|Rudy Gay is now a member of the Toronto Raptors after a three-team deal with Memphis. (bleacherreport.com)|
Boston. Houston. Milwaukee. Minnesota. Rudy Gay could have been calling any of those places home after news surfaced in December he might be available for the right return, which the Memphis Grizzlies found Thursday in a three-team trade sending the small forward to the Toronto Raptors and netting the Grizzlies the front court duo of Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye, who leave the Detroit Pistons as point guard Jose Calderon comes in from Toronto.
This trade also lands forward Ed Davis in Memphis along with a second-round pick from Toronto, while Grizzlies reserve center Hamed Haddadi goes to the Raptors.
Memphis is the only true winner in this situation, vacating Gay's contract of nearly $34.4 million over two years and a player-option $19.3 million third year in return for a total of just under $17.7 million (three years of Prince and one of Daye). Including the Davis-Haddadi swap, Memphis net savings is around $15.1 million.
New owner Robert Para is guiding the Grizzlies away from big contracts while trying to maintain the integrity of a franchise that has come on strong over the past three years, making several playoff appearances and currently sitting at fourth place in the Western Conference rankings. It was during one of those playoff runs -- in 2011, when Memphis upset the San Antonio Spurs before battling and eventually being eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder -- when Zach Randolph emerged as Gay watched from the bench due to injury. Randolph's ascendance and the continuous high-level player of Marc Gasol, one of the best passing centers in the NBA, made Gay less valuable to the franchise, especially in light of the playoff success the Grizzlies experienced with him in street clothes.
Gay is the first major player to be traded this season, outlasted on the trading block by Pau Gasol and the injured Anderson Varejao. His decreased importance to the Grizzlies allowed Memphis to replace him with a veteran like Prince, who, though aging, can still contribute while the organization develops Daye and Davis to fit its mold, barring any successive trades or buyouts.
The three-team deal also facilitates the long speculated-about flight of Calderon away from Toronto. He becomes a free agent after this season, so his stint in Detroit is likely to be short, placing him in a back-up role behind young point guard Brandon Knight on a roster loaded with reserve guards -- a situation completely different than the swingman-heavy look from which Memphis wanted to move away and Toronto just inherited.
Gay and the Grizzlies can part ways amicably. Gay will be the Raptors' go-to scorer as Toronto continues with a future just slightly less hazy than it had before the deal, facilitating Detroit's move to focus on its core of youthful talent, while the Grizzlies will still be a playoff team and save a few million dollars. All is well that ends well.
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