I’ve never written so much about one trade before. Of course, most of this post isn’t going to be my own words, but the words of others. If you disagree with me about the Rudy Gay trade, that’s obviously up to you. But I have found it interesting there seems to be an overwhelming number of people who seem to have the same opinion I do.
If you’re a Raptor fan, this will be disheartening. If you’re a Bryan Colangelo fan, then, well, if you’re still a Bryan Colangelo fan, nothing will dissuade you from that. It’s like people who still believe there’s no such thing as global warming, despite mountains of evidence.
We know why the Raptors want Rudy Gay. He looked like a real comer back in 2006, but he’s done absolutely nothing besides look the part of an All-Star while offering the production of an average player. When you factor in the history that suggests he’ll be taking shots away from players who do more productive things with the ball offensively, this average turn might trend down into the realm of the negative. Toss in his maximum contract and … another winner, Bryan Colangelo!
And Toronto? Again, we have no idea.
Once Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza pick up their player options for next season, the Raptors will be over the luxury tax featuring a core of Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani. Three players that nobody seems to covet outside of the offices of Raptors GM Colangelo.
And from Wages of Wins:
With this trade, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has once again shown that he does not know how to evaluate basketball players. The Raptors are now paying $34.4 million to four players — Gay, Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, and Linas Kleiza — who have produced a grand total of -0.6 wins so far this season. They will be paying these four players a grand total of $117.5 million over the next three years, and if we go by career averages, they will receive a paltry 9.6 wins over that time.
Colangelo is the person responsible for acquiring and deciding to pay each of these players. Bargnani –the worst starter in modern NBA history — and DeRozan have never been productive players, yet Colangelo signed them to huge contract extensions. Kleiza was a gamble that didn’t pay off. Memphis signed Gay to a max contract that he didn’t deserve, and by acquiring him through trade, Colangelo tacitly agrees with the amount of money Gay makes.
As long as Bryan Colangelo remains the GM, the Raptors will have a tough time making the playoffs. Under his leadership the team has wasted the performances of excellent players and squandered the affections of a loyal fanbase. This trade reverses a long-awaited promising upward trend in the team’s on-court fortunes. Canadian basketball fans can do nothing but hope that the Raptors’ new ownership realizes that Colangelo is the problem and replaces him when his contract expires at the end of the season.
About the only good thing you can say about this deal from the Raptors’ perspective is that they got the most well-known player. Gay has declined this year — his scoring is down and his PER is just 14.3 — but one would think his shooting numbers will bounce back a bit, making him slightly above-average rather than below-average. A change of scenery should bump Gay’s numbers back up to where they used to be.
Still … what is the plan, here? The Raptors will pay a combined $50 million next season to Gay, Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Landry Fields next year. They’ll need a point guard, so you can tack on either Kyle Lowry‘s new contract (assuming he opts out) or someone else. They keep rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross in the fold, but they don’t have their draft pick (it went to Houston and then Oklahoma City for Lowry). This is your team, basically, unless Bryan Colangelo can get something decent for Bargnani in a trade. Is that even a playoff team in the East? Is that team making any noise even if they get there?
From Sports Illustrated:
Colangelo, it seems, cannot be stopped — or at least can’t seem to stop himself once he gets on a roll. One move leads to another which justifies a third and which necessitates one more, all executed without the bother of spending discretion or patience. His managerial style simply strips a team of its brakes, which for a rebuilding franchise is more than a mere inconvenience. By racing through the roster-building process, Colangelo quickly smashes a mediocre roster into the salary-cap and luxury-tax lines, two thresholds that dramatically limit the means through which teams can get better. The very process of improvement requires a delicacy of timing that Colangelo just doesn’t seem to grasp, as he racks up the kinds of contracts that only seem to work against the Raptors’ best interests.
In that sense, the acquisition of Gay is only the latest in a long line of moves that began with a five-year, $50 million extension for Andrea Bargnani. That initial blunder was then exacerbated by Colangelo’s stubborn refusal to trade his perennial disappointment of a franchise centerpiece, and his rejection of a more thorough rebuild after Chris Bosh’s departure in free agency in 2010. From there, mid-level(ish) deals for Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza and Landry Fields — which may have made sense independently, but together make up about 28 percent of the team’s room under the cap — only stacked atop Toronto’s other considerable salary commitments.
There are no easy outs, save one: With the Raptors’ momentum barreling out of control, might it be time for a new conductor?
All that said, though, something just feels off about this move. Looking up and down this roster I feel like I can already hit my head on their ceiling. Sure, with a few more roster tweaks you may have a consistent Playoff participant (and given Toronto’s issues getting there over the years that’s not nothing), but are they really building towards anything more substantial?
One shouldn’t sneeze at being a consistent Playoff club, I know. Dallas kept tweaking that formula until they won it all, and getting there consistently certainly changes the culture of the locker room – I guess the question just becomes whether or not this is a core you can build around or if it will need to be torn apart at some point before the team can really compete for the big prize.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Obviously, not everyone thinks it’s a bad trade for the Raptors, but those that do make a very good case that it’s time for the Raptors to part with Colangelo, sooner rather than later.
Colangelo is very good at making deals. Unfortunately, he’s just not very good at making good deals for his team. What he does seem to be good at is acquiring overpaid, overrated players who don’t actually help the team win, very much. He’s begun to collect so many bad contracts that whoever takes over from him will have a difficult task just trying to wipe up the mess.
In this way, Colangelo just seems to be repeating what Isiah Thomas did when he was in charge of the New York Knicks. The Knicks had the highest payroll in the league, but couldn’t make the playoffs. Does MLSE really want to be paying the luxury tax on a team that might be lucky to get the 7th or 8th seed?
The unfortunate thing, though, is that the timing couldn’t be worse. Chances are, Colangelo is going to be given a full season with his new roster, so trying to get a top pick in 2014 is most likely off the table. There are many who don’t like the idea of tanking, because the chance of getting the #1 pick isn’t very good. But in 2014, you won’t need the top pick in order to have a good shot at acquiring a potential franchise player. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison all look to have elite potential. In that way, it’s a lot like the 2003 draft, where Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were taken after LeBron James. I was going to write a post about that, but I don’t know if I want to now.
If the Raptors sit out that draft, or at least aren’t trying to vie for a top pick, then it will severely hurt the long term prospects of the team. This overpriced, overrated roster will most likely go nowhere and just keep the franchise in the dangerous mediocre zone until a new GM cleans house. But, by then, it will be too late. The best time to clean house is this summer. Keep Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, but otherwise, see what you can get for the rest of the roster. The chance of doing that now, though, is slim to none. And so are the chances of the Raptors becoming a legit team.