In Zach Lowe’s latest piece for Grantland, the Raptors are listed as one of seven “sensible candidates” for Rudy Gay’s services. This past summer, or even earlier this season, anything that linked Gay to the Raptors would have started a giddy frenzy among Raps fans, and I would have been found smack dab in the middle of those hopeful supporters.
But now? Now the thought of acquiring Gay worries and scares me a hell of a lot more than it excites me.
Here’s what Rudy Gay is right now, and what he’ll probably be for the majority of his prime years (he’s 26): A borderline All Star from year to year who can be depended on for 17-18 points and 5-6 rebounds per 36 minutes while playing inconsistent defence. In summary, Rudy Gay is an above average NBA player who is a Tier 2 star on his best days and a frustrating potential head case on his worst days.
What he most certainly isn’t is a max contract player, at least not on merit. On the books, though, he’s just that, as Gay is in the third year of a five-year, $82,302,688 contract.
Gay would probably be the best player on the Raptors if he was traded north of the border, and he would most likely make this team better, but I doubt he’d make them better by enough to justify paying him nearly $18 million next season and over $19 million in 2014-15 if he picks up his player option for that season. In addition, Gay probably doesn’t improve the Raptors by enough to justify the young asset(s) the team would have to surrender to acquire him, and please don’t bring up the possibility of dumping Andrea Bargnani’s contract on the Grizzlies. Memphis is looking to shed long-term salary, which means they wouldn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to pay their third big man (that’s what Bargnani would be behind Randolph and Gasol) over $22 million for two years after this one.
I fully understand that trading young assets is usually necessary to acquire All Star talent in their prime years, and I’m fine with that, but not when the max contract player you’re trading for is a borderline All Star that doesn’t make you significantly better.
Then there’s the issue of DeMar DeRozan. I criticized the four-year extension given to DeRozan as much as anyone, and his last two games have left much to be desired, but the all around improvements he’s shown this season paint an interesting portrait with respect to a Rudy Gay conversation. In fact, looking at where DeRozan is now compared to where Gay was in his fourth season at 23-years-old, you can make the argument that DeMar’s on his way to a Gay-like career at a fraction of the cost (their fourth-year per-36 averages in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls are all within 0.8).
Gay was more efficient (had a fourth-year PER advantage over DeRozan of 16.2 to 14.9) and could create for himself in ways DeRozan still can’t, but based on the work DeMar puts into his game, the subsequent development in his game and the fact that Gay’s game has barely seen any development over his career, it’s not that much of a stretch to consider that DeRozan’s drive alone will propel him to the same borderline All Star status that Rudy currently possesses.
The difference, of course, is that after his fourth season, DeRozan will begin a new four-year contract worth $38 million while after Gay’s fourth season (which again, wasn’t that much better than DeRozan’s), he began a new five-year contract worth over $82 million.
Other than the hope that a change of scenery and being the No. 1 option again will reignite his spark, acquiring Gay at his current price tag just doesn’t seem to make sense for a still rebuilding team in Toronto.
If we were only a week into the season or even a month into it, I wouldn’t be so sure about my change of heart with regard to Gay’s decline (or DeRozan’s worth, for that matter), but over two months and 30-plus games into 2012-13, I don’t like what I’m seeing from Gay – both from a quality of play standpoint and body language standpoint.
As of right now, I say let another team – preferably one a lot closer to contention – take that costly gamble.
Rudy Gay? No, not this guy.