When Rudy Gay was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors this season, the motive behind the Raptors making this trade was very clear. They wanted to nab any sort of solid talent that could potentially get Toronto out of the gutter of the Eastern Conference and into the postseason. Gay is a good player, but the Raptors didn’t trade for him thinking he can single-handedly lead them to an NBA championship. His being on the roster will likely mean that Toronto won’t be out of the playoffs for the next few years, but his ability alone won’t help the Raptors achieve much more.
Outside of Gay, the Raptors are hoping to build around young pieces such as Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas. The team has a handful of other young players who can develop into very key pieces, but primarily the focus of this team’s future is on these three guys. As it turns, out all three lead the team in starts this season, an obvious tactic by head coach Dwane Casey to strengthen their chemistry as a core trio.
Now in comes Gay, whose game alone gets him into the starting five after his off-the-bench debut with the Raptors where he scored 20 points against the Clippers. When he was available for game action following his debut, he started alongside Lowry, DeRozan, and Valanciunas. My interest here is with how Gay being on this team and having to start with DeRozan specifically could greatly benefit this team in the future.
DeRozan and Gay happen to extremely similar players, both athletic freaks with a knack for getting to the rack and finishing. Both also struggle with their perimeter shooting, making their offensive games rather one-dimensional. DeRozan is shooting the ball at a 41% clip from mid-range and a 25% clip from three-point land. Rudy Gay‘s shooting percentage from mid-range is 35% and he’s shooting 28.5% from downtown. This major flaw in their offensive games severely hurts the Toronto Raptors, by most notably ruining their spacing.
Gay and DeRozan make up two of the three perimeter players starting for Toronto, and neither can shoot the ball with any ounce of consistency. What this does is allow the opposition to easily clog up the paint on either player, or Valanciunas, or any Raptor working their way inside. With the only outside threat being Lowry, opposing defenses won’t need to be wary of open shots from distance.
Toronto has Gay under contract through the 2014 season, with a player option for 2015, and DeRozan’s contract was extended through 2017. The Raptors are not getting rid of either player anytime soon, meaning this outside shooting problem is something that must be resolved as soon as possible. That said, Dwane Casey would be dumb not to sit either player down this summer and tell them to hit the gym, and work on their jumper until it’s a viable weapon.
If this doesn’t happen, well shucks, it’s not like anyone would take notice of the Raptors stinking, they’ve been doing that for the past three years. But if it does, suddenly the Raptors have a serious offensive weapon on their squad, and could become a formidable team. Offensively, shooting is the only area where DeRozan and Gay truly lack. Say either player, or maybe even both, add a reliable jumper to their game(s), and it becomes difficult to argue that Gay, DeRozan, or both won’t be competing for spots in the All-Star Game. Obviously, this also benefits the Raptors as a team, with more offensive spacing and more complete scorers.
Basketball wise, the Rudy Gay deal to Toronto made a crumpled-up mess of the Raptors offense. With Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the floor together, the Raptors have an offensive rating of 101.8, which would place them in the bottom-half of the league and is 1.2 points lower than their season average. However, these two players being put in a spot where their identical flaws are put on a gigantic display could cause a “wake-up call”, which would motivate them to improve on the weak points of their games.
If this is the case, the Raptors will become a much stronger offensive team and one, or both players will have taken their games to a whole new level. If this doesn’t occur, then a rich bag of talent is at waste and the team will continue to ride the waves of mediocrity.