The Sacramento Kings have begun to field trade offers for Rudy Gay and the team looks very interested in moving him. Is it wise for the Kings to move one of their core pieces with a spot in the playoffs up for grabs?
Due to all of the offseason rumors and movement, the Sacramento Kings were one of the most unpredictable teams coming into the 2015-16 season. After the Kings added Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, and Willie Cauley-Stein (at number six in the2015 NBA draft), it was tough to assess the organization’s direction moving forward, and with alleged feuding between the coach and star player, the team looked set to implode. However, after 40 games it appears as if the Kings are finally starting to work things out, and they are only one game out of a playoff berth.
With a playoff spot up for grabs, the Kings have reportedly made Rudy Gay available for trade, and the Pelicans have declined an offer centered around him and Ryan Anderson. However, trading Gay may not be the best way to improve the team — at least according to statistics. While Rudy’s individual numbers have suffered a dip this season, he is still averaging a respectable 18 points per game on 49.6 true shooting percentage, and as far as chemistry is concerned, he features in all of the Kings best lineups.
Over the last two games, the Kings have fielded a starting lineup of Rondo, Ben McLemore, Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, and Cauley-Stein, and they have seen success with it — winning back-to-back games against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers. Statistically, this lineup is the best one that they have and the Kings may need to consider giving it more time before looking to move any of its pieces. While it’s a bit of a small sample size, these five starters have played 79 minutes together and have an overall net rating of plus-22.4. To put that into perspective, the Kings next best lineup has a net rating of plus-10.1, and their best lineup compares more closely to the Golden State lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who have a net rating of plus-27.9.
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While the rest of the Kings lineups have struggled to play two-way basketball, their most recent starting five have been great on both ends, with an 115.9 offensive rating and a 93.4 defensive rating. Both of these ratings are well above league average and the Kings have looked especially good on defense with Cauley-Stein’s recent return from injury. With Cauley-Stein missing 14 games prior to his return, this lineup has hardly had the time to jell, and as the rookie improves it can only be assumed that the team will too. As a result, it may be best to hold onto Gay and see how this lineup continues to perform before making any drastic changes. However, with the lack of shooting, this lineup’s success may not be sustainable over longer periods of time, and that could cause some spacing issues as opposing teams become more familiar with the lineup.
Every member of this particular starting lineup (besides McLemore) is a sub-35 percent three-point shooter, and in today’s NBA it is going to be difficult to maintain a high offensive ranking without shooters. Ideally, that is what the Kings had in mind when looking to acquire Anderson, but trading Gay for Anderson feels more like a ‘for the sake of it’ move than a calculated one. The Kings already have Omri Casspi playing extremely well as the stretch-4, and if the team feels a trade has to be made, they shouldn’t do so out of desperation.
If the Kings make a trade, there are two key areas that they must address: shooting and defense. However, it’s important that they don’t do one without the other. With the salary cap rising, Rudy Gay is signed to a fairly team friendly, $12.4 million contract, and there are plenty of teams in need of scoring from the wing — which means there should be a trade that allows the Kings to improve on both of their weaknesses.
In the reported trade with Anderson, the Kings would address some of their floor spacing issues, but they would be sacrificing some already much-needed defense (not that Gay provides a lot, but Anderson provides even less). Potentially the Kings could field a starting lineup of Rondo, McLemore, Casspi, Anderson, and Cousins, which is full of firepower, but it would be no help to a team that ranks third-to-last in defensive efficiency. The Kings already score 106.3 points per game (third in the NBA), so it’s critical that they receive at least some defensive talent in return for Gay.
As far as fit and pieces available go, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to deal Gay right now. With the salary cap increasing, Gay is on a fair contract and it would be wise to take advantage of a desperate team rather than moving Gay for the sake of it. It’s not unreasonable to field offers, but with the team playing well they should hold out for the best offer possible.