Why the Gay trade will work for the Grizzlies

Sean Highkin Roar Rookie

By Sean Highkin, Sean Highkin is a Roar Rookie

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    Can the Memphis Grizzlies bounce back in Game 2 of their NBA playoffs series against the San Antonio Spurs? (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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    When the Memphis Grizzlies shipped Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors last week many analysts, including TNT’s Chris Webber, were convinced they had thrown in the towel on what could have been a title contender.

    Although they replaced Gay with veteran forward Tayshaun Prince from Detroit and promising big man Ed Davis from Toronto, it was hard to shake the thought that it was a move made by new owner Robert Pera with an eye on the bottom line rather than the top of the playoff bracket.

    However, the move makes a great deal of sense for Memphis, both in the long term and short term, and should keep them in playoff contention – and maybe more – for years to come.

    Although the Grizzlies had squirmed their way under the luxury tax by trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby to the Cavaliers in January, Gay’s contract was still of long-term concern, and needed to be moved eventually in order for the franchise to be able to move forward.

    Because of that outsized contract, which is paying Gay about $16 million this season and even more over the next two, he had earned an unfair reputation as an underachiever.

    His strong early returns as a Raptor have made clear that he’s still a premier talent, a wing defender who can finish at the rim and hit shots in crunch time.

    But the focus of the Grizzlies’ offense, understandably, is in the paint, where they employ one of the most formidable front lines in the league in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

    As important as Gay was to Memphis’ offense, his talents were not being utilized to their full potential as the third wheel.

    A player like Prince fits in seamlessly, and in fact it already feels as though he’s been in Memphis his entire career, despite a storied past with the Pistons that included a championship in 2004.

    Like Gay, Prince is a solid wing defender who can sidle in next to Tony Allen and not detract from what has been one of the most suffocating team defences in the NBA for the past several years.

    Prince is arguably an even better fit for the Grizzlies than Gay, because as a relatively low-usage player, he does not demand the ball nearly as much as a player of Gay’s scoring ability would. He’s still a capable shooter when called upon, however.

    The real prize in this trade for the Grizzlies is Ed Davis, who had been blossoming as part of a frontcourt tandem with Amir Johnson in Toronto.

    Memphis’ investment in him likely won’t pay off this season, as they have an already crowded frontcourt between Randolph, Gasol, and Darrell Arthur.

    But rumors have swirled for nearly as long as the Gay rumors that Randolph is next out the door.

    A cheap, high-upside frontcourt talent like Davis will make it much easier for Memphis to move Randolph, despite the fact that, as of now, his talent still matches his enormous contract.

    With head coach Lionel Hollins expressing his frustration with Grizzlies managemet for trading Gay, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was on his way out as well.

    This feels like a final hurrah for one of the most reliable playoff teams of the past few years. But the moves the new Grizzlies regime have made are a step towards sustainability and continued playoff contention.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • February 7th 2013 @ 6:23am
      Bob Anderson said | February 7th 2013 @ 6:23am | ! Report

      You can’t even look at the sports news these days without hearing about Gays.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 9:12am
      mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Agree the grizzlies made out like bandits in this. When you are shedding salary you are effectively getting space for another contributing player.

      As always…the raptors decided to go long a contract for a player who has no history of helping his team mates on either end of the floor.

      I think the label – “wing defender” is a bit kind to Gay. Sure he get’s blocks and steals and he looks like a defender (he is in LeBron’s class as an athlete) but his on court off court numbers suggest is a slightly below par guy.

      As a producer he is above average. A decent shooter that can create for himself a bit but doesn’t create for anyone else or really shine in another aspect of the game.

      Bad big contracts kill NBa teams and the Raptors are now saddled paying an above average player under 2m less than LeBron? The good news is that at least he’s an above average player not like Bargnani (10.75m next year) or DeRozan (9.5m) so who knows in about 20 contracts time they might pay fair value

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | February 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        That Gay contract was horrible right from day one. The Grizzlies dodged a bullet in being able to unload it, without missing much of a drop off production-wise. I still question whether they have the creators, penetrators and wing scoring to win the title, but I don’t think they were winning it with Gay anyway, so might as well unload his contract, if you can.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 2:35pm
      melo-drama said | February 7th 2013 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

      Pretty much a source tin the front office said udy Gay had the lowest PER in the Grizz franchise so they decided to trade him, the same goes for Z-Bo as well all signs point to Z-Bo mybe on his wayou of Memphis as well due to his oversized contract and declining PER. In all honesty this looks like its a taste of whats to come in the NBA, with the salary restrictions kicking in over the next season small market teams will be going into rebuild mode and offering up alot of talent for expiring contracts, youth and drafts.

      • February 7th 2013 @ 3:14pm
        mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

        I think your source is full of brown stuff Randolph is second on the team in PER and Gay was fourth at the time he was traded.

        Also hollinger has gone to pains for a good 7 years to say it isn’t a catch all metric, it’s jsut people like you don’t bother to listen

        • Columnist

          February 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm
          Ryan O'Connell said | February 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

          Bit snappy there, Mushi!

          • February 7th 2013 @ 4:03pm
            mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

            Really though. the guy lied. there is no way a genuine source would say something like that

            I hate lairs and fools

          • February 7th 2013 @ 4:10pm
            mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

            Acknowledging they probably also hate me…but I’m fine with that

            • Columnist

              February 7th 2013 @ 4:25pm
              Ryan O'Connell said | February 7th 2013 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

              Perhaps he was simply confused, or got his facts slight awry. After all, my first thought when the Grizzlies hired Hollinger was that it was going to be quite awkward considering how much he had murdered Rudy Gay in some of his comments. It’s not really a shock that Gay was on the trading block from the moment Hollinger started in Memphis.

              • February 7th 2013 @ 9:10pm
                Mushi said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

                It took literally 13 seconds to test it. I mean literally.

                Also would anyone with even the slightest knowledge of basketball think gay was the worst PER on a team. Below average? Perhaps for some people.

                But worst, sorry rayan not a chance.

                Then the skew of the PER comments, again, ignores 7 years of commentary from hollinger himself

    • Columnist

      February 7th 2013 @ 4:26pm
      Michael DiFabrizio said | February 7th 2013 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

      Sean, it’s tough going for my Grizz at the moment.

      After losing to the Suns yesterday, Lionel Hollins was publicly unhappy with Grizz management, Zach Randolph was publicly unhappy with Lionel Hollins. This was followed up by another loss today.

      I liken the situation right now to the part of Moneyball where the coach and the new stats-focused front office really stop seeing eye to eye. That’s pretty much where we’re at. (Hopefully it means some kind of record-breaking win streak is around the corner…)

      Anyway, what you say is entirely true. It was a smart move. You just got the sense Rudy Gay was the wrong player to have at the 3 in this team. When you’ve got assets like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint — up there among, if not the, best combination of bigs in the league — having another max contract guy at SF, especially one who doesn’t shoot the three ball well so is constantly driving or settling for (a lot of) mid-range jumpers, it doesn’t add up.

      Giving Randolph and Gasol the space they need and increasing the number of plays that run through sounds like a pretty good idea in theory. And Tayshaun Prince is the perfect guy in my opinion to bring this idea to reality. He’s been the fourth option on offence for a contender before. He shoots better from three than Rudy too.

      But so far, it hasn’t gone to script. Hopefully it’s just a period of adjustment and not something more serious.

    • February 12th 2013 @ 8:34am
      Rick said | February 12th 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Nice piece…I’m with you. I think if Randolph/Gasol can stay healthy in the playoffs they’ll once again be a tough out. That said, they’re still a go-to perimeter scorer away from being a true title contender. I see OKC/SA vs. Miami in the Finals once again..

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