Why do the Toronto Raptors want Rudy Gay?

The Toronto Raptors are growing closer and closer to dealing for Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, in a seeming match made in heaven. It seems perfect to some that the Raptors would attempt to field the two most overrated players available from the 2006 NBA draft that aren’t named “Adam Morrison.”

On Wednesday, amid swirling rumors about Rudy Gay heading to the Toronto Raptors, ESPN’s Chad Ford threw this out in the midst of a midday chat:

Bryan Colangelo has loved Gay since his college days. He was seriously torn between Gay and Bargnani on draft night. I think he feels like if he unites them, the Raptors instantly get better.

To most, this noise acts as a signal that confirms how terrible a GM Toronto Raptors boss Bryan Colangelo is. That he was deciding on two of the more bleated-about players in both recent and 2006-inspired history with the first pick in that year’s draft. And it’s true, Colangelo has not been a good GM for Toronto.

The problem with sloughing this off is the fact that the 2006 draft was just that bad, and the paucity of options available in that draft is Colangelo’s only excuse nearly seven years into his unsuccessful tenure with Toronto. And though it may seem like a stretch, if you go all the way back to Ford’s work prior to that draft, you’ll see that BC was really in a tizzy over whether or not to grab Andrea, or Rudy. From an Insider-charged mock draft:

We had Bargnani atop our first mock draft and we have left him there throughout this entire process, despite much disagreement from other quarters. Why? Because Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo isn't afraid to go against the grain, and no one in the NBA knows Bargnani better.

If for some reason Bargnani's name is not called, look for Rudy Gay to be the man.

The easy joke here is charging Colangelo for going against the grain with a player that has turned into a far below average NBA player with the first overall pick. It’s true that Bargs boasts averages of 15.5 points per game in his NBA career, but he only shoots 43.8 percent on his way to those averages. He never gets to the free throw line, at best he is an average three-point shooter, he’s a terrible rebounder for even a small forward, and he remains one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Apologies for piling on, but he’s also due to turn 28 years old this year, and very little has changed in the scouting report since 2006.

Rudy Gay remains just as overrated by most quarters outside of the new Memphis Grizzlies front office. It’s true that his presence will keep both the Grizz rotation and coaching staff happy, and this element cannot be overstated, but he also falls along some of the lines that Bargs does. Averages almost 18 points on his career, but also plays over 36 minutes and shoots 45 percent. Gets to the free just about as much as Bargnani per-minute despite superior athletic gifts, rebounds just as much per-minute, and remains a sub-par three-point shooter seven years into his career.

Two players that, in completely different ways, give off the look of an NBA stud. Just as it was in 2006. And Colangelo is to be shamed for this, right?

In 2013? Perhaps. In 2006? Give the guy a break.

It was a terrible draft. The new Raptors GM was working with found money – four teams had a worse record than Toronto that year, and yet the Raptors jumped ahead of the Chicago Bulls (who made the playoffs, but owned the first round pick of the worst team in the NBA, the New York Knicks) and others to take the top slot in the NBA lottery. On top of that good luck, Colangelo had the presence of a 21-year old Chris Bosh, fresh off his first All-Star appearance. It was the perfect time to take chances.

By the time late June rolled around, it was understood that Colangelo wasn’t taking a chance on Andrea Bargnani. Not only did Bargs have significant experience playing overseas – something that couldn’t be said for Darko Milicic or Nikoloz Tskitishvili, but his skill set seemed perfect for a league that was changing on the fly. Dirk Nowitzki was coming off of his first Finals appearance. The lanes were opening up for drive and kick guards to find open shooters. Big men with touch weren’t expected to camp out on the low block any more.

Colangelo took Bargnani. In retrospect, it was a mistake. This was acknowledged several months into the 2006-07 season, when it was discovered that Brandon Roy was, health-willing, on his way to a career full of All-Star appearances and an obvious turn as Rookie of the Year. The misstep was made all the more apparent when LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo blossomed into franchise-shifting All-Stars.

What’s a mistake now, or in 2009, extending the folly. Colangelo famously bid against himself to sign Bargnani to a five-year, $50 million extension in 2009 that now stands as one of the worst contracts in the NBA. Gay’s five-year and $82 million extension from 2010 didn’t seem as egregious at the time, but it has turned into one of the NBA’s great millstones – so much that the Grizzlies had to send three potential contributors and a first round pick to Cleveland just to ease the luxury tax burden brought on by Gay’s maximum contract.

This is also why nobody raised an eyebrow when it was floated that Toronto might be after Rudy Gay. Not because his size would fit in on a Raptors team looking for a small forward with length, or because of his fondness for Rudy dating back to the 2006 draft, but because of Colangelo’s many missteps since taking over the Raptors.

Of course he’d be a Rudy Gay fan. He seems to be the only GM left that realizes that players that look the part don’t often play the part.