The Memphis Grizzlies, per multiple reports, have decided not to extend a Qualifying Offer to the 25-year-old "hidden gem of the Rudy Gay trade", Ed Davis. Ed's time in Memphis has been laced with potential, disappointment, and mockery. Often the butt of jokes, Ed Davis was never able to truly live up to his hype coming out of North Carolina here in the Bluff City. Now, with Ed seemingly on his way out, it seems like a good time to revisit the highly discussed and controversial Rudy Gay trade.
First, let's take a look back at the contract extension that seems to be at the root of this entire ordeal. On July 1, 2010, Rudy Gay was scheduled to meet with the Minnesota Timberwolves on his first of several free agent visits. The then 23-year-old never made it to Minneapolis. Instead, he signed a 5-year $82 million contract extension to remain with the up-and-coming-in-the-West Memphis Grizzlies. The deal would start at $13.3 million and have an annual increase of 8% (allowed under old Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Rudy Gay was supposed to be the star that the Grizz were looking to build around. During the 2010-2011 season, it appeared that he was going to develop into such star averaging 19 points while shooting 45.5% from the field. However, over the next two season, Rudy's numbers and efficiency began to slip. During the 2011-2012 campaign, he averaged 18.2 points while shooting 41.6% from the field. The downward spiral continued as Rudy averaged 17.2 points while shooting a measly 40.8% from the floor in 2012-2013.
Ed Davis made an unrestricted free agent by Griz
All Boss things have to come to an end at some point, I suppose. With the Zach Randolph extension and the trade with the Utah Jazz on Draft night to get Jarnell Stokes it appeared that the writing was indeed on the wall for Ed Davis.
There was a growing sentiment in and around the organization that Rudy Gay may be hurting the Memphis Grizzlies more than he is actually helping them. Trade rumors began to swirl as the 2013 NBA trade deadline quickly approached.
Rudy had always been a fan favorite in Memphis. From his iconic game winning shots (Especially the one over Lebron to beat the Heat and the one on the road in Golden State. Good times.), to his patented one-handed tomahawk dunk, there was never a shortage of highlight-reel moments with him. What most fan did not realize was despite all of the phenomenal plays that we attribute to Rudy, he was wildly ineffective, and often times, he was just taking away shots from the far more efficient interior duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
On January 31, 2013, just three weeks before the league's trade deadline, the one time dubbed "star in the making", Rudy Gay, was traded to the Toronto Raptors in part of a three-team-deal that included the Detroit Pistons. We all know the gist of the trade. The Grizzlies received Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, and a 2013 second round pick; the Raptors received Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi; and the Pistons received the expiring contract of Jose Calderon.
The backlash from the Memphis fan-base was swift and harsh. Even Lionel Hollins, then head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, was critical of the trade. He was on record saying he would have traded Zach Randolph to save money instead of Rudy Gay and the infamous, "You can't have champagne taste on a beer budge" was made in reference to the trade. Initially, the naysayers and critics were right. The Grizzlies went 2-6 out of the gate after the trade, and they were a mediocre 19-19 since December 1, 2012.
Then it clicked. Like a dominant team, they wrapped up the season with a 27-10 record. In fact, they had the 3rd best record in the entire NBA since February 1, 2013. Tayshuan Prince fit in very well, despite not putting up great numbers, with the whole Grit-N-Grind style of play the Grizzlies had become well-known for over the past couple of seasons. Ed Davis and Austin Daye played minor roles during their first half season in Memphis. Both rarely saw action, and, when they did, it was often in small portions, too small to really get a feel of how either one would do in Memphis.
As I'm sure we all very fondly remember, the Memphis Grizzlies made an unprecedented run to the Western Conference Finals. They were able to avenge their defeat in the 2012 playoff series to the Los Angles Clippers by beating them in 6 games despite losing the first two games of the series. They then went on to avenge their 2011 playoff series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder by finishing them off in five games. Then, of course, was the gut-wrenching four game exit in the Western Conference Finals at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. The season was a wild success, and all without the wing play of one Rudy Gay.
The following summer, the Grizzlies lost a member of the Rudy Gay trade, while gaining another. The addition came when the Grizzlies selected Jamaal Franklin with the 41st pick in the draft; the pick they had acquired from the Raptors. Jamaal Franklin, by all accounts, was a steal. The former San Diego State Aztec had drawn comparisons to is former college teammate, Kawhi Leonard. It was a bit of a surprise to have Franklin still sitting there on the board at 41, seeing how he was widely considered a mid-first round talent. The jury is still out on what kind of player he will be, but Jamaal Franklin put up good numbers, albeit in the D-League, and he showed an improved shooting percentage, which was one of the major knocks on him coming out of college.
The subtraction was seldom used shooting-wizard Austin Daye. During his abbreviated time in Memphis, Daye averaged 4 points, 1.9 rebounds, and shot 34.5% from behind the three point arc. Memphis desperately needed more floor spacing during the 2012-2013 season and that is exactly what Austin Daye was meant to bring; however, he often found himself buried on Lionel Hollins' bench, and when he was in the game, he rarely was given the opportunity to shoot.
Let's fast forward a bit in our Rudy Gay trade tale, shall we? Alright we'll stop in the present, beginning of free agency 2014. The Grizzlies are coming off of an injury riddle season and a thrilling first round playoff exit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tayshuan Prince looke like he's 43, not 34. His shot is incredibly flat, his athleticism is almost completely gone, and his defense just ain't what it used to be. The head coach, Dave Joerger, for some unknown reason feels the need to continually trot out Tayshaun every single night in the starting lineup despite his utter and complete ineffectiveness. It did not help that mid-season D-League call-up James Johnson was terrific in the regular season when playing in Prince's spot. Ed Davis has had his moments of brilliance, but for the most part, he was a disappointment, never truly being able to secure the backup power forward position.
Tayshaun is now owed $7.7 million for the 2014-2015 season, and Ed Davis can become a restricted free agent. There were rumblings about possibly dealing Tayshuan on draft night to the Raptors in order to get out from under the final year of his contract. The trade did not pan out due to the player the Raptors would have targeted at 22 not being there.
The topic of the day in GrizzNation, now, is that the Grizzlies have decided not to extend a qualifying offer to the former "hidden gem of the Rudy Gay trade", Ed Davis, therefore making him an unrestricted free agent and almost guaranteeing that he will not be a member of the Memphis Grizzlies moving forward. The logic behind the move seems to be money. The Grizzlies are in somewhat of a difficult financial situation with Zach Randolph opting in to the final year of his contract. They figure to have essentially a full Mid-Level Exception (often referred to as simply MLE) to spend in free agency this offseason.
To make a player a restricted free agent and reserve the right to match any offer the player receives in free agency, a team must extend what is known as a qualifying offer. The qualifying offer is there so that if no deal is reached in free agency, the player will play for his team on a one-year deal worth whatever the qualifying offer is worth (Sorry, I know it's a bit confusing). The qualifying offer on Ed Davis would have been $4,361,789. Why is that significant?
Well, remember when I said the Grizzlies would have only the MLE to spend in free agency? The MLE worth roughly $5 million. So, just to qualify Ed Davis would have eaten up most of the MLE, and any chance that the Grizzlies had at signing a player(s) in free agency. Ed Davis is officially an unrestricted free agent, and he is free to sign with any team of his choosing.
After failing to move him on draft night, it now appears that the Grizzlies will try to get rid of the final year in Tayshaun Prince's contract sometime this offseason. This move will give the Grizzlies more cap flexibility for not only this offseason but, as well as, in-season acquisitions.
It is pretty ironic, isn't it? When you stop and think about how the whole Rudy Gay trade has played out. Rudy was initially moved in order to make room for more touches for Zach and Marc, but it was also a money saving transaction. Now, two of the main pieces in that trade appear to be on their way out. Why? Well, to save money of course!
I think it is foolish to say the Grizzlies made a mistake by dealing Rudy Gay. If we had missed the playoffs the last two season and were on the verge of having to blow the team up, then I think it would be fair to say we should have kept him. But we are not. In fact, we are very far from it. We are now operating in a three year window, according to Grizzlies majority and controlling owner Robert Pera, to win a championship with out current core group of players. You think our cap situation is tough now? Imagine if we had Rudy's $19.3 million contract sitting on the books. We simply could not have both Marc and Zach to be on the team without paying a hefty luxury tax bill.
So, you may ask yourself, "then what did we gain or what did we get from trading away, in some people's eyes (not mine), our best player at the time?" To answer your question, what we gained is not tangible. We did not gain another star player. We gained the necessary cap flexibility to build the team we have today. Also, we gained more shots for more efficient players such as Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. So, the next time someone tries to tell you the Grizzlies did not get anything for Rudy Gay, you tell them we gained unprecedented playoff success, priceless memories, and our Memphis Grizzlies, our Grit-N-Grind Memphis Grizzlies.