Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rudolph, the vision-impaired millionaire

Sources, those indelibly prolific chatterboxes, are confirming:

Rudy Gay along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray are heading to Sacramento in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.

This marks Masai Ujiri's second ejection of highly touted (and controversial) Bryan Colangelo projects, after upselling the New York Knicks on Andrea Bargnani in the summer.

Now, the weight of this deal is almost certainly the removal of Gay and his contract and his jump shots and cooler heads will have none of whatever analysis we attempt to attribute to the finer pieces. But, like... poppycock. This Raptor team is in such flux that no player can be expected to stick around tomorrow (except JV) and at the same time, we have no idea which seemingly unimportant cog might fit into the future.

First the additions:

  • John Salmons is salary weight, a 34 year old gunner who has bizarrely stuck around in this league far past his expiration date (remember: Baron Davis not currently in NBA but Salmons is). Salmons is best known to Raptor fans for backing out of a five year, $23 million contract with Toronto in 2006 because, like, Jesus told him to. He missed being part of the Atlantic Division (banner, baby!) team and toiled and slouched his way through an uninspiring late career, somehow blackmailing Milwaukee to hand him $39, million for five years deal in 2010. The Raps will owe him the rest of $7 million this year and $7 million next year to sit in the Linas Kleiza chair behind the bench. This is the cost of salary dumps. *Edit: only $1 million of Salmons' contract is guaranteed for 14/15. Weeeeeeeee.
  • Chuck Hayes is a gamey little (he's 6'6) PF/C who put some Houston teams on his back a few years ago but barely played in Sacramento. Fans seem to like him and the Raptors didn't have many ideas on the bench for big men. He is overpaid at just under $6 million this year and next.
  • I haven't seen much of Patrick Patterson's play but he's an all offence, no defence/little rebounding four. His offence seems to have stalled, as well. Another product of Daryl Morey's drafting, he's still young and should get a real chance to play. He's coming off his rookie deal at the end of this year and we'll see if the market bears him as too expensive to be brought back in a matched restricted free agent offer. I'd prefer to have Ed Davis back. But Patterson clearly has more upside than any other power forward that's passed through this team since Ed. 
  • Vasquez is the most intriguing piece coming back. He led the league in total assists last year as an unexpectedly stable presence on an uneven Hornets team. He's not a plus shooter but he's big enough to play the two. With him, the Raptors finally have an NBA-calibre back-up point guard who can spell Kyle Lowry so he can finally sit down and not worry the offence will just completely implode. He'll also, surely, play beside Kyle as the Raps have committed to small ball for whatever the rest of this season brings.
The "comings" in this deal offer something for both sides of coin that is this Raptor team's outlook: aging, uninspiring vets who can eat minutes and pick up cheques; vets that are obviously overpaid but don't completely anchor Ujiri's cap situation going into next summer and could potentially be moved as expiring contracts. And then, two highly touted but floundering fourth-year players whose performances suffered after they arrived in Sacramento. With hope, the removal of the King-stink will revitalize them in Toronto and the markets will allow them to be signed to reasonable deals to remain rotation players; or if not, provide a sign-and-trade opportunity that lands the Raptors some picks.

Now the departures...

  • I have a soft spot for affable rebounders an goofy, seven-foot-nothings so, so long and good luck Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray.
  • And last, but possibly least, Rudy Gay. Rudy: you became the focal point of the old-world vs. new thinking about professional basketball and I, for one (though I think I speak for thousands) do not wish to be on the wrong side of that history. Yes, your rebounding picked up in Toronto. Yes, you showed an ability to lock down on defence when you really, really wanted it. But there's just not enough ball, not enough shots, to satisfy whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. For all your Lasik and your buzzer beaters and your allergy to stat sheets, I'm not sure you're destined to be much more than John Salmons.

I'm giving up all my hugs and kisses for Masai Ujiri who has, so far, shown gigantic, round cojones. It takes bravery, yes it does, to dispose of two big name players in return for nameless role players because they happen to have better-fitting contracts and allow for the flexibility to work towards winning a playoff series in a couple years. An extra peck on the cheek for Tim Leiweke for allowing Masai the leeway to execute a vision.

The nameless, blameless "they" like to say things like "you can't win in the NBA without stars." But if you're so obtuse you count Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay among your circle of stars, you don't get a say in philosophizing about winning anything above a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, You're back. You should post more often. Sure Bryan Colangelo is gone, and his replacement seems to be a giant improvement.

But the spirit of incompetence will continue to inhabit MLSE and we will always have something to gripe about.

Happy New Year Bitter Raptors Fan.