Rudy Gay is a certain kind of hero

Rudy Gay hits one of his two game-winners since coming to Toronto.

The Raptors are 5-2 since Rudy Gay came to town, having beaten the Clippers, Pacers, Nuggets and Knicks. There is real reason for optimism — Toronto usually plays hard, plays together and play an athletic, uptempo style that’s easy on the eyes.

To what degree is Rudy Gay responsible for this success? Well, he’s hit two game-winners, including an ice-cold one-dribble pull-up over Corey Brewer on Tuesday night.

But the Raptors are also shooting very well from 3, something Rudy Gay has not directly contributed to because he’s shooting 38 percent from the field and just 18 percent from 3.

The starters’ defense is strong; you can see how such rangy and quick players could smother the court. It’s especially effective compared to the second unit which lost Ed Davis and added John Lucas III in place of Kyle Lowry.

It’s just hard to say exactly how much help Gay is providing. He’s shooting a ton and not very accurately. But with his great size and skill, he can get off a reasonably decent shot in a one-on-one situation, and that talent has made him into the closer that Toronto believes it needs. But would the Raptors be in those tough end of game situations if Gay made more shots during the other 47 minutes?

Those one-on-one pullups are shot that no player makes consistently, but, just as he did in Memphis, Gay takes them with alarming frequency throughout the game. And judging by how well Gay shoots the rest of the game, we shouldn’t expect him to come through in the clutch even half of the time.

I count myself among the many who hoped Rudy Gay could blossom in Toronto. Freed from playing alongside two other

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Three more thoughts on the Rudy Gay trade

With so many reaction pieces flying around about the Rudy Gay trade to the Raptors, it’s easy to think everything has been covered. But here are some thoughts, one for each team involved, that were left undiscussed.

1. The Pistons didn’t just dump salary, they got better

Detroit is just 17-29 and traded their last player synonymous with winning (Tayshaun Prince) in the deal so I get why it’s easy to write this team off. But despite that poor record, the sorry state of the Eastern Conference has the Pistons ‘only’ 5 ½ games behind the Rondo-less Celtics with just under half the season remaining.

With Calderon in the fold, I don’t think it’s all that insane to suggest this Pistons team — especially if aided by another move that breaks up the sieve-like frontcourt of Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe — could make a run at a playoff spot. Though their new Spaniard’s defensive issues will be more apparent without active bigs like Amir Johnson and Ed Davis behind him, Calderon’s presence fixes a lot of issues dogging the team, most notably the uninspiring play of Rodney Stuckey.

All season long, the struggling guard has been like a square peg trying to be jammed in a round hole. To start the year, Stuckey was paired with with second-year guard Brandon Knight (another player who thrives off dribble penetration) and Prince (who posted up more than spotted up). Being forced to play off the ball with two non-shooting bigs in the frontcourt essentially sealed Stuckey’s fate before he played a minute.

Things got slightly better when he was moved to the bench with the exciting second unit I profiled on Grantland. There Stuckey was still playing second-fiddle to Will Bynum, but at the very least he had space to

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Say Hello to the Raptor Wizards

This is a dream, artistically realized by Anthony Bain. The idea behind it is that, these two teams have the most ridiculous names in all of basketball. And if the Wizards should ever go back to being the Bullets, I think Toronto should double down on the novelty. Honestly, who wouldn’t root for the Raptors Wizards? Just imagine the various hilarious jumbotron gimmicks to celebrate a made basket! Basketball writers, ponder the deadline puns you could use for this team. Come to think of it, who wouldn’t root for Raptors + (Anything)?

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DeMar DeRozan’s jumper: subtraction by addition?

Following a season in which DeMar DeRozan’s scoring production more than doubled and his PER improved significantly, Toronto Raptors fans had every reason to be excited for the shooting guard’s third year. But so far, DeRozan has struggled to build on last season’s gains. DeRozan’s scoring is down and his PER is at an all-time low, but the most alarming trend has been DeRozan’s sudden affinity for his jump shot, never the strongest part of his game.

As James Herbert points out on Raptors Republic, DeRozan’s perimeter shooting has taken a leap forward, as he’s connecting on a career-best 32% from beyond the arc on nearly four times as many attempts per game as he launched last season. The uptick in deep shooting is heartening, but when we take a holistic look at his jumpshooting, it’s clear that DeRozan is still more slasher than shooter.

According to Synergy Sports, DeRozan attempted jumpers on 59% of his possessions last season, shooting a marginal 39% overall. This year he’s settling for jump shots 63% of the time while shooting just 26%, ranking in the bottom 10% of the entire league. In fact, of the 50 players who have taken at least 100 jumpers to this point in the season, DeRozan is dead lead in scoring efficiency at just over .6 points per possession.

It’s a double edge sword of sorts for DeRozan, a gifted athlete who is at his best attacking the rim, but one who needs to expand his arsenal in order to continue succeeding as a player. Beckley Mason touched upon this topic in regards to Blake Griffin, who is suddenly shooting more long twos to better compliment his dunk-or-bust running mate DeAndre Jordan. In order to become a more complete, multi-dimensional player, DeRozan unquestionably needs to develop

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John Wall, learning the ropes as an NBA point guard

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that John Wall is only a rookie. His buzz attracted national attention for three years preceding his professional debut, and now seems to have faded amid the point guard debate echo chamber and Blake Griffin’s megaphoned redshirt ROY campaign. But Wall’s inconsistent play over the Wizards’ holiday weekend homestand was an example of how the twenty year old point guard is still finding his way, and still deserves the hype.

On Saturday night, Wall looked hurt, tired, and disenchanted. It was frustrating to watch Wall allow himself to be contained by the Raptors’ notoriously penetrable defense. On pick and rolls, he was indecisive, and on his signature full court sprints to the hoop he struggled to finish, often appearing out of control. What’s worse, he gave Jose Calderon, a slightly above average point guard, free reign to drop 21 points and 15 assists by failing to pressure the ball away from Calderon’s comfort zones.

It was the kind of performance that rookies have when they’re on a bad team, playing against another bad team in a half empty arena. This was the Raptor’s second meeting with Wall (who did not play in the teams’ first meeting), and like most teams this season they sunk deep in the paint on pick and rolls to discourage Wall from driving. What was alarming wasn’t that this strategy kept Wall from getting inside, but that it seemed to prevent Wall from finding a rhythm in the rest of his game.

Mental exhaustion seemed to be the culprit in his eight point, nine assist, three turnover performance. It was all he could do to manage the game, he didn’t have the juice to dominate it.

As Calderon said afterward, “I think he’ s going to be a great

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What Can Chris Bosh’s Exit Tell Us About Carmelo Anthony’s future?

In a conference call with the TNT commentator crew (Steve Kerr, Kevin McHale, and Reggie Miller) and basketball media outlets from around the country, Steve Kerr was asked to compare the Carmelo Anthony saga to Amar’e’s departure from the Suns this summer. Kerr responded by saying that the circumstances were completely different because Amar’e would have stayed in Phoenix, but the Suns decided not to invest in the hyper-efficient forward’s suspect knees. Carmelo seems far less committal to the Nuggets, who have made it clear they would like to keep Carmelo for another six years.  Instead, Kerr suggested, the way Bosh-Toronto played out might provide a more instructive example.

Darko's place in history: This is the 11th image that a Google Image search for "Carmelo + Bosh" returns

Could Kerr be on to something? After all, the two were selected 3-4 in the 2003 draft after one year of college experience. Both have silky offensive games predicated by excellent first steps and the ability to shoot out of the triple threat. Both are prolific, usually efficient, one-on-one scorers who play mediocre at best defense (each has career 107 DRatings). At 25, it’s becoming clear that neither player can singlehandedly carry a team to playoff glory. And like Bosh six months ago, Carmelo wants off his current team.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s not hard to imagine Carmelo playing out the season in Denver. Once the season gets rolling, especially if the Nuggets are winning, Carmelo’s commitments to his team may inspire him to finish out his Denver contract.

With the blinding excitement that a potentially clever idea instills in me, I decided to ask someone who knows as much as anyone about the Raptors what he thought. Scott Phillips is a member of the Toronto über-blog,

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