With the reported trade that the Sacramento Kings have moved four players to acquire Rudy Gay and two other players from the Toronto Raptors, we're taking a look at all of the moving parts and salary implications in the deal. Let's grade the trade:
We've been wondering if the Toronto Raptors would start clearing the roster and begin the rebuilding process. Ever since Masai Ujiri took over during the summer, undoing the moves of Bryan Colangelo to find a light at the end of the tunnel that isn't an oncoming salary cap train has been the goal for this organization. By moving the big money owed to Rudy Gay over this season and next season ($37.2 million total), the Raptors have seemingly punted on competing for the Atlantic division title (or have they?) and will begin setting themselves up for the future.
Of the four players they've acquired in this deal, only Hayes is definitely signed through next season. Salmons makes $7 million in 2014-15 but only $1 million of it is guaranteed if he's waived before June 30, 2014 (per ShamSports). Vasquez and Patterson are both restricted free agents this summer if they receive qualifying offers from the Raptors. Considering the interest those two should draw and the relatively low cap holds their qualifying offers would command ($7.7 million for Patterson, $5.3 million for Vasquez), attempting to retain their restricted free agency rights wouldn't be a bad place holder while they get their plan into place.
The Raptors could decline to offer qualifying offers and have as much as $12 million in cap space this summer before you factor in their slotted salary for wherever their draft pick lands. Toronto has given themselves financial breathing room in terms of commitment and could even clear more space if they decide to waive Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough, although that probably isn't likely as of right now.
The bottom line of this trade seems to be the Raptors are setting themselves up for the draft while making sure their salary cap situation is improved. It's the opposite of the desperate moves we saw Colangelo make in the year before he was replaced. Now Ujiri has moved Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay ($60 million committed over this season and next season combined) in exchange for valuable trade assets/role players and a draft pick in the trade with the Knicks.
They now have 16 players under contract and will have to waive someone. Julyan Stone is the only player on the roster right now with a non-fully guaranteed deal for this season. With the acquisition of Vasquez, he may be a position casualty of this deal.
The Sacramento Kings are certainly swinging for the fences here. They've managed to acquire a player with seemingly star quality (well, a lower tier star) without having to give up anything from their young core of DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Williams, and Ben McLemore. While committing $19 million to the books next year for Gay is a pretty big deal for them, they now have a big expiring contract heading into next season of a very talented player.
The key to how much you like this trade for the Kings is how much you believe Gay is salvageable as an impact player. His impact with the Raptors has been better than expected for those that aren't a fan of his shot selection and hatred of box scores. After the Raptors acquired him last season, they saw an 11.5 point swing with him on the court. They were -9.6 per 100 possessions with him on the bench and +1.9 with him on the floor.
This season, we didn't see such a big impact with the Raptors at a -1.2 with him on the bench and -1.0 with him on the floor. He's still struggling to hit shots (38.8 percent this season, 40.9 percent the last two seasons), but the defensive focus he draws could be a positive if you use it correctly. For the Kings, this would mean Williams and Cousins pounding the offensive glass when his errant shots carom off the iron.
I don't think this is necessarily a win or a loss for the Kings in this trade. Pete D'Alessandro has had only a few months to shape what was a ruddeless ship and he's in the process of overhauling this roster and building around their young big man. It will be interesting to see if he values Gay as a long-term piece or if he tries to flip him this summer to a contender looking for some "scoring punch." You know, a scoring punch that really pummels the rim.
The Kings have added salary over the next season-plus, but they have oodles of cap room coming to them in the summer of 2015 when they'll have more than enough room to add a max player via trade or free agency. We may need to wait until that summer to truly know how D'Alessandro did in this deal.