TORONTO -- The results are obvious for the Toronto Raptors.
Since trading Rudy Gay to Sacramento as part of a seven-player deal in early December, the Raptors are 27-14 and in position to win the Atlantic Division.
The Kings are 16-25 since the deal, a game out of the cellar in the Western Conference entering Thursday night’s schedule and headed for another NBA draft lottery.
Even with that record, the Kings don’t regard themselves as the losers in the trade.
Gay was the biggest name traded during the season as the Raptors sought salary relief and the Kings looked to add a cornerstone to their rebuilding project. Though the Kings haven’t climbed in the standings, they believe Gay is a talent who could be a part of a playoff team in Sacramento in the future.
While the Raptors traded a high-priced, inefficient scorer, the Kings have benefited from a more efficient version of Gay.
“I know that we are a better and more talented team than we were prior to that trade,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “And that is no disrespect to Johnny Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Chucky Hayes or Patrick Patterson because they’re all playing well for this Raptor team. It’s been a good trade for us, and hopefully, it will be a trade that pays off well into the future.”
The trade gave the Kings an upgrade at small forward, something the team tried to do for years. Gay also was a player who was successful on playoff teams. That gave Gay instant credibility in the Kings’ locker room. He wasn’t just another role player being added to the mix.
It also helps that Gay has played well for the Kings. Before the trade, Gay was a volume shooter, averaging 19.4 points per game but shooting only 38.8 percent from the field.
“I was inefficient when I was here,” Gay said after the Kings’ worked out in the Raptors’ practice facility. “I’m not anymore, but I was when I was here.”
Gay has made 50 percent of his field-goal tries with the Kings while attempting more than three fewer shots per game (15.5 shots per game for the Kings, compared to 18.6 for Toronto), and his scoring average is up to 20.8 per game.
“He’s scoring like we knew he could, and he’s rebounding the ball and making plays for his teammates better than I anticipated,” Malone said.
That doesn’t take away from how much better the Raptors have played since the trade. Malone refused to credit Toronto’s success with playing in a weaker Eastern Conference or use the strength of the West for why the Kings have struggled to find consistency.
It hasn’t helped that the Kings lost all nine games DeMarcus Cousins has missed this season. There’s also the fact that Gay joined a team with a new coach, new ownership and a roster that has undergone a makeover with three trades during the season.
There’s also the possibility the Raptors might have started playing better if Gay were still on the team.
“We don’t know if that would have happened if I was here, too,” Gay said. “It happened early in the season, but it’s one of those things where the trade happened and they’re a playoff team. Of course, I’d like to be a part of that, but I’m in Sacramento now and I have to deal with this team.”
While the Kings’ record since the trade isn’t spectacular, it’s still a better winning percentage (.390) than it was before the deal (.300).
The gains have been incremental for the Kings, but Gay isn’t spending much time wondering if the Raptors would have improved with him.
DeMar DeRozan, one of Gay’s good friends with Toronto, made the All-Star team.
Gay wasn’t sure why things didn’t workout better with the Raptors after he was dealt to Toronto from Memphis in January 2013.
Gay said he’s happy he’s playing better and sees signs of improvement heading into next season.
As for Toronto, Gay said there are no ill feelings.
“Change is for the better, for both parties,” Gay said. “I’m so happy for those guys. They’re playing well and for the most part, some of those guys are some of my best friends.”