By Rob Mahoney
The Grizzlies already succeeded in clearing the luxury-tax threshold for this season thanks to last week's trade with Cleveland. But they're wasting no time in cleaning up their long-term finances, too.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Memphis will actualize the long-standing Rudy Gay trade rumors by sending the 26-year-old forward to the Raptors as part of what amounts to a three-team, six-player deal that also includes the Pistons. The moves are technically two separate transactions. In one, the Grizzlies send Gay and center Hamed Haddadi to the Raptors in exchange for point guard Jose Calderon and power forward Ed Davis. In the other, the Grizzlies then ship Calderon to the Pistons in exchange for forwards Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
To simplify, the breakdown is as follows:
Incoming: Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Austin Daye, an undisclosed second-round pick
Outgoing: Rudy Gay, Hamed Haddadi
Incoming: Rudy Gay, Hamed Haddadi
Outgoing: Jose Calderon, Ed Davis
Incoming: Jose Calderon
Outgoing: Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye
Stein's reports indicated that the Mavericks had also been in play as a potential third team, but that a reluctance to part with Vince Carter may have prevented their involvement. Sam Amick of USA Today also reported that Boston was "in the mix" to join the deal as the third team, though now the Celtics will have to look elsewhere for point guard help with Calderon headed to Detroit. Boston announced Sunday that All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
Memphis is the most pertinent party here, as the Grizzlies have now broken up a proven nucleus while acquiring a few helpful parts that are financially palatable. Gay, averaging a team-leading 17.2 points (on 40.8 percent shooting) and 5.9 rebounds for the 29-15 Grizzlies, is making $16.5 million this season and is owed $37.2 million the next two seasons. With Gay in the fold, the Grizzlies were set to pay their four core players -- Gay, power forward Zach Randolph, center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley -- a combined $60.5 million in 2014-15.
Prince, 32, a longtime Pistons starter averaging 11.7 points, is on the books for $7.2 million next season and $7.7 million in 2014-15. Davis, 23, a starter of late in Toronto's banged-up frontcourt who is averaging 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds in 14 games this month, will make $3.2 million next season on his rookie-scale contract. Daye, 24, the 15th pick in the 2008 draft, will be a free agent after the season; he has averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game in each of the last two seasons.
Detroit may not seem like the most obvious landing spot for the 31-year-old Calderon, but the Pistons have essentially removed Prince's long-term commitment in favor of a $10.6 million expiring contract, all while getting a top-notch shooter and veteran lead guard to spearhead their improbable playoff candidacy. Calderon is averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 90.4 percent from the free-throw line. In creating even more financial flexibility, the Pistons continue to position themselves as a potential player in free agency this summer.
Toronto's goals here are harder to understand as Gay joins a wing rotation that includes DeMar DeRozan, who signed a four-year, $38 million extension in October; Terrence Ross, the eighth pick in the 2012 draft; and Landry Fields, who signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal last summer. While Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo has redeemed some value from Calderon's expiring deal and managed to get a decent return in terms of raw talent, he's also made a hard commitment to the Raptors' current core. Between recent offseason signings, a lucrative extension for DeRozan and the costly acquisition of Gay's contract, Toronto has shackled itself under the salary cap and made the task of improving the team further that much more difficult. Gay is undoubtedly the headliner of this deal, but the team that has secured his services will also have to live with the challenges of maneuvering around his massive salary for the next two seasons.