The Memphis Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay yesterday in part of a three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.
The Grizzlies sent Gay and Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors. Toronto sent Ed Davis to the Grizzlies and Jose Calderon to the Pistons. Detroit sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to the Grizzlies.
We knew that the Grizzlies were entertaining the idea of trading Gay. Gay has around $53 million left on his three-year contract including this season and Memphis would have likely had to deal with harsh luxury tax penalties if they tried to keep him.
It was a similar situation that the Oklahoma City Thunder were in before the start of the season with James Harden.
The Grizzlies will save money acquiring Prince who will take Gay’s starting spot and make only $7 million on average the next three seasons. Daye is a promising young big man who is in the last year of his rookie contract.
Davis is maybe the biggest haul for Memphis in this deal. He’s just 23 years old still in his third year in the NBA and has a fantastic PER of 18.1 this season. He was averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game with the Raptors this season.
The immediate thought when you hear the Grizzlies are trading a former All-Star in Gay away is that the team will take a step back. Memphis got off to a great start this season and currently is 29-15, fourth in the Western Conference.
Many people even thought this might be the year the Grizzlies could make a run to the NBA Finals. They have something that very few teams can handle with their big frontline. They’re a great defensive team that forces a lot of turnovers and they don’t turn the ball over themselves.
Two years ago the Grizzlies knocked off the one-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs then nearly got past the Thunder, taking them to seven games in the next round. That playoff run was without Gay by the way.
That has to be a big reason why Memphis was okay with shipping Gay out. They have proven in the past that they can still be an elite team without him and maybe even a better one. It was still unknown whether the Grizzlies were really better with Gay in the lineup or if they’d be better off with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as the clear one-two punch.
The Grizzlies made their decision now and will move forward with one of the most lethal big man duos in the legal as the focal point of their team. Bringing in Prince to replace Gay in the starting lineup and big depth with Davis and Daye will help ease the transition too.
Prince is a real chemistry guy who made his name in this league winning championships as the fifth man of a starting lineup consisting of four other All-Stars. He won’t have any trouble committing to defense and doing whatever he needs to fit in.
The Grizzlies will start to resemble the team that made that great playoff push two years ago. That’s the plan any way.
We can safely assume that the Grizzlies are still going to be a tough matchup for the Spurs. The size and Randolph is what gave the Spurs trouble two years ago and that hasn’t changed.
Matching up with the Clippers may be more difficult for the Grizzlies. They lost to the Clippers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs last year. Gay did not have a good series while Chris Paul dominated.
The matchup with the Thunder will be an interesting one to look at. There is still a good chance the Thunder and Grizzlies will meet again in the playoffs this season. Gay was someone who could every now and then go blow for blow with a superstar like Kevin Durant. They won’t have that now and will have to rely solely on defense and great team ball to get past a team like OKC.
The Grizzlies definitely didn’t take a big step back by trading Gay, maybe just a baby one at worse. Memphis keeps with its culture and made the right financial decision for the future. They should still be a top four team in the Western Conference this season.
Gay was always a fringe star player in this league that left you hoping for more whenever he showed glimpses of greatness but he never had the ability to do it every night. Teams don’t usually go far in this league with a player like that as their best player. Memphis made the tough decision to move on. In the end, it was probably the right one.