The Los Angeles Clippers face the Toronto Raptors north of the border tonight. The Raptors just pulled off a big trade, acquiring Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies. First Vince Carter and then Chris Bosh left Toronto and the Raptors have coveted a "star" ever since, but it remains to be seen if Gay is that guy. It's just one of the subjects that makes the Raptors fascinating right now, and of course it's the question I lead with.
Steve Perrin: Is Rudy Gay the solution, or just another problem?
Scott Campsall: This is not an easy question to answer. I wrote a little bit about it here.
The addition of Rudy Gay gives the Raptors a potential franchise player. At the moment, he is having one of the worst years of his career and he comes with an extremely expensive price tag. But, the fact remains that he is very talented and has the potential to be a star player on this team. Keep in mind that the Raptors are a team that has never attracted a big-name free agent, so going after one via trade seems to be the only way to acquire one since this team doesn't have a first round pick and will not be near the bottom of the league in the standings. The move though, is a big-time gamble.
To answer your question more directly, Gay is not the solution - not the only solution anyway. How well this trade works out for the Raptors has a great to do with the next few moves that management makes. If they can get out from under Bargnani and/or Fields' contracts while adding another point guard and a productive big-man, then this trade will look much better than it does at this point in time.
SP: I'm sure you're sick of this subject, but with Andrea Bargnani close to returning to action it's timely. The Raptors were 4-18 in the 22 games Bargnani played to start the season; they then won 10 of 13 right after Bargs got hurt. Forget PER and Wins Produced and whether he's soft -- the evidence, circumstantial though it may be, is pretty strong that he's not helping the team win. What is the expectation in Toronto at this point? After Rashard Lewis, we now know that no one is completely untradeable, but given his contract and his reputation, what can the Raptors realistically expect to get for him? Is this a situation where they'll have to package him with a draft pick just to get someone to take him?
SC: This is a subject that has been debated for years now in Toronto. Bargnani has been largely inconsistent, inefficient and extremely frustrating for quite some time. Aside from that 13-game stretch last season where it seemed as though he was finally breaking through, he has failed to live up to even the most modest of expectations. All that is to say that if I were a betting man, I would say Bargnani is on another team come next season.
Bryan Colangelo basically admitted yesterday that he is shopping the 7-footer and frankly, I cannot imagine what type of offers, if any, he is receiving. I can't see many teams giving up any sort of upper-level talent for him. It would be more realistic to expect the Raptors to have to accept some sort of bad contract in return, or as you suggested, they may have to surrender another future first round pick. What transpires with Bargnani over the course of next few weeks will go a long way in determining the future of this franchise.
SP: Bargnani aside, what is the explanation for the team's turnaround? And the more recent turn-around-around, losing 7 of 9? If you don't mind me saying so, the team seems a little streaky.
SC: That is a very fair statement to make. The team has been very streaky this season and a lot of that has to due with the injuries and the ever-changing lineups that have resulted from those injures. When Bargnani and Lowry went down, the dynamic of the team changed quite a bit. Alan Anderson had just returned from injury, giving the Raps a lift on both ends of the floor.
It also seemed as though the team was enjoying playing with one another, which again, is sort of an indictment of Bargnani. The Raptors also had a favorable home-heavy schedule, which is certainly a big part of that run.
Lately though, many of their losses have come as a result of their inability to close out games. They have constantly let lead slips away and are now 1-19 in games decided by five points or less in the last three minutes of play. A big part of that has to do with their lack of a true closer, which is part of what makes Rudy Gay an attractive acquisition on paper.
SP: I enjoy watching international competitions and saw a fair amount of Jonas Valanciunas in EuroBasket and in the Olympics but I've barely watched him in the NBA. His numbers before he got hurt were decent for a 20 year old rookie big man. What's the early verdict? Is he going to be the star many predicted? I love his length and athleticism but he sure needs to get stronger it seems to me.
SC: It has been a small sample size, but Valanciunas has all the makings of a future impact player in this league. He is athletic, long, has great hands and the work ethic necessary to reach his potential (He can be seen working tirelessly out on the court with coaches two and half hours before every home game). Having said that, he is at least two years away from being the type of player that many hope he will become. He is still learning the game - defensive rotations are one of his biggest weaknesses at this point - and he definitely needs to get stronger. However, I have seen nothing from him so far that would indicate to me that he would fall short of expectations.
SP: Aaron Gray? Really?
SC: MVP, baby.
SP: Both the Raptors and the Clippers have enjoyed the services of Reggie Evans in recent years. My question is, who's got the better beard: Reggie or Quincy Acy? I was watching the Raptors last week and I couldn't figure out who Acy was. He looks like he's in his mid-30s at least, not a 22 year old rookie. Is that just the beard or does he have an old guy face?
SC: Great question. Originally I might have said Reggie, but after seeing Quincy grow out his beard for "no shave November" I think he gets the nod. Evans gets the beard length, but Acy has the beard thickness, which, I think we can all agree is key to having a great beard.
From a distance, he may look like that old guy hustlin' at the Y during a pickup game, but from up close, he looks much younger. That beard is aging him up, for sure.
Thanks to Scott for taking the time to provide these terrific insights into an increasingly intriguing Raptors team. Be sure to head over to Raptors HQ where you can study up on all thing Raptors and also read my answers to his questions.