The last major roster move made by former Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo came prior to 2013's trade deadline, when Toronto sent Jose Calderon to the Pistons and Ed Davis and a draft pick to the Grizzlies in order to land Rudy Gay. Gay is viewed by many as one of the league's more talented scorers, but has seen his shooting percentages and efficiency ratings slide over the last few seasons.
The acquisition of Gay appeared to be a last-ditch effort by Colangelo to save his job, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful, as the Raptors replaced him with Masai Ujiri this summer. With Colangelo no longer in the picture in Toronto, and Gay headed for free agency as soon as next offseason, it's worth considering exactly how the veteran forward fits in the team's long-term plans.
Several weeks after the deal with the Grizzlies was finalized, a report surfaced suggesting that the Raptors were likely to offer Gay a contract extension when he became eligible. At the time, I looked into the possibility, breaking down the numbers and determining what a max extension for Gay would look like. But with Ujiri calling the shots now in Colangelo's place, it seems highly unlikely that such an offer will be made to Gay anytime soon.
Of course, an extension offer for Gay wouldn't necessarily have to be for the max, but if he didn't receive a substantial offer, the 27-year-old would have no reason to seriously consider it. After all, he has plenty of flexibility when it comes to his free agency — he'll earn about $17.89MM in 2013/14, then will decide between exercising a $19.32MM option for 2014/15 or hitting free agency in search of a new, long-term contract.
It's still too early to tell exactly what Ujiri and the Raptors' new decision-making team thinks of Gay, but they don't seem interested in shopping him yet. The Pistons reportedly offered a pair of expiring contracts for Gay earlier in the offseason, but were quickly shot down by the Raps, who aren't looking to move the UConn product, especially not for such a light return.
There's some optimism from out of Toronto that a surgical procedure on Gay's eyes will help to reverse the trend of his declining shooting percentages. Despite problems with his vision, Gay never felt comfortable wearing goggles or contact lenses, and finally had surgery this summer that the team hopes will make a difference, as head coach Dwane Casey told the Sporting News last month.
"I am keeping my fingers crossed," Casey said. "For some players, they get that done and it is like seeing a new rim. Hopefully, the same thing happens with him."
The Raptors likely won't make any final decisions on Gay until they see how he fares this season, with a full training camp in Toronto, and hopefully with improved vision. As Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote in July, the Raps privately expressed a belief that Gay would opt out of his current deal in the summer of 2014, so this season will be a crucial one for both the team and player.
I don't think the Raptors will make an extension offer, now that Colangelo isn't making Toronto's basketball decisions — if the club decides it wants to hang on to Gay long-term, a new deal in free agency next summer is the more likely scenario. But if the Raptors struggle in the first half, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Gay become one of the biggest names on the trade market for the second straight deadline.
Trading a big-name scorer for a variety of useful parts is nothing new to Ujiri, who completed a similar deal in Denver with Carmelo Anthony. Gay won't have the same sort of trade value that Carmelo did, but Ujiri, the reigning Executive of the Year, has displayed a knack for finding some value for trade assets, as he showed early on with the Raptors when he landed a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani. It'll be interesting to see how Gay and the Raps come out of the gate this season, since the forward's performance and the team's success (or lack thereof) should play a significant role in determining Gay's future.