By Scott Lauer
January 31, 2013
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
There aren’t too many times when a team coming off a deep postseason run winds up trading one of its core pieces, but that’s what happened yesterday when the Grizzlies shipped Rudy Gay to the Raptors in a three-team deal. Toronto sends Ed Davis and Jose Calderon to Memphis, and Calderon was then redirected to Detroit for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
Memphis is (29-15), the fourth best mark in the Western Conference, but their new ownership group wants to avoid a hefty tax bill if the combined player salary total is over the luxury tax threshold, therefore, the tax dump is in effect. Gay is making over $16 million per year. Zach Randolph is as well, and they committed major money to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol; someone “had” to go to dip under the tax threshold, which is $70.307 million. When an owner has salaries exceeding that figure, they pay one dollar for each dollar over that figure.
It’s not as if the Grizzlies have crushed their chances to excel in the playoffs. Remember, they made a long run last year without Gay, who was injured with a concussion. Additionally, they replace him with a talented, young Forward, Ed Davis, who’s averaging only two fewer points, with four more rebounds than Gay. They also receive a veteran small forward in Prince, and a young piece in Daye.
This trade comes a week after Memphis unloaded Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first round pick to Cleveland, for Jon Leuer. Memphis is shaving salary responsibility, but again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are surrendering to competition. Remember that James Harden was traded by Oklahoma City to Houston for similar reasons, and we’ll see how it affects them in the playoffs, but for now they continue to be an elite team.
As far as the Raptors are concerned, they receive a gifted small forward in Gay, who Bryan Colangelo, their basketball decision-maker, has coveted since the time Gay entered the draft. They lost two starters in Davis and Calderon to get him, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare reinserting Kyle Lowery at the point. With Gay, DeMar Derozan and Terrence Ross, they are building a team of very athletic wings.
Detroit gets to have Calderon mentor second-year point Guard Brandon Knight, while gaining his expiring contract at the same time. The Pistons are going to have a Ford pickup truck filled with cash at the end of the season, with high expiring contracts in Calderon and Corey Maggette.
Trades and the overall composition of a roster is not merely about players abilities. It’s about money and the value of a player respective to what they make. The February 21 trade deadline is three weeks away, so expect more movement in the coming days.