By William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle)
The NBA’s meta-season within its season was abruptly kick-started last week when the Memphis Grizzlies shipped most of their bench off to Cleveland for a seldom-used role player, Jon Leuer, and a little bit of luxury tax freedom. After that deal was completed, speculation ran rampant as to whether or not the Grizzlies were done maneuvering. Yesterday, they obviously proved they weren’t.
By now, I’m sure you know the details, but just in case you’ve missed it:
Memphis Grizzlies receive:
C Ed Davis (from Toronto)
Second-round draft pick (from Toronto)
F Tayshaun Prince (from Detroit)
F Austin Daye (from Detroit)
Toronto Raptors receive:
F Rudy Gay (from Memphis)
C Hamed Haddadi (from Memphis)
Detroit Pistons receive:
G Jose Calderon (from Toronto)
That’s a lot to dissect. It’s important to keep in mind the motivation, both basketball and financial, that causes deals like this one to get done. For the Grizzlies, it’s mostly financial – Gay is due to make more than $37 million over the next two seasons, and their new ownership group seems bound and determined to avoid the luxury tax, no matter what it takes. Tayshaun Prince is a downgrade from Rudy Gay, but will bring professionalism and defense to Memphis – opposing small forwards have compiled just a 10.8 PER against him this season. Austin Daye likely won’t be much of a factor, and the second round pick should be a fairly high one, but is, after all, still just a second round pick. As for Ed Davis… more on him in a bit.
Detroit had to part with a franchise cornerstone and fan favorite (Prince) but garnered a solid point guard (Calderon) with an expiring contract in the process, freeing them up to make a potential run at free agents in the summer. It’s the kind of deal smart teams make to create cap space and enable themselves to build around the young talent already in place – notably Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight.
There are a lot of reasons to hate the deal for Toronto, and since most of the basketball-writing world has spent the past 18 or so hours hashing those out in superlative detail, I’ll provide the Cliff’s Notes version here: After taking on Gay’s salary, the Raptors will have more than $147 million (through 2014-15) committed to five guys (Gay, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Landry Fields and DeMar DeRozan) who probably should never all be on the floor at the same time. None of the five are true franchise players, and the team will have no money left to maneuver any further. Terrence Ross, Toronto’s promising 8th overall pick of this past year’s draft [editor's note: LET ROSS DUNK!], will immediately move behind Gay in the line for minutes, which will likely stunt his development.
As if all that wasn’t enough to sour your taste on the deal from Toronto’s end – the Raptors also sent Ed Davis, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, to Memphis. A 6’10 big man out of the University of North Carolina, Davis has rebounded nicely from his sophomore slump, when he averaged 6 points and 6 boards on 51% shooting. Since he started receiving consistent minutes following Andrea Bargnani’s injury, “Boss” has put up a 13/8/2 line on 55% shooting from the floor. He turns 24 in June and is still on his rookie deal through next season, in which he’ll earn $3 million. The Toronto coaching staff and front office spent a lot of time molding his considerable talent, only to jettison him a month and a half after it started to really pay off.
Toronto is also painfully ignorant of history – while trading away lottery picks that “haven’t developed quickly enough” for short-term answers is tempting, smart teams don’t engage in such behavior. There are plenty of examples of high draft picks who needed a few years of experience before turning into above-average players.
When it clicked…
Steve Nash (1996)
5th season, 2nd team,26 years old
237 games, 7/2/444/40/85 shooting%
70 games, 16/3/748/40/90 shooting%
Chauncey Billups (1997)
6th season, 5th team,26 years old
297 games, 11/2/440/36/87 shooting%
74 games, 16/4/442/39/88 shooting%
Jermaine O’Neal (1996)
5th season, 2nd team,22 years old
210 games, 4/3/047/0/56 shooting%
81 games, 13/10/147/0/60 shooting%
Joe Johnson (2001)
3rd season, 2nd team,22 years old
159 games, 9/3/241/34/77 shooting%
82 games, 15/4/443/31/75 shooting%
Jermaine O’Neal was 23 when he made his first All-Star Game – the rest were all over the age of 25 and had already completed at least five seasons in the league. I’m not saying Ed Davis is a surefire bet to be a future All-Star – but three years from now, he’ll be the most important player left from this deal, and it won’t be close. Fan expectations are colored by exceptions to the norm – we all want lottery picks to come in immediately and succeed. Young, gifted big men don’t just appear out of nowhere, and often require a little grooming and patience before you see a payoff. I would have expected Toronto to be just the place for Davis to get the time necessary to see if he could take the next step; instead, we’re going to find out if he can adjust to being a role player on a playoff team.
To complicate things further, Davis is going to a Memphis team with two terrific (and entrenched) frontcourt players in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and another forward(Darrell Arthur) who is well-liked by the Grizzlies’ coaching staff. He’s now the fourth-best big man in a loaded frontcourt, meaning he can kiss the regular minutes he was receiving in Toronto good-bye. It’s a shame, really. He’s a solid, if unspectacular, rebounder. He’s posting above-average shooting percentages everywhere from the rim-to-15 feet. His defense needs some work, but has been coming along since his inauspicious rookie year.
Memphis had problems scoring before the deal, and still will – but at least they get some financial freedom, and a young player with a lot of potential along with it. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the roster responds to the deal, or if Memphis is done making moves. Oftentimes, folks are too quick to pass final judgment on trades – and while I’m tempted to say Memphis clearly got the better end of the transaction, much of the outcome depends on Ed Davis, and how he develops in the coming year and a half.
BreakTheHuddle primarily covers the MASH-unit otherwise known as the Minnesota Timberwolves. Leave a comment below, follow him on Twitter @BreakTheHuddle or email him at BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com.