Now, Grizzlies sit atop of the Western Conference. But it is easy to forget that there was another big off season question that hovered over the Grizzlies.
Would Rudy Gay begin next season wearing a Grizzlies jersey? Were they going to trade him or keep him?
After a first round exit to the Los Angles Clippers, ownership was pressed with the decision of keeping together a mediocre yet expensive team. If the team were to break up the core, Gay would be the ideal player teams would ask for. Despite his contract that would pay Gay $54 million for the remaining three years, a young athletic wing player would have been intriguing to many other teams in the league.
Gay led the Grizzlies in scoring last season, and there was no clear indication yet from Grizzlies’ management that they were looking to trade him despite several rumors.
A high payroll could be problematic to a small-market Grizzlies team that owes $58 million to four players (Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley) in 2013-14, and that is before the harsher luxury-tax penalties kick in.
The Grizzlies had a chance to break up the core but elected to keep their supremely talented core to make one more run at the Western Conference.
In order for Memphis to have to make the jump to Western Conference contenders, they needed Randolph to return to his elite 2010 form and Gay to stay healthy.
Check and check.
At least for now, Gay has gone from the subject of trade rumors on a team with question marks to a vital part of a team that can win the Western Conference.
Memphis is a team that runs their offense in the low-post through Gasol and Randolph. But Gay makes for an excellent compliment to Memphis’ inside-outside game as a player on the perimeter who can create his own shot off of the dribble. When defenses make the adjustment to collapse the paint, a player who can break his man beat his man one-on-one on the perimeter gives opposing teams something else to think about.
Gay is the third wheel on this team but when he plays well,Memphis has a chance to special.