Every so often, a team takes an educated gamble on a player. The San Antonio Spurs did this over the summer when they signed Rudy Gay.
Have you ever taken a gamble on a horse that came up lame in the last race it ran? This is not usually a wise bet to make. Over the summer, the San Antonio Spurs did just that on Rudy Gay. Gay injured his Achilles on Jan. 18, 2016. The Spurs signed him without seeing him play a game since then.
The problem with players who tear their Achilles is they usually have a lot lower numbers after their injury. The legendary Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons had his Hall of Fame career ended at age 32 by a complete tear of the Achilles. Rudy Gay was 30 when he injured his.
Of prominent players who injured their Achilles, only Dominique Wilkins was able to average similar numbers after his injury. Wilkins averaged 26.2 points before the injury, and 25.2 per game in the five seasons after. Some of this, however, can be attributed to his age, as he was 39 when he retired.
Rudy Gay: Before and after
Gay appears to be another player who has managed to shake the Achilles curse. So far this season, Gay has played 25 of the Spurs’ 27 games. He has averaged 23.5 minutes per game, compared to his career number of 35.2.
In this time, Gay has averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. These numbers, with the exception of points per game, are comparable to his career numbers. Gay has dropped from 18.2 points per game for his career, to this season’s number. However, Gay is taking a career-low 9.8 shot attempts per game (excluding his rookie year).
This can be attributed to his change in role, rather than any lingering hangover from his injury. Gay is actually shooting a career-best 48.4 percent from the field.
It is Gay’s per 36 numbers that show just how well he is performing. His 19.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks are all above his career per 36 numbers. Instead of his game falling away, he is becoming more efficient in limited minutes.
It is this efficiency that’s helped the injury-depleted Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference. He has developed a chemistry with LaMarcus Aldridge that is simply beautiful to watch.
Gay has come into a team that started the season without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. Other players who have gone down for various stretches include Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauvergne and Danny Green.
Gay has held up his end of the bargain with poise and class. His play has not allowed teams to double Aldridge, meaning the power forward has been able to dominate games the way he has.
Where Gay has been most effective has been coming off the bench, continuing the scoring on the platform laid down by the starting unit.
Where to now?
With the return of Kawhi Leonard probable this week, the San Antonio Spurs are almost back to full strength. It will be interesting to see how the rotations pan out.
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Gay is almost certainly going to come on with the second unit. His scoring punch will go well with Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili. He will spell Leonard as the Spurs star gets back into game shape again. However, Gay’s play has shown he is also capable of playing stretch-4.
This will mean the Spurs will be able to go small with Aldridge at center, Gay at the 4, Leonard at the 3. Green and Parker will fill out the two guard roles with Ginobili and Mills as options. This lineup will challenge any so-called death lineups in the league.
As a result, Gasol, Lauvergne and Anderson are going to lose the most minutes with Leonard coming back. Gay, however, is likely to see his minutes increase, making the Spurs even more dangerous.
One thing is for sure though. When the San Antonio Spurs take a gamble, it usually pays off. With the season 27 games old already, the Rudy Gay gamble may yet have a huge payday in June.