Why the Toronto Raptors are better without Rudy Gay has been a widely discussed topic since the trade that sent Rudy, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to Sacramento for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons, and Chuck Hayes. Many Raps-centric commentators, like Jack Armstrong, Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin, just give the easy answer: great ball movement. I would like to suggest that the truth is much more than that.
I will start off with what the Raptors gave up in the trade. The departure of Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray is moot; Rudy Gay was the player Sacramento was interested in. He’s a very talented scorer who attracts double teams. Gay is also a ball stopper and has shown that he does not give 100% all the time on offense. To take that a step further, when he becomes frustrated offensively, he loses focus defensively leading to lack of effort plays or other lapses. The Memphis Grizzlies may have had the best situation to support Gay. Their offense runs through Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post. Memphis’s system was effective because they used Gay as a safety valve; when plays broke down or the shot clock ran low, it became Rudy’s turn to shine. With Toronto, Rudy became the main point of emphasis with Kyle Lowry giving him the ball early into every shot clock; Gay was essentially being asked to run the team. We have certainly gained by losing Gay as Lowry is now moving the ball around a lot more, not just giving it to his friend Rudy.
What have the Toronto Raptors gained from the trade of Rudy Gay thus far? A winning record and much better ball movement. Let’s break down each player from the trade individually, starting with Greivis Vasquez, a talented point guard who was a candidate last year for the Most Improved Player award. Vasquez is a pass-first point guard who reads the floor well. He can run a team effectively, and gives great depth at point guard behind Kyle Lowry. In his 4th year, Vasquez is coming off his best year as a pro, averaging 43.3% shooting and 34.2% from 3pt land, while averaging 9 assists per game.
Patrick Patterson was probably unknown to most Raptors fans, however he might be one of the most important pieces of this deal. Patterson brings intangibles; he plays extremely hard, battles for every rebound, never stops working and trying to improve. He has played extremely well on defense since the trade and has been gaining confidence on the offensive side of the ball. Patterson is also in his 4th year as a pro, but has already started 54 games in his young career, and played well when given that opportunity. Patterson’s career numbers are 48.7% shooting, 34.8% from 3pt land, 4.5 Rebounds per game, and 72% from the free throw line (which is good for a big). I still believe his best value, despite those very solid numbers, is his defense.
Chuck Hayes and John Salmons are both over 30 year old, and NBA veterans. They bring much more than any number I can put into a post. The attributes include; experience, attitude, and a mentality that can help this young Raptors team develop. Hayes has not seen much action, playing only 2 games as a Raptor so far. Salmons on the other hand has made quite an impact on the defensive end of the floor, and has hit some key shots down the stretch of tough games to help the Raptors to wins already. Salmons won’t be delivering big numbers at this point in his career. What he will do is play hard every play, and help set the example for the younger players, which drives home Dwayne Casey’s coaching message.
Rudy Gay is one of this writer’s favorite players, yet I must admit that the Raptors are a much better team without him. Gay was not 100% on both sides of the ball and a ball stopper, where the Raptors have gained four team guys. Patterson and Salmons specifically fight hard every play, and Vasquez has a nice upside. The Raptors have more team cohesion, are better defensively, the ball is moving a lot more on offense, and are winning tough games like Indiana on January 1st. I am one excited fan to see how far the Raptors can ride this train.
Greg Hall is a Staff Writer for Raptors Rapture.