Some points on the game will follow for those who came here for the PPG and not more trade analysis.
Initial thoughts on the deal sending Rudy Gay to Sacramento for salary cap flexibility and some “maybes” is here. Breaking it down a bit more:
- Letting Bryan Colangelo stick around and execute the Gay traded ended up hurting the franchise, but not anywhere near as much as some of his earlier foibles (or those franchise-killing moves by Rob Babcock for that matter). Jose Calderon was going to leave anyway, but Ed Davis is a solid young big men. Maybe too limited to be a starter on a contender, but a nice backup energy big man for sure. But backup point guard also is a need, and Greivis Vasquez is better than most backups. He was third in the NBA in assists a year ago, though his defence, athletic and shooting limitations mean he shouldn’t really be starting games for a good team. What he does is bring a steady hand to the bench, some good competitiveness to the locker room (he’s a fiery, driven guy) and the type of skills that will be far more complementary to Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and even DeMar DeRozan than Rudy Gay or Kyle Lowry were. He can either be traded for a different asset at the deadline, or stick around as the backup/spot starter until a prospect point guard is ready going forward. Masai Ujiri loves collecting assets and Vasquez definitely is one, given his gaudy assist numbers and positive attitude.
- Though he isn’t a shooter, especially from outside, Vasquez is really strong at finishing at the rim, shooting better than 50% in the paint, one of the reasons he shoots just shy of 50% overall on his two-point attempts.
- Patterson has clearly regressed this year after being dealt to Sacramento from Houston, but is a talented offensive player. Like Vasquez, he struggles as a defender, but can be a part of a viable second unit. He can step out and hit threes, which could be important should Steve Novak be dealt for assets of some kind and also can score in the post. Patterson has a high basketball IQ, rarely turns the ball over and has been on some strong teams in the past (in high school and college, particularly). Given his defensive shortcomings, he’d be best-served playing alongside Amir Johnson as often as possible.
- Hayes is the type of gritty veteran every team needs. He will be great as a practice foil for Valanciunas and should make the sophomore a better player by teaching him all of his defensive tricks. You don’t get by inside at 6-foot-6 unless you’re doing a lot of things right. Here‘s a great look at what Hayes built his career on.
- Salmons drove Sacramento fans nuts because he mixed a few good games with many more disappointing ones. He has talent and is a good passer and shot creator, but it’s unlikely he’ll be around long either.
- Could see the Raptors taking on longer deals (though probably not ones that run longer than the 2014-15 season) in exchange for guys like Patterson, Salmons (who will have value, because only $1 million of his deal is guaranteed for 2014-15), Vasquez, Tyler Hansbrough (only partially guaranteed as well). By mid-February, Ujiri will be allowed to package any of them, perhaps along with Kyle Lowry (who is in the last year of his deal).
- The deal moves the Raptors about $2.8 million dollars further away from the luxury tax this season, opening up more lee-way for Ujiri to take on a bit more salary in February when he makes more moves (or in an earlier traded involving someone else) while still avoiding the tax.
- It will take more than second rounders or 27-30th overall picks to land the likes of DeMar DeRozan or Johnson. But sources indicate one or both likely will be directed elsewhere. Ujiri is open to anything.
- He’s still got a lot of work to do. If he does what nobody expects him to – keeps this new group together – the Raptors could well finish 6th and definitely will make the playoffs, considering how terrible the East is. In order to get where they want to go (the bottom 5 of the standings), the Raptors will need to trade at least one of the trio of Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan and possibly two of them. Lowry and Johnson are both well above average players, the type the team will need one day. But that day isn’t now and it isn’t close. If they want to keep them, fine, they’re currently two of the three best players on the roster and are by far the most impactful when advanced stats are brought into the equation, but if they stay, they’re going to help this squad win too many games to end up in the hunt for the top 3.
- Few care, but the media at least comes out even in this one, since Patterson, Hayes and Vasquez all can be quality, insightful interviews. Gray, Gay and Acy were solid themselves in that regard. A few of us interviewed Patterson after he turned in a solid workout for the Raptors in 2010. The team had him high on their draft board and could well have taken him had Ed Davis been gone. Here’s what Patterson had to say at the time:
“We all had great performances, we got to showcase our abilities.
(On draft uncertainty) The top five, you can name them, after that, it’s anybody’s game. Each team, they have so many different needs. Frustrating thing because you have so many players, teams can’t decide. Definitely want to come out and make a statement, pretty much show them why they should take you.
(Stock) My stock is just first round. I’m hoping to go lottery, just because I played on such a loaded team, we were loaded, anybody could score on any given night. I think because my numbers dropped, teams don’t believe I can score as well, can’t rebound. I think that’s why they’re a little hesitant.
Main thing (trying to show) is I can shoot the ball. Mid-range jumper and my three. Post game can improve. Just a hard worker who can run up and down and not get tired. Still more comfortable with my back to the basket, but I’m definitely improving on my faceup.
Ball-handling, to really take a big man off the dribble. Can improve on that.”
Now, some takeaways from the game:
- Amir Johnson finished off a stellar road trip with one of the best games of his carer. He set a new scoring high and also locked down all-star Pau Gasol when he was guarding him. It will be interesting to see whether Johnson, one of the more valuable Raptors on the trade market, gets moved, or sticks around as a building block.
- Was strange to see the Raptors run so many pick and rolls after rarely doing so for most of the season. They ran more in some quarters than they had in many entire games. Much of the time they worked as well. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more offensive movement and two-man play from here on.
- Julyan Stone did a nice job in the backup role. Maye not statistically, but he moved the ball around, got it to the right people in the right spots and did his usual solid job defensively. Once Lowry is moved, Stone will get a lot of time behind or beside Vasquez, given his major defensive issues.
- The effort of Terrence Ross on the glass was impressive. He was using his top tier athleticism to search out putbacks and got way above the rim many times. He needs to be more than just a shooter. He has the jumping ability to go over people to get the ball. This deal and a likely follow-up sending John Salmons elsewhere, should open up lots of time for Ross to develop and show what he can do.
- It’s going to take some time for Kobe Bryant to start looking like anything close to Kobe Bryant again. Figure at least a month before he’s feeling comfortable on the court again. He looked way off on Sunday.