It was your typical Sunday it seemed until news broke just after dinner that the Raptors had made a trade. Not just any trade but one that involved Rudy Gay. Ujiri apparently was not a fan of Bryan Colangelo’s last major move with the Raptors and he sent him packing to Sacramento as part of a seven player deal. Along with Gay it would be Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray that would be going north with him from L.A where the Raptors were last night to Sacramento.
Just Gay being gone had Raptors fans excited before they ever heard what was coming back the other way. He never really felt like a Raptor to these fans and his play that was selfish did not make him any fans. Ujiri brought back short term assets that he could turn a couple into long term ones if he chooses too. This trade also at least makes people wonder if this was just the start of a larger deconstruction of this Raptors’ roster.
Greivis Vasquez (PG)
John Salmons (SG/SF)
Patrick Patterson (PF/C)
Chuck Hayes (PF /C)
Rudy Gay (SF)
Aaron Gray (C)
Quincy Acy (F)
This deal on it’s own may just improve the Raptors slightly with allowing the ball to flow on the offensive end and adding some needed depth in front court as well as a legit option behind Kyle Lowry at point guard. This is seen however as move to strip the Raptors down and the start of a rebuild that would allow the Raptors in the hunt for a high lottery pick and a shot at Andrew Wiggins.
This is the direction that a lot of fans have been begging for the team to take quite frankly. It is clear that Ujiri has not been blinded by the failure all around him in the Eastern Conference. Both Ujiri and Leiweke have talked about getting the Raptors franchise to be competitive for the long run and not the short. This has been made pretty clear with Ujiri unloading both Gay and Bargnani in his first 6 months on the job.
It also sends a clear message to this team on what was thought of their play to start this season and that you need to earn your right to stick around. Rudy Gay was not helping this team in the short or long term. In the short term he was really dominating the offensive side of the ball at the expense of others. Jonas Valanciunas who Dwane Casey said in the summer was suppose to be a bigger part of the offensive attack has not been and a big reason for that has been Gay and DeRozan taking a majority of the shots on a given night.
What also became quite clear was the Raptors lack of depth and this trade gives them options in that regard. Kyle Lowry has not been great this season but he was far and away better than any option the Raptors had behind him. Now the Raptors have a PG that looks for the pass first and is much more willing and able to run pick and rolls with both Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. It also allows the Raptors to consider moving Lowry who one would have to figure has little chance of resigning with the Raptors.
In the end Bryan Colangelo’s last two major moves have been effectively dismantled and the Raptors now have options moving forward and have not walked away with nothing for players that have value. What Masai has that GM’s in the past have not really had is a clear understanding of the history and problems that the Raptors have faced in the past. After all he was here to see some of it happen and how Colangelo got caught with his pants down with Chris Bosh fleeing for Miami.
If a message of any kind was meant by this deal it clear was received as the under manned Raptors led by Amir Johnson with a career high in points defeated the Lakers in Kobe Bryant’s return.
In a sense by trading Rudy Gay it allowed the Raptors to have much more control over their future both on the floor and off the court as well. Chuck Hayes is the only player that has a contract the Raptors will not have the final say in for 2014-15 season. Solomons is on a team option next year and could be let go for just around a million dollars which in NBA terms is chump change. While Vasquez and Patterson can be retained or let go depending on what they do as Raptors. They could offer both Qualifying offers and retain an option to keep them as restricted free agents if the so choose.
After this trade it will be interesting to see what happens to DeMar DeRozan who in effect has become the number one option and leader and face of the franchise for now. This is something that DeRozan’s play has quite frankly earned him this season. Things will now get tougher for him and will all get a chance to see if he can respond to that challenge.
If he continues to have success I suspect he and Jonas Valanciunas are the only guys that can say with certainty they will be Raptors next season. The deconstruction of this roster is under way and that likely also spells the end for Dwane Casey sooner or later.
Casey in some senses might have been better served not to be retained by the Raptors this year. Nothing that happens this season is going to be favourable on his resume should he attempt to be a head coach again in the NBA. Dwane is a good man and I honestly feel bad for him but at the end of the day he was given a chance to change his fate and he has not been able to deliver on it. Granted he was not exactly given a team that offered him much hope in that regard that fit his defensive mindset.
In the end change was always coming this trade is just a major indicator that it is here. The Raptors 6-12 record (Prior to the trade) if anything just solidified it was needed.