It seems the Memphis Grizzlies’ recent wheeling and dealing to keep their starting lineup together wasn’t enough to keep Rudy Gay on the team.
In recent days, rumors have swirled that Gay would be traded before the deadline and his most ardent of suitors was the struggling Toronto Raptors. Well, despite the words of their general manager and the common sense thought process that said there was no way the Grizzlies would trade Gay now that they’re under the luxury tax line, it seems the rumors are true.
Yesterday, Memphis agreed in principle to a deal with Toronto that would send Gay to the Raptors in a three team deal that takes Jose Calderon to the Detroit Pistons. The Grizzlies would in turn receive power forward Ed Davis and a second round pick from Toronto, forwards Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince from Detroit and send backup center Hamed Haddadi to Toronto.
The deal not only breaks up Memphis’ starting roster, it brings Toronto their first legitimate star since Chris Bosh exited their ranks to form a trio in South Beach. For Memphis, the team is unloading $17 million in salary going up to $18 million next year between Gay and Haddadi and bringing back only $12-13 million and an extra second round pick. Most importantly, it brings some much needed depth to the Grizzlies roster and with the addition of Prince, they now have a player who has been part of a championship team and knows what it takes to win a title.
Memphis averages the third lowest points per game from their bench of any team in the league and currently asks each of their starters to play over 33 minutes per game on average. That may work for now, but everyone in Grizzlies management clearly couldn’t see it boding well for them over the course of an 82 game season and wasn’t impressed enough by what they saw from available free agents to not cash in on Gay now to address their depth. With the addition of Davis and Daye, this move may allow them to do just that.
Looking at what the Grizzlies received in return, we have to assume that Prince will assume Gay’s role in the starting lineup, something that won’t bother Lionel Hollins a bit. Memphis is currently the best defensive team in the league allowing just 89.5 points per game to their opponents while Prince is widely considered one of the best defensive small forwards in the game. He has been voted a NBA Second Team All Defensive player four times in his career and is currently shooting 44 percent from the field and 43 percent from downtown.
Austin Daye will likely backup Prince and is a solid rebounder. The most significant season in his four year career was 2010-11 when he averaged 7.5 points per game and grabbed 3.8 rebounds in 20 minutes per contest. In 72 games that year, he started 16 times, but has since been relegated to a bench role for Detroit where he doesn’t play more than 18 minutes per game most nights. The biggest perk to Memphis about Daye is that he has a qualifying offer of $4 million they could choose not to match at season’s end and save themselves some money.
Ed Davis has developed nicely for Toronto in his third NBA season, but the Raptors chose to use him and his 10 point, 6.7 rebound average as a trading chip for Gay rather waiting to see how he develops in the long term. He provides the Grizzlies with a versatile player inside who, at 6’10”, can fill minutes for both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
In the end, this move was going to happen at some point. It may come as a surprise to some to see Gay exit Memphis now rather than having him around for one more run at postseason glory, but the fresh minds behind Memphis’ overhaul saw reason to let him go now. Toronto gets a borderline all-star, Detroit gets another expiring contract and the Grizzlies get depth and the headache of making all these new pieces fit before the postseason begins.