Have the Raptors finally replaced Vince Carter with the acquisition of Rudy Gay? It has been a long list of players that have tried to fill the rather large legacy that Vince Carter built in Toronto. Rudy Gay may have a chance to finally give Raptors fans someone at the small forward position that is at least comparable to Vince in terms of talent and skill.
Carter spent 6 seasons plus with the Raptors and that is the same amount of time Gay spent in Memphis. Carter was better overall in terms of scoring with a career high 27.6 points in his third season. Gay had his career best 20.1 points in his second season in Memphis the only season he has averaged above 20 points per season. To suggest Gay is equal to Carter is a stretch statistically speaking. That said he is far closer than any of the many that have tried to fill his shoes since he left in December of 2004.
Like Carter, it appears that the Raptors offence is going to be built around Rudy Gay who is the one player on this Raptor roster that you can feel confident can create his own shot. In past years it has been an offence that has been designed for Andrea Bargnani and at times DeMar DeRozan.
Gay seems to be comfortable in embracing the franchise player label that has been thrust upon him since the trade. Andera Bargnani and to a lesser extent DeMar DeRozan have had their chances to claim that role for their own. Now it seems that time has passed and this is Gay’s team to make his own around him.
While some Raptor fans still hold hope for this season, realistically this is more about future seasons for the Raptors and Gay. He also becomes perhaps the Raptors most realistic shot at sending someone back to All-Star Weekend to be part of the actual game on Sunday. There have been potential All-Star tags thrown on guys like Bargnani and maybe even DeRozan in the past. Not to mention Kyle Lowry who the Raptors acquired in the summer. That said from a talent point of view Gay seems to be the best shot at that despite playing at perhaps one of the more competitive positions to become an All-Star.
What also should be interesting is how this team is built around Gay. Chris Bosh made it clear long before he was thanking Raptor fans for their jeers, that he felt ownership needed to spend money to be committed to winning. That remains an unanswered question if the Raptors intend to go beyond the tax-threshold to build around their new franchise piece in Gay. Love him, or hate him, they never made that commitment with Chris Bosh.
You almost think they have to now, when you consider all the over-valued contracts on this roster including his own. Landry Fields, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Linas Klezia are just a few of the contracts beyond Gay’s huge price tag that make you think something has to give. Many feel Bargnani will ultimately be traded but it seems highly unlikely they could do this without taking at least some of his 10 million dollar per season salary back.
The Raptors promotion heading into the season featured a song proclaiming it was a new day. The season certainly did not start out like that at all. However now with Jose Calderon the longest serving Raptor gone and having played his first game in Detroit last night it truly does seem like a new day now. The Rogers portion of the Raptors new ownership in the non-capped MLB has been busy spending lots of money building the Blue Jays into a legit contender for the World Series. There is obvious some restrictions to spending in some respects in the NBA. However if you are willing to spend you can as the Raptors have seen in their own division with the Nets and Knicks.
Gay has had a great start and clearly captured the imagination of this fan base and the media in the honeymoon period after this trade. There is still a lot of work to be done to get the Raptors back to being a playoff team and doing that on a consistent basis. After that dare we say into contenders in the Eastern Conference? It is a long road for sure and still likely has many twists and turns left to play out.
That said, it is hard to imagine that any larger piece to the puzzle is coming than Gay. This weight of this franchise will be on his shoulders. Something he was willing to take on going back to his draft year as he made clear to Bryan Colangelo. Something that the guy Colangelo took instead in Andrea Bargnani has not been able to do and failed miserably. Gay now tries to do what Bargnani couldn’t and take this team places that go further than Chris Bosh and Vince Carter have in the past.
When the hangover and buzz wears off, that is the challenge for Rudy Gay. To bring the excitement and expectations that came from Vince Carter’s presence on this Raptors Roster. No easy task for sure, but that is part of the responsibility that comes with that big pay check.