By Brian Martin
Whenever a big trade is made in the NBA -- or any professional sports league for that matter -- the debate begins about which team won the trade. First, it's speculative, then after a few weeks of play to evaluate, we can really see which team benefited most from the deal.
In the case of the Rudy Gay trade between the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings last month, we have the rare win-win scenario. Five weeks after the deal, both teams have seen positive results from the trade.
While trade was finalized on Dec. 9, we're going to use Dec. 7 as our benchmark date for looking at before and after stats for the Raptors. With the deal imminent, the Raptors held Gay out of the lineup for the team's Dec. 8 game against the Los Angeles Lakers -- a game they would win without Gay, a precursor of things to come after the deal was completed.
Toronto has played 36 games this season: 18 with Rudy Gay, posting a 6-12 record; and 18 without him, posting a 13-5 record.
Let's take a closer look at the numbers to find the keys to the turnaround.
Before the trade, the Raptors had a net rating of -1.1, scoring 101.0 points per 100 possessions while allowing 102.1. Since the trade, their net rating has dramatically improved to +8.5 as the Raptors are scoring 105.7 points per 100 possessions while allowing just 97.2.
Their 8.5 net rating since Dec. 7 is best in the Eastern Conference and second in the league only to the Oklahoma City Thunder at 10.7. Eastern Conference frontrunners Miami and Indiana have net ratings of 7.1 and 6.8, respectively, during that time.
|W-L||6-12 (.333)||13-5 (.722)|
Post-trade: Game played since Dec. 8
Before the trade, Gay led the Raptors in usage rate, at 30.1%, meaning that every three out of 10 Raptors possessions ended in either a Gay shot attempt (made or missed) or turnover. And unfortunately, Gay was only shooting 38.8% from the field with that high usage rate.
The Raptors had just three players average double figures in scoring -- DeMar DeRozan (21.3), Gay (19.4) and Kyle Lowry (14.3). Since the trade, that number has jumped to five, with DeRozan still leading the way (21.2 points) though now he's joined by Lowry (17.6), Terrence Ross (12.7), Jonas Valanciunas (12.2) and Amir Johnson (11.9).
Part of that balanced scoring attack is an increase in sharing the ball as the Raptors' assist percentage has skyrocketed since the trade, jumping from 49.2% to 60.5%.
Ross and Valanciunas have been two of the biggest beneficiaries of the trade for the Raptors. Ross is playing nearly 12 more minutes per game and has seen his production rise accordingly. Valanciunas doesn't have as big of a minutes bump, but has increased his production with additional touches and increased efficiency.
So after reading all of that, it looks like the Raptors were the clear-cut winners of this deal. Using the addition-by-subtraction theory, they removed a high-usage, inefficient player and have seen the remaining players -- along with solid, but not spectacular, contributions from the new players they got in the deal (Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons) -- play better in his absence.
Not so fast.
When we look at what Sacramento has done since the trade, we also see an improved record since Gay arrived in to California's capital city.
The Kings were 6-14 in games played through Dec. 11. While the trade was agreed upon on Dec. 9, Gay was unavailable in the Kings' game on Dec. 11 as they were awaiting a physical to be completed by Vasquez to finalize the deal. Gay made his Kings' debut on Dec. 13 in Phoenix, scoring 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a 116-107 loss to the Suns.
Despite that loss, the Kings have gone 7-8 since Gay's arrival, including a current season-long, three-game win streak. The addition of a third primary scorer to join DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas has boosted the Kings offensive efficiency by 5.3 points per 100 possessions. Sacramento's 107.2 offensive rating since the trade is good for ninth in the league.
|Pre-Trade||Post-Trade||W-L||6-14 (.300)||7-8 (.467)|
Post-trade: Games played since Dec. 13
In 15 games with the Kings, Gay is averaging 20.5 points on 52.3 percent shooting from the field. The biggest knock on Gay was his inefficiency on offense. In Toronto, he led the team in field goal attempts (18.6) while shooting under 39 percent. In Sacramento, he is third in field goal attempts (14.7) and has improved his shooting by 13.5 percent. Gay is averaging 1.1 more points per game while taking four fewer shots.
Rudy Gay Shot Chart (Raptors)
Rudy Gay Shot Chart (Kings)
Before the trade, the Kings net efficiency rating was -3.1, as they scored 101.9 points per 100 possessions while giving up 105.1. Since the trade, they are in the positive in net rating at 0.4, scoring 107.2 points per 100 possessions while allowing 106.8.
Defense has been a struggle for the Kings all season, and through 15 games it has been slightly worse since the trade. However, in the team's current three-game win streak, the Kings have allowed just 94.1 points per 100 possessions. While they are unlikely to maintain that level of defensive efficiency, any improvement would be a welcomed sight for head coach Michael Malone and likely lead to more victories.
While most stats have been trending up since the trade, the one key exception has been Sacramento's assist percentage, which has dropped from 58.4 percent before the trade to 49.5 percent since. Earlier we pointed out that the Raptors' assist percentage improved dramatically since trading Rudy Gay and the Kings' assist rate has dropped since his arrival.
Although there has been less ball movement in Sacramento since Gay's arrival, the Kings' effective field goal percentage has risen to 51.3% over the last 15 games, good for eighth in the league over that time.
The Kings will attempt to move to .500 since the trade on Tuesday night as they visit the Indiana Pacers to open a six-game road trip.