The Sacramento Kings made their second big trade of the season yesterday, acquiring Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. Gay is a big name, and many people quickly believed that this was a good move for the Kings and that Gay could be the player they need to become a contender in the Western Conference. Look closer, however, and you will see that this was a very poor decision from the Kings, and they will come to regret it.
First of all, Gay is making $17.9 million this season and $19.3 million next year, so any cap flexibility the Kings had is now gone. DeMarcus Cousins’ contract extension kicks in next season, and once that happens the Kings will essentially be capped out. With Isaiah Thomas needing an extension and some depth needs the Kings have in the backcourt and on the wings, Gay’s contract is something that will greatly limit their options.
The problems with this move get even bigger on the court. Gay is a classic high volume, low efficiency scorer, which is exactly what the Kings don’t need. Gay is only shooting 38.8% from the field this season, and although that number will likely go up, he has never been the type of player that defenses fear as a shooter. Of course, Gay doesn’t exactly see things that way, which is why he is fourth in the NBA in field attempts per game.
Shooting that much with that low a percentage going in will make a team an offensive disaster. Gay ranks 7th in the NBA in usage rate, a stat that tracks what percentage of team’s possession end with a given player either shooting, assisting or turning the ball over. Gay only averages 2.2 assists per game compared to 3.3 turnovers, so it’s either a shot or a turnover with him. To put this problem in perspective, here’s a list of some of the players that Gay has a higher usage rate than: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kevin Love.I don’t think anyone would consider Gay to be in their class, yet he controls even more of his team’s offense than those stars do.
Gay is not even close to good enough a player to average that kind of usage rate, and before you say the Raptors don’t have anyone else, consider Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. The Raptors actually have a very solid young core, and they are capable of competing in the East without Gay. This is not tanking from the Raptors, they believe they have gotten better and saved money doing it.
An interesting note here is that Gay is actually tied for 7th in usage rate with Thomas, and Cousins actually has the highest rate in the league. That doesn’t leave a lot of shots for Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams and Marcus Thornton, so the Kings will have to structure their rotation to balance the needs of all their scorers. If they are smart, they will continue to leave Cousins as the focal point, and they will make sure that young talents like McLemore, Thomas and Williams get plenty of opportunities, because they are the future.
When you consider his salary, how much he can drag down an offense and the fact that he is often a lazy defender, and there is really not much positive to say about adding Rudy Gay. Gay is the type of player who will always be the best player on a bad team, not a key member of a contender. It is not a coincidence that the Memphis Grizzlies had the best season in franchise history after trading him. I fully support the Kings’ efforts to try to acquire a star player, but Rudy Gay is not the player they should have been looking for. This was not a good move, and the Kings will regret it.