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Toronto finally has a scoring forward, Memphis finally has fiscal sanity and Detroit finally has a future again after the six-player trade Wednesday between the three teams.
There were pros and cons to the trade for each squad. But when all is said and done, I think the Grizzlies and Pistons came out the long-term winners for getting their fiscal house in order before more punitive luxury-tax penalties come in for the 2013-14 season.
TORONTO RAPTORS: Toronto, which has richly rewarded Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, outdid themselves Wednesday by taking on Rudy Gay's deal that still has $37 million left on it for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. The 26-year-old Gay finally gives the Raptors the scoring small forward they've lacked, but at what cost? The Raptors are not likely to be much better than a .500 team the rest of the season and their team salary for 2013-14 already is $74 million. There's just not much wiggle room for future improvement. The Raptors are basically saying their franchise is banked on Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Gay, Amir Johnson, along with the injured Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas. I don't know about you, but I would've spent my $70-plus million differently. Gay was averaging 17 points per game on an abysmal .478 true shooting percentage this season in Memphis. He is going to have to return to the form of two years ago, when he posted a .548 true shooting percentage, if he is going to be an asset in Toronto. Can he do it? It's doubtful since his game has been in decline the past two seasons, with Gay not being able to get to the line consistently (3.7 free-throw-attempts per 16.6 field goal attempts) and being dreadful from beyond 15 feet. The acquisition of center Hamed Haddadi is huge for Toronto. With Bargnani and Valanciunas hurt and Ed Davis gone, Haddadi will finally get his chance to play major minutes in the NBA. He's a decent all-around talent who should be up for the challenge. Whether his conditioning is up for major minutes is another story.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Will Ed Davis grow into a top talent? Can Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye make up for their lack of scoring by doing the little things that Gay did not? If the answers to the questions are Yes and Yes, then this will turn into a steal-of-a-deal for Memphis. The Grizz already won the fiscal battle by trading away $17.8 million in salaries this season (Gay and Haddadi) in exchange for $11.2 million (Prince, Daye and Davis), effectively getting Memphis $8 million under the luxury-tax figure. The operating narrative is that Memphis will take a step backward in 2012-13 by losing Gay to take future steps forward by having the salary-cap space to make future deals. What may surprise people is that the Grizzlies, who have already established themselves as one of the NBA's fiercest defensive teams, just doubled down on that identity by acquiring a 32-year-old veteran, Prince, who once was a really good defender. If Prince can find his game again, Memphis might not be taking a step back like so many of us think.
DETROIT PISTONS: By unloading Prince and Daye for Calderon's expiring $10.5 million contract, Detroit cleared off as much as $11.3 million on next year's books, thus making the Pistons major free-agency players in the Summer of 2013. Detroit can get around $25 million under the salary cap this summer, while still fielding a roster that features young talents like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Kyle Singler, Brandon Knight, not to mention Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva. It is one of the most exciting, young rosters in basketball that now potentially can add a max-type player along with perhaps another $8 million player. Look out, World! Detroit basketball is back on the map … starting next season, of course.