Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said last week that the Raptors would not be caught in no-man's land, and seems to have made a move with an eye towards the future.
Numbers Game looks at the Raptors sending Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings Get: SF Rudy Gay, C Aaron Gray and SF Quincy Acy.
Gay, 27, is the second-leading scorer on the Raptors, averaging 19.4 points per game, which is about standard for his last five seasons, but he's doing it this year while shooting a career-low 38.8% from the field, with a career-low effective field goal percentage of 42.1%. That poor field goal percentage speaks to some ineffective close shots because Gay's long-range shooting (37.3% on threes) is the second-best percentage of his career, as is his number of free-throw attempts per game (4.9).
Gay is also averaging a career-best 7.4 rebounds per game and 1.6 steals per game, making him one of three players in the league to average at least 19 points, seven rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. New teammate DeMarcus Cousins is one of the others.
In 33 games with the Raptors last season, Gay saw a bit of surge in his Player Efficiency Rating, back to 17-plus, but this season's poor shooting leaves Gay with a 15.9 PER, barely ahead of last year's 15.6 PER.
Gay is an above average defender, but the Raptors have been more successful with him off the floor this season in terms of points for and against per 100 possessions, but it has to be taken into account that Gay, playing more than 35 minutes per game, is spending the vast majority of his time playing against the opposition's starters.
In Sacramento, there is an opening at small forward in which Gay can easily fit, but he can also play some minutes as an undersized power forward, where he's been effective enough at times this season. He may not get as many shots -- Cousins leads the Kings with 17.3 field goal attempts per game, compared to Gay's 18.6 per game -- but, with all those bodies leaving the Sacramento rotation, there will be ample opportunity for Gay to continue scoring in the 18-20 points per game range.
Gay, who is making nearly $17.9-million this season, holds a player option for next season worth more than $19.7-million. Clearing out that salary was a top priority for a Raptors team facing a rebuilding process.
Aaron Gray is a 29-year-old, big lug of a centre who has hardly played this season. He has the size (7-foot, 270 pounds) to handle matchups with bigger centres, but hasn't been able to rise above being used as a situational player.
Gray earns a bit more than $2.6-million and his contract expires at season's end and can offer frontcourt depth for the Kings in the meantime.
Quincy Acy, 23, was a second-round pick in 2012 and has averaged 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game during the 36 games in which he has seen action since the start of last season. He's a hustle guy who will be hard-pressed to hold a regular spot in the rotation, but if he gets a chance to play a bit, he could be a cost-effective bench player.
Acy has reasonably-priced team options for the next two seasons, at a cost of a little over $2-million, total.
There is debate over whether the Raptors are simply a better team without Rudy Gay, who controlled the ball a lot, but was spectacularly ineffecient; his 1.05 points per shots ranked worst among Toronto's top seven scorers.
Maybe the Raptors will be better with others taking Gay's looks on offence, but the real objective of this trade is clearing out Gay's contract and giving the Raptors an opportunity to land a high draft pick. It says something about his career that Gay, the 8th overall pick in 2006, isn't likely to make the Raptors regret this move, no matter what contributions they get from the players they received in return.
The Raptors Get: SF John Salmons, PG Greivis Vasquez, PF Patrick Patterson and PF Chuck Hayes.
Salmons, 33, has made a decent career as a useful role player on the wing, starting quite a bit later in his career, even as his production has waned. This season, he's averaging a modest 5.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, his lowest averages since 2004-2005; not coincidentally, that's also the last season in which Salmons played less than the 24:44 per game he's playing this season.
Stricly a jump-shooter at this point in his career, Salmons isn't even doing that particularly well, shooting a career-low 35.0% from the field, with a 41.9% effective field goal percentage.
Salmons can continue to play as part of the Raptors' rotation, as a place-holder, but could easily be relegated to the bench, so that Landry Fields and Terrence Ross have more opportunities to play on the wing. It's extremely unlikely that the Raptors will pick up the $7-million team option on Salmons' contract for next season.
Vasquez is a 26-year-old decent point guard, who effectively lost the position battle to Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento. Vasquez had started all 18 games for the Kings, but was playing fewer minutes than Thomas. Vasquez did have something of a breakout season in 2012-2013, for New Orleans, when he posted 13.9 points and 9.0 assists per game for the Hornets.
Though Vasquez has size (6-foot-6) that might figure to give him an advantage on the defensive end, he's been a poor defender in the NBA. Until that part of his game improves, he's probably more suited to a backup role over the long haul.
However, if the Raptors are going to keep stripping down their roster, and that could mean dealing starting point guard Kyle Lowry, then there may be a nice opportunity for Vasquez to play significant minutes. So long as Lowry remains there aren't going to be big minutes available to Vasquez.
Vaszuez, who makes $2.15-million this season, requires a qualifying offer of $3.2-million for next season.
Patterson is a 24-year-old power forward who has been an adequate offensive player in the past, averaging a career-high 10.4 points per game on 51.2% shooting from the field last season, but has struggled this year, scoring 6.9 points per game on a career-low 41.0% from the field, including an abysmal 23.1% on three-point attempts.
In his fourth NBA season, Patterson's production has gone up and down. When he's good, he's a useful part of the rotation, and can probably compete with Tyler Hansbrough for minutes in Toronto.
Patterson is earning $3.1-million this year and has a $4.3-million qualifying offer for next season, which would be a reasonable cost if he proves to be a solid member of the rotation.
Hayes, 30, has made the most of his ability, handling a physical role at power forward and centre, despite being 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds. He doesn't need touches, averaging 2.0 field goal attempts per game this season (averaging 2.1 points on 43.8% shooting, with 2.9 rebounds), yet his team is consistently more effective with Hayes on the floor.
Hayes earns a little more than $5.7-million this season and is due to make a bit under $6-million next season. At his age, he hardly fits the rebuilding plan in Toronto, but he's a blue-collar worker and can give the Raptors minutes in the frontcourt, if needed.
The botton line for the Raptors isn't so much what this new foursome brings to the floor -- if any of them are a factor long-term, it's a bonus -- but moving out Gay gives Toronto both financial flexibility and a fair shot at lottery positioning for the 2014 Draft.
Playing for next year's draft isn't pretty but it's a reality of this NBA season, with so many teams having no shot at title contention, while there is an elite crop of talent in the NCAA, not least of which is Canadian-born Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins, who would probably be the dream scenario for the Raptors but, Ujiri has positioned the franchise to be in a better place going forward no matter who is ultimately brought in to be the core of the Raptors' future.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.