In an effort to reduce payroll, the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the top teams in the Western Conference, traded one of the top young talents in the league, Rudy Gay, to Toronto in a six-player deal that likely will shrink the team into an also-ran.
A little more than a week ago, the Grizzlies traded valuable reserve Marreese Speights and two other players to Cleveland in a move that cleared $6.4 million in salaries and avoided a $4 million luxury tax hit this season. Team officials said that move put the Grizzlies in position not to have to make another salary-conscious move this season.
And then the Grizzlies moved Gay, who averaged 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds. But the numbers that really matter to Memphis are in his contract: He signed a five-year, $82 million maximum contract in July 2010. The 6-foot-8 small forward is due $16.5 million this season with $37 million more over the next two years. That’s a big number for new owner Robert Pera, who took over the franchise last November and has quickly started addressing the team’s salary situation.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins is hopeful the team could be held together the rest of the season, knowing it has a chance to challenge for the conference title. The Grizzlies are fourth in the Western Conference and three games behind the third-place Clippers.
“Wow,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley tweeted when he learned Gay had been moved.
Trading Gay also eases a luxury tax hit due next season, while concentrating the team around center Marc Gasol and all-star forward Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies had their best playoff run in 2011 when they knocked off then-No. 1 seed San Antonio, before losing to Oklahoma City in seven games in the Western semifinals — all with Gay on the bench after season-ending shoulder surgery.
“Wow that was 1 crazy trade today,” Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins tweeted. “Are you serious? Rudy Gay is right there under KD, Lebron, Kobe, and Melo. #badtrade.”
The Grizzlies, acquired forward Ed Davis and guard Jose Calderon from Toronto; backup center Hamed Haddadi went to the Raptors. Memphis then shipped Calderon to Detroit for Austin Dave and Tayshaun Prince.
The Grizzlies also received a 2013 second-round pick from Toronto as part of the deal.
“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,” Memphis general manager Chris 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.”