Toronto traded for Rudy Gay in late January in hopes of adding an experienced, athletic small forward next to shooting guard DeMar DeRozen.
So far, so good for the Raptors — who have won seven of 11 games this month and sit just four games out of the final playoff spot in the East (behind Milwaukee).
Team defense is a big reason why, as the Raptors have limited opponents to less than 100 points in eight of the last nine games.
But Gay is a big reason why, too.
Since arriving from Memphis in a three-team deal that also involved Detroit, Gay has tied his career high at 21.0 points per game. He’s also grabbing 6.7 rebounds (up from 5.9 this season with the Grizzlies), and just generally giving the Raptors a capable body in the clutch.
Gay may not be a great shooter (37 percent in Toronto), but he is a crunch-time deliverer.
Just listen to Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who said Gay is the type of weapon his team had lacked prior to the trade.
“When teams make a run on you, (Gay) can quell it with an offensive move, a one-on-one move, and get us a couple buckets that will stem the tide,” Casey said. “No disrespect to the guys who have been here, but he gives us that offensive weapon that can close games. He can do it because he’s so long and he’s done it at a high level while in Memphis.”
Casey is a major advocate of keeping the ball moving, but admits that it can sometimes stick when it gets in the hands of Gay. But Casey is learning to adjust, live with it, and even love it.
Especially now that the playoffs are in sight.
“That’s our goal,” Casey said. “That’s what we’re scratching and clawing for. We’re within striking distance.”