New Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera may be making a move his team needs to make, even if it won’t be a popular one among Memphis fans.
Speculation about the departure of Rudy Gay ended Wednesday night when a trade was finalized between Memphis and Toronto. It will send Gay to the Raptors for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon.
Calderon will be shipped to Detroit, making it a three-team deal. Detroit is sending TayShaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis.
It’s a move for the future, but Memphis fans thought Gay and Zach Randolph would stay in place, especially on a team that currently sits fourth in the Western Conference.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins had repeatedly said that he wanted to keep his core in place for a playoff run. That looked possible once Memphis sent reserves Marreese Speights, Josh Selby and Wayne Ellington to Cleveland last week.
But Memphis kept its options open and is now very clear of the new CBA tax penalties, a must for the smaller-market teams.
It is a bold move for a Memphis team in the thick of the playoff chase, even if it is meant to help balance the team’s salary issues.
Gay was the team’s leading scorer and is in the third year of a five-year deal. He is due $16.5 million this season and $37 million over the next two seasons.
On the court, Prince will ease some of Gay’s loss at starting forward for less than half the cost.
Prince is shooting more than 43 percent from 3-point range and his contract calls for two years and $15 million. He is a solid defender and will have the luxury of two big men, both solid passers.
The moves turn Memphis into a post-centered team with Randolph and Marc Gasol. While fans don’t typically take much interest in financial matters, they should see a team that will now primarily focus on the inside, much like the team that won the franchise’s only playoff series in 2010. Randolph is second in the league in double-doubles and will now take on the role of team superstar.
He has 28 double-doubles, one back of David Lee coming into Wednesday, scoring 15.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Gasol averages 13.7 points and eight rebounds. He has spent all four of his NBA seasons in Memphis.
Fans see a backward move for a contending team, but Memphis has now cut more than $12 million off its payroll and can seek less expensive depth on its roster.
The Raptors will also send a second-round pick to Memphis, with the Grizzlies sending little-used center Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors.
Davis will bring a rebounding presence to the Grizzlies and should be able to give the team the minutes Haddadi never did.
Haddadi has been with the Grizzlies since 2008 and has never averaged more than seven minutes per game. He averaged a point and two rebounds per game.
Davis, a power forward, averages nearly seven rebounds and just under 10 points in 24 minutes per game.
Memphis is in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Thursday, but point guard Mike Conley tweeted a simple, “Wow” Wednesday afternoon.
Dallas was rumored to be an interested party, but Memphis wanted swingman Vince Carter, whom the Mavericks were reportedly unwilling to deal.
The Grizzlies had hoped that Gay, 26, would blossom into a superstar during his six seasons in Memphs. But he’s averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds this season, not enough to justify his lofty salary.
Davis and Calderon have each spent their entire careers with the Raptors. Calderon is in his eighth season, averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists per game.
Memphis trades youth for a 10-year veteran in Prince. He will save Memphis a significant amount of money, but provides the Grizzlies a double-digit scorer. He has averaged 12.8 points per game for his career, all with Detroit.
Daye, a 2009 draft pick, has averaged 5.1 points in about 15 minutes per game this season for the Pistons.