OK, raise your hand if you, like me, thought last week’s “Marreese Speights for nothing in particular” trade – which took Memphis out of luxury-tax land – meant the Grizzlies would keep their core together for the rest of this season. It’s easy to understand where you might have gotten that impression. Team management suggested as much after all.
Things didn’t work out that way though. The Grizzlies have agreed to send swingman Rudy Gay and backup center Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors in exchange for point guard Jose Calderon and forward Ed Davis. Calderon is headed to Detroit in a second deal, in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
It’s more than a little bit surprising to see a team as good as the Grizzlies – just a couple games out of the third playoff seed in the West – shake things up so aggressively at midseason. New owner Michael Pera’s company has been going through a particularly rough patch on Wall Street, which may be a big reason for the sell-off.
The Grizzlies will justify the deal by saying Gay was putting up the worst numbers of his career, has never been an ideal fit in the frontcourt with Zach Randolph, and is a bit of a ball-stopper. They’ll say Prince is a better distributor and three-point shooter and that Davis will help replace Speights in the big man rotation. Sorry guys … I bought your last explanation, but I’m a bit more skeptical this time. Prince is washed-up; Davis isn’t much of an upgrade over Speights or Darrell Arthur; and Daye has yet to prove that he belongs in the league.
The deal may be just as hard to justify from Toronto’s perspective, as the Raptors are adding another high-priced player to a roster that already includes the bloated contracts of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, and Amir Johnson. Even if Gay returns to form, the Raptors won’t have a lot of financial flexibility for years to come.