The Toronto Raptors are preparing to rebuild, again, and no matter what direction the team chooses to go in it is unlikely that Rudy Gay is a part of their long-term plans.
At 27 years old, the former UConn star is what he is: a very talented, sometimes inefficient Joe Johnson-esque star. His stats always have been and always will be more impressive than his impact on the game, and it’s doubtful that he will ever be the centerpiece of a championship team.
In a recent article on new Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, it was casually mentioned that the team had explored trading a guy they acquired less than one year ago. This makes sense, of course. Gay was someone Bryan Colangelo decided to bring in, he isn’t an ‘Ujiri-type’ player, and the Raptors need picks for 2014’s stacked draft, not a second-tier star who will be on the wrong side of his peak by the time they can contend for a playoff spot again.
Gay is set to take home $19 million next year, but he has the option of opting out this summer. He has been rumored as a potential free agent target for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it remains to be seen if Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have any real interest in him.
There are two major problems with trading Gay this season: One, all bad teams are trying to get picks for this year’s draft, not trade them away. And two, teams are saving cap space to make runs at next year’s free agents – sacrificing it for Gay now is unnecessary if he is going to become a free agent anyway.
Only teams with a lot of cap space next year would even consider trading for Gay, and those teams are: the Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz and Lakers.
The 76ers are too busy going into full on tank mode to give up picks for Gay at this point, and the Lakers are probably confident that they could get him in free agency if they wanted to. That leaves the Bobcats, Mavericks and Jazz. Charlotte, you will recall, was an oft-mentioned landing spot for Gay last year when the Memphis Grizzlies made it clear that they wanted to move him. The Mavericks and Jazz have never actually been mentioned as suitors for his services, however, both are totally incapable of luring in superstar free agents. That means if they want a superstar, they’ll have to trade for him and hope for the best.
At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that the Raptors will be able to deal Gay. They’re going to want high picks in this year’s draft for him, and teams will be reluctant to part ways with those picks for the same exact reason the Raptors want them.