Rudy Gay wanted to get out of Sacramento so badly he opted out his deal while injured, even if that meant getting less money. It worked out well for Gay because he landed in Spurs-land which means not only will he be predicted to get to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in his career, he will have the chance to compete for a NBA ring, another Gay first time thing. Gay has had some torturous years on the NBA superhighway but a lot of Gay is an enigma. He is usually the first name on the list of most overrated. On paper, Gay seems like a perennial All-Star. 6-9. Unselfish. Smooth stroke. Can hit the three and dribble to the rim. But for most of his career Rudy Gay’s game has meant less is more. With the Spurs that is fine. Gay is not being asked to be an All-Star or to lead a team. Gregg Popovich will take what is innately Rudy Gay, improve upon it, and Gay may end all the memes about his underachievement.
Let’s start with the resume. Rudy Gay has played for three teams. The Spurs will be his fourth. Seven seasons in Memphis: 17.9 points, 45%, 34% from three. (Gay has never been a great three point shooter.) Two seasons in Toronto: 19.5 points, 41%, 34% from three. Four seasons in purgatory (Sacramento): 19.3 points, 46%, 34% from three.
Only once in Rudy Gay’s career has he posted an offensive rating of 110 and that was in the 2014-15 season. His best defensive rating, 101, he posted four years ago. His second best, 102, was three years ago. Has Rudy Gay’s best years as an all-around player left the building?
His last full season, 2015-16, he was ranked 23rd among small forwards as far as on-court impact (Real Plus-Minus). Ranked above him were Jae Crowder (Celtics), Jared Dudley (Wizards) and Al-Faroq Aminu (Blazers).
Rudy Gay has always been a role player and that is what has frustrated his critics. They always wanted more but what if there isn’t more? What if Gay gives what he can give and he cannot meet the expectations of those who have preconceived notions that a 6-9 athlete has to be dominant. What hurts the leave Gay alone, he is doing the best he can narrative, is his usage rate. He demands the ball like an elite player and yet he doesn’t finish like an elite player. Thus, the Rudy Gay conundrum.
One of the problems is that Gay isn’t exceptional at any one area of the floor. He really doesn’t have a bread and butter. He is so-so on long two’s. He’s a 43% mid range scorer. He finishes strong at the rim but those comprise only 25% of his shots. His rebound percentage is a pathetic 9.6% and offensive rebounding is worse, only 4.8%, so he’s not out there playing hard and physical and grabbing whatever he can. He has a lazy game. That’s what brings the haters. He should be more. His career is known as a jack of all trades, a master of none. Not an elite rebounder. Not a shot blocker. An okay three point shooter. A good scorer but not great. He has a higher usage rate in his career than Kawhi Leonard, so what gives?
The great thing about changing addresses is you can change the perception too. This, though, is unchanged. Gay is coming off Achilles surgery. He is 30 years old. Achilles always has the last word. No one is what they used to be. That makes the Spurs a perfect landing spot for Gay. He is not required to be everything. It usually takes a year on the court to regain the full game after a torn Achilles. Gay will be nearing 32 when that happens. The Spurs are only going to ask Gay to do what he is capable of.
For the first time in his career the pressure will be off Rudy Gay. He can acclimate to San Antonio. He can finally just be a basketball player, not having to answer the critics who say he gives less and less and less. He can have the last word with an opportunity at a title. The situation has changed. Will Rudy Gay help the Spurs?
That is all anyone wants to know from here on out.
photo via llananba