We've known for some time that the front office wanted to get under the tax for next season. So it wasn't a surprise that the Grizzlies finally traded Rudy Gay to Toronto for Jose Calderon and Ed Davis. Toronto got rid of Calderon because his contract ends after this season. And for some reason they think Andrea Bargiani is better than Ed Davis, especially while Davis is on his rookie contract.
The only problem I had with this deal is that while Calderon is very good and Davis is pretty good, their positions don't fit with what the Grizzlies need. Davis should be a good backup to Zach Randolph and possibly Marc Gasol if he can play center. But Calderon is too good to be a backup to Mike Conley at PG, or vice versa since you could argue Calderon is better.
Just after I questioned who would play SF, the Grizzlies traded Calderon to the Pistons for Tayshaun Prince. Prince is making about 7-8 million for the next two years. So that, combined with Davis salary at about 2 million, gets the Griz below the tax. Prince is in his early 30s. So he isn't a long term solution. But frankly, I think simply getting rid of Rudy Gay's contract is a good thing. Don't get me wrong. Rudy Gay can be a good player. He was having a bad year this season. But he was just never worth a max deal. And it's better to keep paying better players while trying to find a cheaper alternative at SF.
One criticism I've heard a lot is why would the Grizzlies risk the success they are having this season. We are 4th in the West with Rudy Gay. The argument goes, why then would you mess with that when you can play the season out and trade him in the offseason. Well, as I said, Gay has been having a bad season. He's shooting 40% and 30% from 3. His rebounding and other parts of the game are about average. What that amounts to according to NBA Geek's formula is him getting the Grizzlies 1.3 wins this season. The average for a SF is 2. It's possible he could improve, getting back to his career levels and help the team go deep in the playoffs. But it's also possible that he keeps up this pace and really hurts the team's chances.
At this point Prince is playing better than Gay (43% from 3) and at half the cost. You could argue that Prince is less likely to play well from here on out. He is obviously past his prime, his last above average year being 2010-11. I would tend to agree if you said that Gay should play better than Prince next year. But one reason I like this deal and why it might improve the team this year is that Prince has always been a pretty good 3 point shooter, career 37%. So while he might regress from the 43% he's shooting so far, I don't think he'll drop too far. And 3 point shooting is something the Grizzlies badly need (we're 1.3% below league average and we're 29th in attempts). Gay has only had two years in which he was above average from 3 and for his career his is below average from 3 for a SF.
If Prince can just be average in most areas of the game while shooting above average from 3 the Griz should improve. I'm not sure it will be enough to beat the Thunder, Spurs and Clippers. But we should be able to keep the 4th seed. And we'll be able to do so without paying the tax. I'd say that makes this a good trade.