In Bryan Colangelo‘s last move as Toronto Raptors GM, he acquired Rudy Gay and the $37 million still left on his five-year deal originally signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Current GM Masai Ujiri now has his hands full as he must decide if Gay is worth that money.
13 games into this young season, Gay is putting up some numbers — there’s no question about that. He is currently averaging, 20.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1, APG, 1.6, SPG, 1.3 BPG, a 38.1 percent FG% and a 39.1 percent 3PT%. Those are solid numbers, if only not for that field goal percentage.
Gay has left Raptor Nation feeling a little bit squeamish on more than one occasion this season after a steady dose of clanking. The 41.6 FG percent which Gay shot last season was the lowest of his career since his rookie season in which he shot 42.2 percent. Following his rookie season, Gay had not shot worse than 45 percent before coming to Toronto. His current number stands as his lowest to date.
So what gives? Why the shooting woes?
Well, it can’t be the starting point guard play as Kyle Lowry, Gay’s current PG, and Mike Conley, Gay’s former PG, have nearly played to identical career stat lines thus far. In fact, Lowry has the better overall career averages, edging Conley in both assists and rebounds.
Maybe it has something to do with spacing on the floor? After all, Gay did have O.J. Mayo along his side while playing in Memphis. Mayo currently is shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point land and is a career 38.5 percent 3-point marksmen, so he definitely would have helped in keeping defenses honest.
On the other hand, Mayo’s role with the Grizz quickly fizzled out after the arrival of Tony Allen, whose crooked head-twitch resembles an ostrich’s neck spasm more than a professional looking jump shot. Allen routinely finished games instead of Mayo and is a woeful 26.9 percent career 3-point shooter.
Although Gay’s current sidekick, young upstart Demar Derozan, is currently a 36.4 percent 3-point shooter, the Raptors team as a whole remain near the bottom of the league in 3-point shooting. This isn’t new to Gay however, as the Grizzlies were also notorious for lacking shooters, prompting them to bring in Mike Miller this past offseason.
So if it’s not the point guard or the floor spacing, what could it be?
Well for starters, Gay is definitely receiving more attention now than he has in his past seven seasons in the league. Without the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph carving up space down low, opposing defenders can now play Gay straight up. Defenses aren’t exactly clamoring to double down on the likes of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas if they get it on the block, allowing more focus to be placed on Gay.
Another factor, and this is the biggest one, is that Gay is the “man” for the first time in his career. Unlike during his time with the Grizzles, Gay is counted upon on a nightly basis to be the Raptors go-to-scorer, not just a complimentary scorer. Gay has a ridiculous usage rate in Dwane Casey‘s inept offensive scheme which is higher than those of both LeBron James and Kevin Durant, while clearly possessing nowhere near the same level of talent of either.
That’s not a knock on Gay, who is a solid player, but it’s a coaching issue.
Gay is counted upon to involve others, to defend the opposing team’s best player(s), to rebound and to be the go-to-scorer in Toronto. It’s clear that as badly as Casey and Raptor fans want Gay to figure it out and be worth every penny owed to him, he simply isn’t. At 27-years old and seven years into his career, how much room for improvement can the Raptors’ front office reasonably expect from him in the near future?
Gay is the 13th-highest paid player in the NBA, earning more than Durant, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin among others. Gay is scheduled to make $17.3 million for this upcoming season. Of the 20 highest-paid players for the 2013-14 NBA season, all 20 of them have previously been named to multiple All-Star games … except for Gay, who has never been named an All-Star in his career.
So is Rudy Gay worth the contract at $37 million over the next two years? Not even close.