After years—literally, years—of speculation, the Memphis Grizzlies finally traded Rudy Gay.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Grizzlies agreed to send Gay to the Toronto Raptors in a three-team deal that lands them Ed Davis from Toronto and Tayshaun Prince from the Detroit Pistons:
The Grizzlies, Raptors and Pistons agreed to a six-player trade Wednesday that sent star swingman Rudy Gay to Toronto.
The Grizzlies, in the midst of a money-motivated makeover, acquired forward Ed Davis and veteran guard Jose Calderon in the deal that also sent backup center Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors.
Memphis then shipped Calderon to Detroit for Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince.
The Grizzlies also received a 2013 second-round pick from Toronto as part of the deal.
Moving on from the obvious salary dump this was for Memphis, Gay and Jose Calderon have just made things seriously interesting in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
With Rajon Rondo out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, the Boston Celtics’ hold on that eighth and final playoff spot doesn’t seem so certain. They’re 2-0 without their crafty floor general, yet the stage is set for them to fade off into oblivion.
Enter the Pistons and Raptors.
Detroit is currently 5.5 games back of the Boston, and Toronto 6.5. Before the Pistons and Raptors, there are the Philadelphia 76ers, who are just three games back as they await the return of Andrew Bynum.
Things are about to tighten up in the East.
In Calderon, the Pistons have their first legitimate floor general in years. He can help push the pace in ways that Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight can’t, and stands to turn both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe into more lethal forces than they already are. His dribble penetration should also have a positive impact on shooters like Knight, Stuckey and even Jonas Jerebko as well.
I won’t pretend like Calderon turns Detroit into a title contender, but he does give the team an opportunity to pick up some serious ground on the Celtics for the rest of the season and even the Sixers before they get Bynum back.
Much of the same goes for the Raptors, only more so. Though they’re 6.5 games back, Gay’s presence gives them both a potent scorer and defender, the kind of talent they haven’t had in years.
While Gay must continue to work on his efficiency from the floor, his ability to create his own shot and understated court vision should do wonders for young guns like DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields and Terrence. Toss in the likes of Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry, and you have a serious force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.
My gut tells me that the eighth seed will belong to Philadelphia or Boston upon season’s end, but I haven’t counted out Detroit or Toronto at all. The Raptors especially peak my interest in a weak and wide-open Eastern Conference. They’re clearly built for a playoff run and if they rattle off a few straight victories, they could find themselves in the playoff picture.
Obviously, there’s still plenty left to figure out. Boston’s performance without Rondo is key, as is the return of Bynum in Philadelphia. Josh Smith’s future in Atlanta is also worth mentioning too. If the Hawks opt to trade him that could diminish their hopes of clinching a playoff berth and open the door further for Detroit and/or Toronto.
Most seasons, we’re treated to a semi-crazy finish to the regular season. Multiple teams are usually vying for that final postseason spot, which can make the last few weeks of the year quite interesting.
This season, after this trade, though, the path has been paved for an absolutely wild finish. With the Pistons and Raptors beefing up their personnel and the ambiguity that continues to plague the status of the Celtics, Sixers and even Hawks, there’s no telling what could happen between now and April.
And thus, my advice to you would be to buckle up.
Because courtesy of this Gay trade, we’re in for one hell of a bumpy ride the rest of the year.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.