When I think of Rudy Gay, I think of this definitive Grantland piece that highlighted all that was wrong with “The Great Rudini” during his career.
He was inefficient, a criticism that Rudy Gay himself did not dispute, and was offloaded to make room for the DeRozan and Lowry’s development. This was a smart move, considering the Raptors went on to have their greatest seasons without Mr. Gay.
About five weeks ago the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento. Since then, he’s looked like a marvelous scorer (not a typo). As a Raptor, Gay was using an insane 31 percent of Raptors possessions (a mark higher than Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James); he was easily on pace to set his career high in that category. Coincidentally or not, Gay was also on pace to bottom out in a lot of efficiency measures.
Most importantly for our purposes, is this:
Despite his increased efficiency, Gay is still not worth $17.89 million per year. This is not his fault […] Players don’t build rosters, they don’t write the contracts, and they don’t design the offenses. Rudy Gay, the player, has been traded two times in the last year. But it’s perhaps more accurate to say that Rudy Gay, the contract, has been off-loaded twice.
Rudy Gay was — for a time — inefficient and not worth the contract he was being paid. That said, he declined something to the tune of $14 million for an two-year MLE in SA for a total of $17 million. As Kirk Goldsberry wrote, Rudy Gay is better when he is not taking so many shots.
That is likely what the Spurs saw in him in his Sacramento career. He was taking about 15 shots a game and making good use of those. The Spurs will not ask him to change much of his game offensively:
Next to Boogie as a clear-cut No. 2 option for a season and a half, Rudy Gay finally found the best possible version of his game.
During that season and a half, in games in which Gay played, the Kings went 46-77 for a winning percentage of .374. The best possible version of Rudy Gay was the No. 2 scorer for the equivalent of a 30-win team.
This is the problem with Rudy Gay: He is a scorer only, and an old-school, mid-range scorer at that. He’s not in any sense a point-forward, he’s not an elite defender, and he’s not a dead-eye shooter. If he is your No. 2 scorer and you don’t have a world-class team defense, your team is going to stink. If he’s your second-best player overall, you are in a world of hurt.
Hurm. We can inelegantly put his 18-per ahead of LaMarcus’ 17-per and that would, in fact, make him the Spurs’ second-leading scorer with a world-class team defense behind him. So that’s good, right?
We hope so. The lineup is still in flux, with LaMarcus likely still on the trade block and Pau, Simmons, Manu still unsigned. If the roster consists largely of the previous incarnation but with Gay in place, that is doable. This does likely mean Dedmon will not return.
This makes the Spurs more versatile offensively. Rudy Gay can carry the load offensively for stretches while Kawhi sits. Imagine those dry spells trying to force the ball into an off LaMarcus being Rudy Time, where he is free to get buckets. The Spurs have had a tough time scoring against the Warriors in the Kerr era and despite what we saw in the first three quarters of the WCF Game 1 matchup, the struggle-fest is more likely than not. Getting Gay is a nod toward solving those problems and untying the Spurs from LaMarcus Aldridge as second-option.
Given that he is a veteran looking to win, he will do the things required. That is to say he will buy in defensively. Even if he is a poor individual defender, as long as he can execute the game plan he will be useful. For historical reference, simply look at Pau Gasol who was instrumental shutting down the Rockets.
Welcome Rudy Gay. You are a Spur now.
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