With the second half of the NBA season officially underway following the league's All-Star festivities in Houston, the Toronto Raptors find themselves in a position few would have expected after their disastrous 4-19 start.
Bryan Colangelo's squad sits within shouting distance of the eighth playoff spot in the East, and for the first time since the team's season opener, Raptors fans have reason for optimism.
At least a portion of the credit for the turnaround can be attributed to the Raptors much-maligned general manager, whose acquisition of forward Rudy Gay has paid immediate dividends.
Despite receiving initial criticism, primarily for giving up a valuable young talent in Ed Davis and also for acquiring a player whose contract and skillset would appear to be a poor fit in Toronto, the deal appears – at least initially – to favour the Raptors.
His presence has given the Toronto the no. 1 scoring threat and end of game closer they were desperately lacking.
The team has gone 6-3 since his arrival, including road wins over current Eastern Conference playoff teams, Indiana and New York.
In acquiring Gay and injecting a glimmer of hope into what looked like another lost season, Colangelo – in the last year of his contract-- may have pulled a rabbit out of his hat just in time to save his job.
Prior to, and in the immediate aftermath of the deal, the GM was thought to be on extremely thin ice, as the second rebuild he had undertaken in his tenure with the team appeared to have stagnated.
Off-season additions Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields were both injured and had struggled when healthy, while the long-term, big money deals given to Demar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani looked to be a classic case of overpaying for mediocre talent.
Fortunately for Colangelo, the arrival of Gay has had the desired positive effect on DeRozan and Lowry, while Johnson has performed well logging big minutes in a new-found starting role.
Talking about the deal and the team's inspired play since then, the host of TSN Radio 1050's Gameday, Matthew Cauz wondered if the Gay trade, and the recent success the Raptors have enjoyed as a result of it, has been enough to restore faith in the team's seventh-year GM.
"He's not an 'A-plus' star, but Rudy Gay is 'B-plus'," Cauz said. "You can win with Rudy Gay. You can't win a championship with Rudy Gay as your best player, but you can go far."
Cauz said with the NBA being the most star driven league, it was imperative that Colangelo do something to acquire a front-line player because unlike the NFL, MLB and the NHL, you can't compete without top-end talent.
Still, Cauz mentioned that although the GM made the playoffs in his first two seasons with the team and was named Executive of the Year in 2006-07, the Raptors are in the midst of a fifth straight losing season.
According to Steve Buffery of Sun Media, Colangelo's future should be determined on the return he gets for his 2006 first overall selection.
"It comes down to what they can get back for Andrea Bargnani," Buffery said. "He's never going to break-out here in Toronto…so let's see what they get for him and I'll reserve judgment until then."
So what do you think?
Has the recent trade restored your faith in the Raptors GM or should ownership look in another direction once his contract expires after this season?