Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trade Idea: Rudy Gay for Ersan Ilyasova

I don't have the money to pay for a Getty Images account. Your donation is welcome.

The amount of (digital) ink I've spilled on Rudy Gay's behalf could...well it could fill up a niche basketball blog (like this one!). In the process, I've made myself pretty clear (here's a refresher) on where I stand with the 6'9 small forward; I think he's a bad fit, and if possible, the Raptors should trade him.

I strongly advise you to read the posts I've linked to above, but if you really can't be bothered, I'll recap my list of grievances. 

Gay produces at a league-average rate. He is extremely pricey (19 million this season, player option for 19 million for the following season), and was probably paid on the basis of his semi-gaudy raw per-game stats. However, his raw numbers are likely inflated by the volume of his minutes played and usage rate, both of which are astronomical. The problem extends beyond his price (which is universally renounced as egregious); he's just not that good. He's league average.

If you get beyond his price and his production, he's still a bad fit for the current starting five. His talents overlap with Derozan's (his talents actually include all of Derozan's), and their collective lack of efficient outside shooting grinds the offense to a halt. Again, just read my posts; it details the problem much more thoroughly than I do here. 

So there's a problem; Gay's not that good, and his talents don't mix with the rest of the staff. What should the Raptors do?

The obvious solution is to trade Gay and recoup some assets (soldiers of tank nation are totally on-board now). The question is, who would take Gay, and what could they offer?

Last season, Toronto acquired him and his bloated contract for an expiring veteran in Calderon, and a young promising big in Ed Davis. Given that Gay's performance didn't depreciate in Toronto (save for dip in shooting percentages, which might be rationalized by him adapting to a new offense/small sample size), and that his mammoth contract is shorter by the good grace of the linearity of time, his value should realistically be no lower than what the Raptors paid for him. Throw in the fact that he will likely opt out of his contract and elect for free-agency, the Raptors have a serious trade-chip on their roster.

There's just one problem; his huge price-tag makes it extremely difficult to move him. The Raptors would either have to receive a few large contracts in return on any Gay deal, or deal him to a team with a tonne of cap space. Ujiri and his staff certainly have their work cut out for them.

Don't worry UM; I've got you covered. Here's the perfect trade for you:

The trade breaks down as follows:

To Toronto:
Ersan Ilyasova
Ekpe Udoh
2014/2015 1st round pick (Milwaukee can choose)

To Milwaukee:
Rudy Gay
Cash considerations

The Bucks are trying to make the playoffs. They signed OJ Mayo for 32 million over 4 years, and inked Zaza Pachulia to 20 million over 4 years (nothing eaaassyyy!). You don't make those moves if you have common sense no playoff aspirations.

However, take a look at their current lineup:

Starters: Ridnour-Mayo-Ilyasova-Henson-Sanders
Bench: Knight-Neal-Delfino-Pachulia-Udoh

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure that's a guaranteed playoff team (even in the weakened Eastern conference). Unfortunately, they've locked this roster in (Delfino, Ilyasova, Mayo, Pachulia and Sanders are guaranteed for the next 3 seasons), so they've got to play the hand they've been dealt.

The obvious hole is at point guard, but which quality point guard is available? None, right? And if they were to deal for a floor general, it would cost them an arm-and-a-Henson. Look at what Jarrett Jack got just to back up Irving, or consider the price for the ridiculously inefficient Jrue Holliday. Nobody wants to trade away their point guards, and they cost a fortune to acquire.

The next obvious issue is that the starting lineup lacks any slashing. There's a wealth of outside shooting in Ridnour, Mayo and Ilyasova, but none of them drive. They also feature two promising young bigs in Henson and Sanders, but Henson's young and Sanders is hilariously inept on offense. They need someone to initiate the action and to shift the defense. There's a disconnect between the bigs and the wings, and nobody on the roster is capable of bridging the gap.

Enter Rudy Gay. He can handle the ball, and he can certainly slash. He will command the opposing team's best wing defender and attack the basket. With able floor-spacers around him in Mayo and Ridnour, he will be afforded the room to operate, especially from the wing. He can also run pick-and-roll with either big-man. He's also one of the league's best isolation players (29th), scoring 0.94 points per play on isolation. 

It also gives Milwaukee the added benefit of salary relief. Ilyasova's contract isn't bad, but it's long (32 million over 4 years), and it handcuffs the Bucks from making any moves in the future. The Bucks will spend to content, but they are a small market team (last in NBA franchise value), and they can't afford to exceed the salary cap. Gay will likely opt-out, leaving ~12 million dollars in their pockets for next summer's spending spree.

First, Ilyasova has the edge on Rudy in all of the advanced metrics. Their head-to-head advanced numbers are shown below:

Ilyasova will instantly resolve the redundancy on the wings. Ilyasova is an excellent three-point shooter (45%, 44% in the last two seasons), and a great rebounder (18%, 14% TRB% in the last two seasons). He also uses less possessions (~20 vs ~29 for Gay), freeing up more possessions for Jonas Valanciunas. His shooting chart is below (NBA Stats):

In one fell swoop, he would instantly solve all the Raptor's problems. He provides great rebounding for a team that ranked 28th in rebounds per game last season. He will space the floor with his excellent three-point shooting. He frees up more possessions for our star rookie. He's also on a reasonable deal (it's long, but it's manageable). 

In addition, the Raptors also score a pick, and an expiring in Udoh (who might turn out; you never know). Plus, the Raptors have previously shown interest in Ilyasova (granted, this was under Colangelo's regime). 

The deal makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Bucks gain flexibility and a slasher from the wing who should help them make the playoffs. The Raptors get a floor-spacer who rebounds well, and a first rounder for their troubles. Dare I say; it's a win-win for both teams?

What do you think? Do you think acquiring a Turkish shooter to play small-forward for the Raptors is a good idea? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading.


Thanks to hoopdata, basketball reference, ESPN stats, stats for the NBA, the NBA geek and NBA stats for the numbers used in this post. 


  1. Ersan is 4. Doesn't have the handles to create his own shot against other athletic 3s.. and doesn't have the foot speed to stay with them on defense..metrics aren't everything.

    1. There's really no point in lumping players into specific positions. He's clearly a mix between a 3 and a 4. He can't really create his own shot, but how important is that? Rudy Gay can "create" shots for himself, but they fall in at a really low rate.

      Metrics aren't everything, but this addresses Toronto's spacing issues, usage issues and rebounding issues. It also nets a first.

  2. A non-lottery high teens pick is not very attractive. If you want a shooter, we have one of the best in Novak. Do you see our gap in rebounding to be high next year? I think a lineup of Amir, Jonas and Rudy will get you a good number of boards.

    I think Rudy needs a chance to play a whole season ... or at least the first half after training camp. Yes he's got a massive contract, but he can be a real matchup nightmare. Lankier and more athletic than your average 3, and more quickness and handle than a 4. Seeing better may not help his shot a lot, but it will allow him to be more alert on court.

    If that pick was more 2014 lotto bound, it would deserve some more serious consideration.

    1. A couple of things.

      First, the first round draft pick is similar in value to Ed Davis. I don't think it's that reasonable to expect anything better than a mid-teens pick for Gay.

      It's not about just any shooter. Ersan Ilyasova is one of the best three point shooters in the league. He can do a lot of things on offense; pick and roll, spot-ups, cut. He's not a one trick pony like Novak is.

      Rudy Gay is an average rebounder. I know it looks good that he averages 6 rebounds per game, but that's because he plays a lot of minutes. His rebound rate is decidedly average for his position. Adding Ilyasova would bolster the rebounding significantly.

  3. I'd be a huge fan of this trade ... the question is if Milwaukee would actually do it.

    1. Yeah...I'm pegging my hopes on them wanting a slashing wing rather than a P+R/spot-up guy. It does fit their offense better.

      Then again, there are a boatload of reasons why Milwaukee wouldn't do this deal.

  4. I'm glad you started this kind of conversation. I don't think people on reddit were fair to you. But don't mind it. Keep it up. Have you thought about possible trades for Demar?

    1. Thanks Andrey. Reddit is fickle, but understandable. Say something controversial, and regardless of what your argument is, it'll be downvoted. Say something positive, and it gets blindly upvoted.

      It's so hard to peg a value for DD. I keep thinking that his contract + lack of productivity makes him an albatross, but then rumors fly around like DD for Bledsoe. It's weird.