The Sacramento Kings took the floor against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night and put a hurting on the injury-riddled Pelicans. Sacramento jumped out to an 18-point lead to start the night, but went into the half leading by only eight. However, a strong third quarter pushed the lead back to 21 and Sacramento never really looked back on their way to a 114-97 win, their 15th of the 2013-14 NBA season.
The star for the Kings on Tuesday night was unquestionably Rudy Gay. In 42 minutes, Gay put up 41 points, eight rebounds and five assists while shooting 16-25 from the floor and 5-8 from long-range. Though his production was notable, his efficiency on Tuesday was the most impressive part of his performance, especially given the narratives concerning Gay over the past year.
While with the Toronto Raptors, Gay was consistently blasted for his shot-selection and inefficiency. In 18 games this season with the Raptors, Gay was shooting just 38.8 percent from the floor and averaging 19.4 points per game off of 18.6 shot attempts per night.
Since being traded to the Kings early in December, though, Gay has noticeably turned a corner. In the 19 games with Sacramento prior to Tuesday night, Gay was averaging a similar 19.9 points per game. The impressive part, though, is that he had done so while taking four fewer shot attempts per game than when he was in Toronto and while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor.
The reason for Gay’s stunning offensive turnaround in Sacramento is actually quite simple. In Toronto, Gay was the clear alpha-dog and was relied upon a great deal. His usage rate in Toronto was an alarming 30.1 percent. Coming to the Kings and playing alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, though, Gay doesn’t have to be as ball-dominant and can create better looks for himself by moving off of the ball and by not having to force bad looks up. Though it’s a bit strange, his usage rate dropping nearly six percent since coming to Sacramento has actually aided his production.
When you watch Gay play, there’s no question that you’re watching an incredible athlete with a boatload of discernible NBA skills. In Sacramento, though, it finally seems like he’s set up for success. In Toronto and even with the Memphis Grizzlies to a degree, he was asked to be a star which led to unpleasant results, With the Kings, he’s essentially been made an over-qualified complimentary player, which has seemingly made a world of difference in his approach and productivity.