Rudy Gay has a player option for the 2014-15 season worth roughly $19.3 million. He’s not turning that amount of money down unless he can significantly improve his situation and get a healthy sum of money on the open market. The Sacramento Kings aren’t going anywhere with him — but they could make some moves without him. It’s time for the Kings and their fans to pray that Gay declines that option.
If your first reaction was “snowball’s chance in hell,” I understand. That’s a significant amount of money left out there but we can’t underestimate the power of a team that has money to spend and can appreciate the value of a player like Gay. Let’s not forget that for the Kings last season, he scored 20.1 points with 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals. The list of players who did that for the season reads like the All-NBA team (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony).
Gay certainly has his detractors and it’s hard to ignore the fact that two separate teams (Memphis, Toronto) have seemed to get better when Gay left town, but he certainly has a ton of talent and will get paid somewhere.
There is one major problem with this whole scenario that has the Kings somewhat married to Gay — Isaiah Thomas is a restricted free agent. Thomas will be one of the more coveted point guards on the market and is sure to get a quality offer. If they’re forced to match an offer in the $6-9 million range, they’ll be strapped for cash again and may want Gay to pick up his option.
From the Kings standpoint, would they rather have him stay and have no cap flexibility or see him leave and be able to take a run at some quality talent on the open market? In the 55 games he played for the Kings, they went 21-34. That’s just not going to get it done in the extremely difficult Western Conference.
As of today, the Kings have 11 players on the payroll for 2014-15 (assuming Gay picks up his option) for a total of $66.5 million in salary. The cap is slated to be at $63.2 million for that season, which means the Kings would already be over. They could use their mid-level exception to sign a decent player and still be under the projected tax level of $77.0 million.
So without Gay’s salary, the Kings drop down into the $48.9 million range. That affords them the ability to use approximately $14.3 million dollars. Let’s say they match an offer for Thomas at around $7 million per year. They would still have just over $7 million to use to plug in some major holes.
They’re not going to be able to replace Gay with a star unless they’re also willing to part with Thomas. If a team throws a blank check at Thomas, then the Kings might find themselves with over $14 million to spend and at that amount, they could attract just about anyone not named LeBron or Carmelo.
At the end of the day, the Kings need to look towards their future. Gay is a terrific player but are the Kings going to get any better with him on the roster? If the 55 games he played for them in 2013-14 is any indication, they certainly aren’t. They need to pray that Gay declines his player option so they can move on with players that can, you know, actually help them win.