The NBA trade deadline is still 22 days away, but what may prove to be the biggest trade of the 2012-2013 season went down Wednesday night. The Memphis Grizzlies sent small forward Rudy Gay and center Hamed Haddadi to the Toronto Raptors for power forward Ed Davis, point guard Jose Calderon, and a second round draft pick. The Grizzlies then send Calderon to the Detroit Pistons for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The question to me is not who won this trade, but did anyone win in this trade?
If you are looking at this trade purely from a financial standpoint, then the Grizzlies were the clear winners. They were in danger of facing steep penalties via the luxury tax next season. By trading Gay, the Grizzlies shed almost $10 million off of next year’s payroll and are now free of tax consequences. The Pistons were not far behind as all they added was an expiring contract. The Pistons, however, were not going to have to pay towards the luxury tax, so their cost cutting was not as pertinent. The Raptors added about $5 million.
While financial considerations are a part of every trade, I am more concerned with on the court performance. Did a team increase their chances to make a playoff run? Did a team add pieces for the future? So who won this trade on the court? I am not sure anyone did.
Based on star power, it would appear the Raptors were the big winners. They far and away added the best player in this trade. However, my question is what is the end game? Gay has two years left on his deal. The Raptors are a young team that is not close to contending for the playoffs. Gay probably makes the Raptors good enough to have poor lottery odds thus decreasing the potential talent level added through the draft. Even if the current team plus draft additions mature into a potential playoff team, I doubt they will be title contenders. I also doubt it will happen before Gay’s contract expires. This is a huge gamble for the Raptors, but one they had to make.
Despite journalists’ opinions that Gay and Zach Randolph could not co-exist on the same court, the Grizzlies looked like a title contender this season. They had a very hot start and are currently sitting at fourth in the western conference. In trading Gay, the Grizzlies parted with their leading scorer. Prince will bring some defensive intensity, but he is not going to replace the points Gay scored. Davis is a good young player who will improve as he gains experience, but he is still a year or two away from his best ball. Daye falls in the same category as Davis with less upside. All in all, the Grizzlies went from a title contender to a playoff team who will be lucky to get into round two.
The Pistons were in desperate need of a point guard and got that in Calderon. However, his contract expires at the end of the season and you have to wonder if he has any interest in re-signing with the Pistons. In trading away Prince, the Pistons dealt their best defender. As the last member of the 2004 championship team, the Pistons lost a veteran presence for their younger players.
So, in this moment, I am not sure anyone won this trade. If the Raptors are able to re-sign Gay and their young players develop, they will win this trade. The Grizzlies threw away any shot they had at a championship run and thus cannot win this trade on an on the court performance review. As a third team helping facilitate this trade, the Pistons were not going to come out as winners. However, if they keep Calderon they just may come in second. As of right now, no one won this trade.