The noise surrounding Rudy Gay’s arrival in Toronto in late January has died down considerably and it is now clear that the Toronto Raptors have not found the star player the so badly covet.
The tease that was Gay’s sophomore season (20ppg, 6rpg), when we thought the youngster out of Connecticut was destined to become the next Tracy McGrady, turned out to be nothing of the sort. It was actually the younger Kevin Durant who was the one to reach McGrady’s level–and then quickly surpass it–and Gay has remained even further down the line of borderline All-Stars than Josh Smith, which is not exactly the greatest place to be as a highly paid focal point of an NBA team. The Raptors have been devoid of a true star player for most of their NBA existence and just like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh before him, Gay is looking more and more like another Raptors pseudo superstar.
Gay’s Raptors career actually got off to a good start. He scored a team-high 20 points as Toronto dismantled the Pacific-leading Clippers on February 2 and produced back-to-back clutch performances, including scoring 17 fourth quarter points against the Pacers and hitting two game winners, but Gay’s actual play as a Raptor has been even further from the level we saw in Memphis.
Gay shot an abysmal 40 percent from the field for Memphis in his 42 games for the Grizzlies in 2012-13 and that has dropped to a pathetic 37.5 and 26.1 from three in 11 games as a Raptor. In addition, the flaws that made him one of the league’s most overpaid players remain and have possibly even deteriorated further. His shot selection leaves a lot to be desired and his selfishness is a huge concern.
The team that knows him better than any other, the Memphis Grizzlies, played Gay into a pathetic performance last week. We’ve seen other star players stink it up against their old teams this season (James Harden is the prime example), but Memphis exploited Gay tremendously and it showed the basketball world just what type of player he is.
Gay did manage 13 points (5-15 shooting), but the Grizzlies took advantage of one key stat- in ISO situations Gay gives up the ball just 8.3 percent of the time, a truly reckless number. So instead of covering him with a noted defender along the lines of Tayshaun Prince or Tony Allen, the Grizzlies stuck big Zach Randolph on Gay and it won them the game.
While Randolph watched Gay, the two nearest defenders essentially left their man open in order to provide help, and with Memphis leading 79-77, Gay drove left (a tendency he leans to 45 percent of the time in this situation) and eventually turned the ball over when he ignored an open Kyle Lowry in the corner for far too long.
For some reason Gay is known as an elite scorer, however this short stint with the Raptors is the first time in his eight year career that he has been able to match the 20 points per game he averaged as an NBA sophomore. Playing alongside ball-needing, perimeter orientated players in Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan will not work long-term and Toronto must come to the realization that Gay will never be the player they actually want.