One of the NBA’s longest ongoing trade sagas is finally over. No, not Josh Smith, not Pau Gasol. No, the Memphis Grizzlies have dealt Rudy Gay away just one week after making a trade that would have allowed them to keep their starting lineup together for the rest of the season.
Instead Memphis moved to acquire Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye from the Detroit Pistons and Ed Davis and a second round pick from the Toronto Raptors. In the deal, Toronto lands Gay as well as backup center Hamed Haddadi and Detroit gets Jose Calderon and his expiring $10.5 million contract.
Leading up to the trade, there was speculation that the Pistons could be the third team that would facilitate the deal that would finally see Toronto land their guy, but which pieces other than Prince the Pistons would part with was up for debate.
By sealing the move, the Raptors land their first real star player since Chris Bosh departed for South Beach in the summer of 2010. Toronto picks up an extra $4 million in salary, but has a real weapon in their lineup to build around for the next few years. With DeMar DeRozan‘s contract expiring this summer, it’ll be interesting to see where they begin that process, but in any case the Raptors have a player who can attract another star to the NBA’s northern most city.
They also acquire an expiring $1.3 million contract in Haddadi, a player that wasn’t making an impact in Memphis, but can fill in time for the injured Andrea Bargnani in Toronto.
Detroit comes out of the deal smelling the best having dumped a bench player in Daye that they may have had to make a $4 million qualifying offer on this summer and seemed to have no use for as he averages around 15 minutes per game this season. Also expelled in the deal was Prince, whose $7 million a year contract over the next two seasons didn’t bode well for the team as they enter a transitional phase.
The Pistons acquire Calderon, a significant upgrade at the point guard position when compared to the players currently on their roster and a guy who can teach promising young forward Andre Drummond the intricacies of the pick and roll. His $10.5 million contract ends this summer and the Pistons can then re-negotiate with him or let him go and add that to their already growing salary cap space.
With a high first round pick and money to spend, the Pistons could become major players in the free agent market and can start the rebuilding process around pieces like Greg Monroe and Drummond together. On the surface, this move doesn’t look like a big deal for Detroit, but after taking a closer look at the long term, it could set them up for a bright future.
Memphis, on the other hand, has less positives to take away from the deal it would seem. That’s not a knock on any of the players they acquired either. Ed Davis has certainly showed that he’s developing into a solid big man in his third NBA season averaging just under 10 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Tayshaun Prince is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game and shoots good percentages. Austin Daye has a qualifying offer in the offseason that Memphis doesn’t have to match and is a young player with a lot to prove.
Lastly, a second round pick can sometimes provide a team with a gem, a player who only scouts know is good and slipped through the cracks of the first round.
All that said, trading away the team’s leading scorer to bring in a guy known for his defense and squad players to add depth just to save a few million in a season where a championship run is not necessarily beyond the team’s grasp may not sit well with Grizzlies fans. Where the team finds those 17 points per game and fast break presence now is going to be interesting and how Lionel Hollins adjusts the system will prove equally entertaining.
What won’t be entertaining is the play of Memphis’ opponents. The Grizzlies are the best defensive team in the league averaging 89.5 points allowed per game and now have added a player who has been voted a Second Team All-NBA Defender four times during his career.
It’s not a deal brings another star to Memphis, but clearly, management was looking at the Grizzlies thin thirteen man squad (the NBA minimum) and knew that they couldn’t make it through an 82 game season and the playoffs. On average, a Memphis starter has been asked to play more than 33 minutes per night this season, a stat that wasn’t going to change if Gay stayed.
With the move, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can rest more thanks to Davis, the Grizzlies get two small forwards to replace Gay and shave a little more money off the payroll for now. It’s not the epic move many had hoped for, but it’s one trade saga down. Two to go.