The Toronto Raptors are central to numerous power forward/ combo forward rumors heading into the trade deadline. However, there is one big forward out there that hasn’t been linked to the Raptors yet and that’s the Kings Rudy Gay.
The East’s top scoring duo of Kyle Lowry (7th best at 21 ppg)) and DeMar DeRozan (2nd best at 23.4 ppg) are carrying the Raptors this season and are having career years, but to get out of the Eastern Conference, that may not be enough. While DeMarre Carroll is expected to return in time for the stretch drive to the postseason and provide a big boost to an already effective defense and contribute to a top 10 offense, he just hasn’t played enough this year to give everyone that warm fuzzy feeling.
President and general manager Masai Ujiri has acknowledged the remaining hole in his team’s rotation once Carroll returns is at power forward and he’s been working the phones to find an impactful deal that doesn’t screw up his second place team’s chemistry or continuity. He has admitted to realizing the “window is open”, so this time around, he is a highly motivated buyer.
Names jumping to the top of the rumor mill for Toronto include Al Horford, Thaddeus Young, Markieff Morris and Ryan Anderson, but there are solid reasons why nothing could happen on any of these fronts.
- The Hawks will want a boatload back for Horford. They know the impact he could have on a team – including how his loss could mean their slide out of a playoff spot. This isn’t going to be an easy trade for any team to pull off.
- The Nets are in the process of hiring a new general manager. Determining what they’ll do at the trade deadline is impossible. Thaddeus Young does seem to fit what the Raptors are looking for though.
- Morris has outstanding criminal charges and still shows signs of immaturity. Talented? Yes. The ideal guy for a playoff push right now? Who knows?
- Ryan Anderson is a very good stretch-four and a very suspect defender. Not exactly the guy one would expect a defensive-minded Coach Casey would be pushing for.
In more recent “news,” the slip-sliding Bulls are rumored to have put both Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol on the block.
Gibson is just an older, better rebounding version of Patrick Patterson, but without any ability to stretch the floor. As rebounding hasn’t been an issue for Toronto this year and three-point shooting has been, it’s hard to see why Ujiri would be interested unless Gibson is being given away to save on luxury taxes.
If Gasol is available at a cost Ujiri can stomach, that would be a slam dunk move for Toronto. Keep your eyes on that thread.
However, there’s a reason for almost every proposed trade to fall apart or never even get into serious discussions over the next 24 hours and Ujiri is motivated. A fallback plan involving the Kings and Rudy Gay should be somewhere on board in the Raptors war room.
Gay has checkered past in the NBA, but the beef with Gay was never about effort or talent or off the court issues. What kept getting Gay bounced around was his humongous contract and now that’s he’s on a new deal at $12.4 million this season, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the situation.
Gay bombed in Toronto in his brief time there because he was supposed to carry the team. In Sacramento, he has been expected to be a difference maker playing beside DeMarcus Cousins. Where Gay thrived was as the fourth best player in Memphis playing behind Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. The problem being your fourth best player can’t be making as much or more money as your best player.
Basketball Insiders Alex Kennedy says Gay wants out of Sacramento badly,
“The two guys I’ve heard the Kings are looking to move, or at least are open to moving, are Rudy Gay and Darren Collison. I’ve been told those guys want out. Rudy Gay specifically I think he wants out, that’s what I’ve heard. So don’t be surprised if Rudy Gay gets traded before the deadline. I think he’s upset, I think he’s open to being traded and he’s pushing for that.”
On a dysfunctional team, that comment spells opportunity. There’s a deal to be made with the Kings (again) and it’s likely to be favorable for the team that makes it.
Gay would return to Toronto in a similar position to the one he left in Memphis. A team on the rise with a solid shot at making the Conference Finals where he’s third, fourth or even fifth maybe in terms of importance. No pressure to be the best guy or lead the team. Kyle Lowry owns that mantle in Toronto. No pressure to be the best scorer, that’s DeRozan. Not even any pressure to be the best forward once Carroll gets back. This could work.
A deal along the lines of Patrick Patterson, James Johnson, Norman Powell and the Raptors own 2016 first round draft pick for Gay and former Raptors fan favorite Quincy Acy might just do the trick depending on what other teams are willing to pony up for Gay’s services.
Gay was a good guy during his time in Toronto. He gave a full effort trying to be the Raptors leader and go-to-guy while he was there, but what was being asked of him just wasn’t within his ability. He had a solid relationship with Lowry prior to his arrival the first time and he should be able to re-integrate himself into Casey’s system and find his spot in the pecking order with Lowry and DeRozan easier than just about anyone else Ujiri could acquire at the trade deadline.
A below the radar move and possibly just a fallback position, but if Ujiri can’t get the guy he wants, Gay could be the guy he needs to boost his team’s chances in the postseason.
How Casey described Gay’s roles was accurate. It wasn’t reasonable, but it was true. The Raptors needed Gay to perform all of those roles, he just never had to before. Gay didn’t shy away from trying either.