of Masai wanting to trade Lowry and DeRozan are true) this season, so the defence can probably take a bit of a backseat. And even if they decide they don’t want him sticking around, his contract’s up at the end of the season.

In fact, the situation is the same with Patterson, and even Salmon’s dumb contract is only guaranteed for $1m next season. I’m fully expecting the Raptors to waive him as soon as they can.

Financial flexibility, as I said earlier, looks to have been the primary objective for Masai in this trade. Given Rudy’s lack of popularity around the league right now, I’m willing to bet he exercises his $19m player option next season, and I think Masai was willing to bet on it too. Sending him away prevents that from happening, and with 3 of the 4 players he received easily taken off the books if he wants to, he’s definitely achieved what he set out to do.

This trade could yet work out for the Kings. Rudy could re-invent himself and become an amazing off-ball option who’s also able and willing to hit big shots. But that’s still yet to be seen, so there’s really no fair way to grade this trade for them. It could be awesome, or it could turn out to just be another big splash from a new owner that doesn’t work out.

It’s clearer from the Raptors’ POV though. They wanted to clear the books, and that’s what they did. If Patterson and Vasquez perform well, that’s bonus. And if they don’t, it doesn’t matter.

Put simply: another great piece of business by Masai. Please please don’t ever call the Dallas front office. Please!

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