Gay old times in Toronto

Bryan Colangelo

According to reports, the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, and Detroit Pistons were involved in a three-team trade that sent Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto, Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, and one of Toronto’s 2013 second-round draft picks to Memphis, as well as Jose Calderon to Detroit. Fans across the league seem to believe that the Raptors won the trade — a poll of over 47 000 fans on ESPN has 53% believing that Toronto got the best of the deal, compared to 34% for Memphis and 13% for Detroit. Who really won the deal?

In order to tackle this question properly, we need to know how productive these players have been for their teams this season. Luckily, we can use Wins Produced, a method that uses boxscore statistics to determine the number of wins a player has contributed to their team. The numbers for each player (as well as each team!) are available via the NBA Geek:

Player Pos. Minutes Played Wins Produced per 48 minutes Wins Produced Points over Par per 48 Points per Game
Jose Calderon PG 1273 0.234 6.2 4.2 11.1
Ed Davis PF 1087 0.191 4.3 2.9 9.7
Austin Daye SF 348 0.137 1.0 1.2 5.1
Tayshaun Prince SF 1457 0.087 2.6 -0.4 11.7
Rudy Gay SF 1541 0.040 1.3 -1.8 17.2
Hamed Haddadi C 87 -0.002 0.0 -3.2 1.2

Fans, coaches, and even GMs overwelmingly use points per game (PPG) as a way to measure player performance. When we look at this trade through the PPG lens, we see that Toronto is getting the “best” player in the deal, whereas Memphis has traded away the “best” player and is getting two players who only score around 10 PPG — not very impressive. And Detroit has simply traded one 11 PPG scorer for another. According to this view, it’s clear that Toronto “won” the talent part of the trade.

But scoring points is just one aspect of basketball. Basketball players must gain and keep possession of the ball, as well as score their points efficiently. And PPG doesn’t even tell us how a player scores their points. If Rudy Gay takes 30 shots a game to score his 17 points, he’s not actually good at scoring.

And that is why we use Wins Produced. Wins Produced takes all the contributions that are recorded in the boxscore and turns it into a number that relates back to wins created and lost. An average player produces 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48) and nets his team 0.0 points over par per 48 minutes (PoP48).

In this deal Toronto has traded away two very productive players for two rather unproductive players. As a matter of fact, Calderon and Davis have produced the second most and 10th most wins at their respective positions this season. On the other hand, Gay and Haddadi have both produced at a below-average level this season. In Kyle Lowry, Toronto still has an excellent point guard who can replace Calderon. But Lowry has missed significant time with injuries this season, and the trade leaves the team without a productive backup point guard. With Ed Davis gone, the team does not have a productive power forward at the moment — except for Quincy Acy, a rookie who has only played 140 minutes so far this season.

Looking from Memphis’ perspective, they turned Gay and Haddadi into a young, underrated big man (Davis) and two average small forwards in Prince and Daye. Prince and Daye will be able to surpass Gay’s production at small forward, and the Grizz now have a player who can split time with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the front court. While this isn’t much of an upgrade in the short-term, Ed Davis will be perfectly poised to replace Randolph when age and injuries take their toll.

Detroit took two average small forwards and turned them into an excellent point guard. This is big news for the Pistons because point guard is the team’s weakest position, and Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko should be able to approach Prince and Daye’s production. Although Calderon is in the last year of his contract, a temporary upgrade at point guard makes it very likely that Detroit will make the playoffs this season.

But these deals were not solely made with player productivity in mind. NBA players also have contracts, and often NBA trades are largely about money. In fact, many believe this trade to be Memphis’ response to increasingly harsh luxury tax rules. But this trade starts to look even more skewed against Toronto when we look at the contracts.

Player Old Team New Team 2012-13 Salary ($ millions) Total Salary ($ millions) Years Remaining*
Jose Calderon TOR DET 10.6 10.6 1
Ed Davis TOR MEM 2.2 9.7 3
Austin Daye DET MEM 3.0 7.1 2
Tayshaun Prince DET MEM 6.8 21.7 3
Rudy Gay MEM TOR 16.5 53.7 3
Hamed Haddadi MEM TOR 1.3 2.7 2
Toronto Net: +5.0 +36.1
Memphis Net: -5.8 -17.9
Detroit Net: +0.8 -18.2
*includes qualifying offers and team options

Toronto is adding $5 million this season and $36 million over the next three; Memphis is saving $5.8 million this season and $17.9 over the next three; and Detroit is adding $0.8 million this season and saving $18.2 over the next three.

To summarize:

  • Toronto will be significantly worse, traded away a draft pick, and added a lot of money to the team’s payroll.
  • Memphis will be slightly improved and will save money over both the short-term and long-term.
  • Detroit will be significantly improved and will save money over the long-term.

With this trade, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has once again shown that he does not know how to evaluate basketball players. The Raptors are now paying $34.4 million to four players — Gay, Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, and Linas Kleiza — who have produced a grand total of -0.6 wins so far this season. They will be paying these four players a grand total of $117.5 million over the next three years, and if we go by career averages, they will receive a paltry 9.6 wins over that time.

Colangelo is the person responsible for acquiring and deciding to pay each of these players. Bargnani –the worst starter in modern NBA history — and DeRozan have never been productive players, yet Colangelo signed them to huge contract extensions. Kleiza was a gamble that didn’t pay off. Memphis signed Gay to a max contract that he didn’t deserve, and by acquiring him through trade, Colangelo tacitly agrees with the amount of money Gay makes.

As long as Bryan Colangelo remains the GM, the Raptors will have a tough time making the playoffs. Under his leadership the team has wasted the performances of excellent players and squandered the affections of a loyal fanbase. This trade reverses a long-awaited promising upward trend in the team’s on-court fortunes. Canadian basketball fans can do nothing but hope that the Raptors’ new ownership realizes that Colangelo is the problem and replaces him when his contract expires at the end of the season.

– Devin

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