April 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) looks on against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Kings 102-69. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings: Is Rudy Gay Underrated?

Since he was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012, Rudy Gay has had been on a tumultuous ride that’s seen his reputation treated like the roadkill of each new bump in the road. After Gay was traded from the Grizz to the Toronto Raptors, Memphis went 27-11 and ended up advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Gay averaged 19.5 points per game in Toronto, but he was a loose cannon, a problem made worse by the fact that the shots he fired rarely found their mark.

Gay shot 42.5 percent in 33 games with the Raptors in 2012-13 and that number dropped to 38.8 percent in 18 games during the 2013-14 season before he was traded to the Sacramento Kings. This was the low point of Gay’s career; not only did Toronto go 41-22 after the Rudy Gay trade and lock up the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but he was being sent to one of the worst teams in the West with a labels like “inefficient” and “ball hog” attached.

But after watching his first season with the Sacramento Kings, is there a chance that Rudy Gay has been called “overrated” for so long he’s actually underrated now? And is it possible that Gay opting in and exercising a $19.3 million player option for 2014-15 is actually a good thing for the Kings? To answer that question, let’s take a look at how Gay fared in comparison to a player who produced similar numbers this year…Paul George.

1 Rudy Gay 73 34.7 .455 .330 .822 6.0 2.9 1.3 0.8 3.1 20.0
2 Paul George 80 36.2 .424 .364 .864 6.8 3.5 1.9 0.3 2.8 21.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2014.

As you can see, the numbers are pretty comparable. Paul George definitely declined in the second half of the regular season, but overall it’s impossible to say he didn’t have a great 2013-14 campaign. Meanwhile, Gay, a guy whose reputation followed him to Sacramento, did no favors for himself in his first month with the Kings by averaging 19.5 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting. At that point, most people wrote Gay off.

And yet, after that first transition month, Gay never shot worse than 43.8 percent from the floor for the month in every month until the season ended. He peaked in January, when he averaged 21.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting a scorching 57.5 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from three-point range.

No one should be saying Rudy Gay and Paul George are basically on the same level, since George is a far superior two-way player. Gay’s defensive rating of 107 points per 100 possessions was a full 10 points worse than George’s, and the star of the Indiana Pacers also racked up 10.8 total win shares, dwarfing Gay’s 4.8. George also posted a superior offensive rating, Player Efficiency Rating and true shooting percentage compared to Gay. Gay’s short chart also isn’t very appealing to look at:

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay’s 2013-14 Shot Chart, per NBA.com

But is Gay’s reputation as an inefficient gunner fair when George averaged 0.8 more shots per game this season than Gay, who was a full three percent better than PG from the field? Has anyone noticed that Gay’s all-around numbers don’t trail George’s by that much, yet one has the reputation of being an emerging offensive talent and the other is known as an overrated ball hog? Sacramento Kings fans should be nodding vigorously right now.

Gay shot 48 percent from the field in 55 games with the Kings and he posted the highest Player Efficiency Rating of his career (19.6). Although Sacramento has tons of issues to work out with its roster still, the small forward position might not be one of them.

He certainly still has his flaws. His defense is shabby, he’ll have his off nights and he’ll never be much of a distributor. Essentially, you won’t be winning an NBA championship with Rudy Gay as your best player. But if he’s able to put together another successful season with the Kings in 2014-15, the public perception of him being an ineffective gunslinger needs to stop. Because at this point, Gay’s reputation of being “overrated” might actually make him a little bit underrated.

Tags: Rudy Gay Rudy Gay Opts In Rudy Gay Player Option Sacramento Kings

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