Rudy Gay has played in the NBA since the 2006/07 season and posted steady numbers throughout his career. He still tends to leave his coaches and home fans exasperated, wondering why his multi-dimensional skills fail to translate into greater production. So it’s not surprising that Gay is apparently on the trading block for the third time in four years.
Scan the basic numbers and Gay ranks as one of the league’s top small forwards. Virtually any team would be satisfied with a player who averages 18.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 35.8 minutes — his career numbers.
Gay averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 3.7 assists last season, as he took a larger offensive role for a Kings team that struggled to find a consistent point guard. The acquisition of Rajon Rondo, the league’s assists leader, has led to a dip in Gay’s numbers (18.0 points, 1.7 assists) but he’s pulling down more rebounds (6.9 compared to 5.9 a year ago) as he switches back and forth between the forward spots.
In terms of ESPN’s Player Efficiency Rating, Gay is having another solid season. He ranks 10th among small forwards at 16.69. That’s down from his career best 19.46 PER last season and the 18.40 he posted in 2013-14 but still well above the league average of 15.0.
Basketball Reference’s Offensive and Defensive Box Plus/Minus ratings provide a different perspective on Gay’s effectiveness. His OBPM is 0.3, while his DBPM is 0.0 — the epitome of average. Gay earned a career-best 2.8 OBPM last season but that figure was twice as high as any of his other seasons. For his career, Gay averages a 0.5 OBPM and a 0.1 DBPM, evidence for his critics that he’s not as good as his basic numbers would suggest.
Gay doesn’t provide much of a 3-point threat, averaging one make per game while shooting 34.3% from long range. He also has a tendency to miss games with nagging injuries — he hasn’t played more than 75 games since the 2009/10 season.
As Kings beat writer Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee recently pointed out, much has changed since the Kings made him virtually untouchable in trade talks last season. He has struggled to fit into coach George Karl‘s system, Jones noted, while the team has concerns about its depth at the two-guard spot.
Any team acquiring Gay would have to view him as its starter through next season, if not 2017/18 as well, because of his contract status. He signed a three-year extension in November 2014 and is making $12.4MM this season. He’s guaranteed approximately $13.33MM next season and holds a player option for $14.26MM for the following season.
Sacramento is seeking a quality young player, or a rotation player with at least one year left on his contract, in any trade involving Gay, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
In January, Gay was linked in trade rumors to two other Western Conference teams, the Pelicans and Kings. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that Sacramento refused New Orleans’ offer of shooting guard Eric Gordon and small forward Alonzo Gee.
Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops reported earlier that the Kings wanted to trade Gay for power forward Ryan Anderson, an unrestricted free agent after this season, but the Pelicans wouldn’t bite. The offer involving Gordon, who is also an unrestricted free agent after the season, came prior to the finger fracture he suffered that will keep him out of action for four to six weeks.
While an intriguing possibility for the Pelicans, who are trying to climb back into the playoff race, the potential acquisition of Gay would negatively impact the team’s cap space, as Justin Verrier of ESPN.com recently wrote. It remains to be seen whether the Pelicans will be buyers or sellers in this market, given their current record, and taking Gay’s contract would be a significant commitment.
Grizzlies beat writer Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commerical Appeal recently suggested that the club could improve its current roster and future outlook by reacquiring the player it traded away to the Raptors midway through the 2013/14 season. Tillery opined that Gay would bring scoring, versatility and tough defense to the perennial playoff team. Pure speculation on my part but that proposal would probably have to include one or both of their impending free agent wings, Jeff Green (making $9.45MM in his walk year) and Courtney Lee (5.675MM).
Gay has also been linked in the past to the Bulls and Clippers and, given their current injury issues, it’s not a big stretch to see a match with either of those teams. The Clippers have a hole at small forward and Gay could also play the power forward spot with Blake Griffin on the mend from a broken hand.
The Bulls’ frontcourt depth has taken some hits with the season-ending loss of Joakim Noah, along with Nikola Mirotic‘s appendectomy that will keep him out through the All-Star break. Pairing up Gay with Jimmy Butler would give the Bulls one of the strongest 1-2 punches at the wing spots in the league.
There are some strong arguments for the Kings to retain Gay. They have moved into the playoff picture and may not want to interrupt their chemistry with a big trade. They would also need a wing player or two to justify the trade, since Gay’s backup Omri Casspi has defensive limitations and, as previously pointed out, the Kings could use an upgrade at shooting guard.
As James Ham of CSNBayArea.com recently reported, Gay also has a strong relationship with DeMarcus Cousins and Rondo. He was one of the principal players in recruiting Rondo as a free agent last summer.
Add all the factors together and there’s undoubtedly more trade rumors involving Gay to come this month. It’s unclear, though, whether the Kings will actually shake up their starting lineup and take that big step.
Do you think the Kings will trade Gay before this month’s deadline? Leave a comment to weigh in.