ATLANTA — The aftermath of draft night and the night of a big trade in the NBA involve similar routines for the executives whose fingerprints are all over the selections and deals. Study your own handiwork hard enough and it becomes easier with each passing second to justify whatever was done in the name of the greater good.
That’s also why front office types are fond of this theory that you can’t just judge draft picks or trades on the spot. They both require a little extra time before being examined.
But that’s only in the insulated world of said front office types, the men whose jobs are on the line each and every time a draft pick busts or a prized acquisition doesn’t live up to the hype.
If you let the men in charge of sealing the multiple player, three-team deal between the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, they’ll swear under oath that the deal provided all interested parties with exactly what they were looking for.
Raptors general manager Bryant Colangelo (in the video above and here) has coveted Gay since the 2006 Draft, when the Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 overall pick, the same Bargnani they are also trying to deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace gushed about veteran forward Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye, acquired from Detroit, and promising young big man Ed Davis snagged from Toronto:
“We are excited to add three players who bring with them a tremendous amount of value to our team and have achieved incredible success on the pro, college and Olympic levels,” Wallace said in a statement. “In these players, we welcome NBA Champion and Olympic gold medalist Tayshaun Prince, as well as up-and-coming athletic forwards Ed Davis, who won an NCAA title at North Carolina, and Austin Daye.”
Pistons boss Joe Dumars was just as effusive in his praise of Jose Calderon, the veteran point guard with the expiring contract who relocates from Toronto to Detroit with his coveted expiring ($10.5 million this season) contract:
“We are pleased to welcome Jose Calderon, knowing that he fits our mold as a high character individual who is a great competitor,” Dumars said in his statement. “Jose is a great facilitator at the guard position and a player that we feel gives us tremendous flexibility on the court when added to the core of guards we have on the roster.”
The flexibility for the Pistons will come this summer in the form of the projected $35 million and change in cap space they’ll have to work with this summer in free agency (and trades). Prince’s departure also means all of the players who toiled on the Pistons’ last championship team have finally exited the premises, closing the door on one era and perhaps opening the door for another in a few months.
And in that regard, all three of these teams can and will walk away claiming victory.
The Raptors got their man in Gay, 26, a dynamic wing player from a Western Conference contender whose contract (two years and $37 million after this season) forced the Grizzlies’ financial hand more than anything. Gay is hardly the only member of the top 20 salaries list who would not make your top 20 players in the league list, but he’s far from a bust. He just hasn’t reached All-Star status (yet?).
In the Eastern Conference, the road back to respectability is often just the right player or two or one big summer away. On the other hand, the Grizzlies were forced to weigh the long-term sustainability of a salary structure that doesn’t support coming up short of the Western Conference finals.
They reduced their payroll with this deal and also shed some $6 million in payroll after completing a multiple-player deal with the Cavaliers last week. Prince, 32, whose best days in the league predate Twitter, still pays immediate dividends with his experience and leadership. Davis provides a huge development chip for the future and Daye, the No. 15 pick in the 2009 Draft, serves as the wild card, depending on how he adjusts to his new city and new role.
But the question will linger well into early spring for the Grizzlies: did they move up a spot on the Western Conference food chain, stay the same or take a step back by breaking up their promising (but expensive) core four of Gay, All-Star power forward Zach Randolph, former All-NBA center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley?
“The Thunder, Clippers and Spurs are loving this deal,” an Eastern Conference assistant general manager said late Wednesday night. “Rudy would have been someone they had to worry about if they saw Memphis in the playoffs. Tayshaun was a great piece in his prime. But he hasn’t been that guy for a few years now. The big winners in this deal are the Thunder, Clippers and Spurs.”
Perhaps it’s best to give the final word to a man whose statistical value has often paled in comparison to some of the other, tougher to quantify benefits he brings to his own particular situation …