With the NBA trade deadline fast approaching on February 21st, new trade rumors seem to pop up every single day. It can be hard to determine which rumors (if any) have footing as a potential deal. One rumor that has come up lately is that the Memphis Grizzlies are “heavily shopping” Rudy Gay. From a fan point of view, the initial thought of trading Gay doesn’t seem to make much sense. However, looking at this trade from a front office point of view can help us understand why this could be a good move for the Grizzlies.
Rudy is one of the most athletic players in the league, and by far the most athletic player on the Grizzlies. With that said, Gay’s massive contract that is worth $17.8 million and $19.3 million over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, respectively, is the problem. The five-year, $82 million contract signed in the summer of 2010 is one that Memphis has been looking to get off the books to ease their own salary cap situation. It is hard to keep improving as a small market team when a huge contract keeps your hands tied for years. Moving Gay would give Memphis the flexibility they have made clear they want.
Memphis giving Gay the contract that they did clearly showed they believed he was going to keep improving and become the cornerstone of their franchise for years to come. That hasn’t happened. With the emergence of Marc Gasol as one of the top centers in the league, the consistent and stellar play of Zach Randolph, and the constant improvement of young point guard Mike Conley, you could argue that Rudy Gay is the fourth best player on the Grizz. He has never been able to elevate himself to elite status in the NBA with averages of 17.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in his six-plus year career. His averages this year are about the same, but he’s shooting a career-worst 40.8 percent. That isn’t what you want to see out of a 26-year-old player that is heading into the prime years of their career.
What Memphis needs is more perimeter shooting on the floor to help space the floor for Randolph and Gasol; and Rudy isn’t exactly a big threat from deep. He is shooting 32.3% from behind the arc this season, which is the second lowest average of his career. And with Tony Allen on the court, you can’t afford to have another below average shooter on the floor. There just isn’t enough room for Gasol and Randolph, the true cornerstones of the franchise, to operate.
With all this said, all we can really do is wait and see if any teams are willing to trade for Gay and his contract. I believe that many teams would be willing to make that trade. No matter how a certain player is performing, it is hard for some teams to say no to an “average star” that would give them a recognizable name in the NBA world. Get Rudy Gay in an up-tempo open offense, and you might just find that he had that elite play inside him all along. It’s just a matter of finally finding the right fit.
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