Memphis Grizzlies: The Case Against Trading Rudy Gay
Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay has been the subject of a lot of trade talks lately. He’ s been under-performing and it has been suggested that the team might be better off without him.
After all, their lengthy 2011 playoff run came without Gay in the lineup and they rarely looked any worse for wear. Additionally, he’s a talented enough player that many other franchises looking for a building block have inquired about Gay. On the surface, moving Gay near the trade deadline feels like a completely logical move.
But the Grizzlies shouldn’t be so quick to the pull the trigger on a trade. Gay is a reliable 20 point-a-game scorer and even if he isn’t a top-15 player, he is a very important part of the Grizzlies team. For a team that derives most of their strength from their defense, Gay is the all-important offensive player; the guy who they know can put points on the board.
Even in a down year like this one, Gay is still leading the team in scoring. He’s not a perfect player and it would be nice if he was better at drawing free throws, but he is one of the better small forwards in the league and the Grizzlies should think twice before shipping him off.
Let’s take a look at where the Grizzlies are right now. Their record currently stands at 24-11 and they are on pace to have the best regular season in franchise history. Usually, trading a marquee player is something you only do when your team is struggling. Why would the Grizzlies ship Gay away when they have one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference? The timing seems completely wrong for making such a major move.
Also, the Grizzlies have never entered the playoffs with the team at full strength. They were missing Gay in 2011 and while every major player was around for their first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last year, Zach Randolph was clearly not himself. The all-star power forward was still recovering from a brutal injury and wasn’t producing at anywhere near his normal averages.
Now, the entire team is healthy. Wouldn’t the Grizzlies want to see what they can do with everyone at their best before they make such a drastic alteration to the team’s genetic makeup? If the season ends with the Grizzlies losing in the first round again, I could see where Memphis would want to ship away a major piece, but in the heart of the season, with the personnel to make a serious title run, why do something that could seriously weaken the team?
Finally, the Grizzlies shouldn’t trade Gay unless they are getting something of value in exchange for him. The Suns were brought up as a potential trade partner, but what could they really offer? One of the names that was brought up was Jared Dudley. Dudley is a decent player and by all accounts a nice guy, but he’s not Rudy Gay. He’s not even close to his level. A Gay-for-Dudley swap would weaken the Grizzlies.
You could potentially argue a move like this as an “addition-by-subtraction” ploy, like when the Hawks improved after shipping Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, but that seems like a risk to me. Dudley isn’t a bad player, but I can’t see how swapping Gay for him would possibly make the Grizzlies a stronger team.
The Golden State Warriors have also come up in trade talks. That situation offers a little more leeway. The Grizzlies could trade Gay for Klay Thompson and that might actually change their dynamic for the positive. Thompson could thrive in a sixth-man role and give the Grizzlies the lights out 3-point shooter they need. Rookie Harrison Barnes might be interesting as well, since he has loads of potential and is a great athlete.
Still, a trade with the Warriors seems unlikely. Both teams are doing well (if the playoffs started today, they would play each other), and neither has a good reason to alter team chemistry. The Rudy Gay trade talk is fun water cooler discussion, but it mostly leads to a myriad of dead ends.
I could see the Grizzlies pulling the trigger on a Gay trade sometime in the future, but now is not the time. They have a great team, that could make a legitimate title run. Only a fool would change things midstream by getting rid of a player of Rudy Gay’s caliber, especially with a team this good.
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John Hugar lives in Buffalo, where he is finishing up undergraduate work at the University at Buffalo. His work has appeared at 3 Shades Of Blue, The Classical, and Bleacher Report. He's been a Grizzlies fan since day one, during their time Vancouver and Memphis.