2014-15 Season in Review: Rudy Gay
Whatever happened in Toronto is long behind Rudy Gay at this point. The 28-year-old high flyer is as smooth a player as there is in the league, and he’s a perfect compliment to DeMarcus Cousins. The duo has yet to get the Sacramento Kings into the playoffs, but it’s pretty clear they are not the problem.
The argument could be made that Gay was the best small forward in the NBA this season not named LeBron James. His career-high 21.1 points per game placed him 12th overall in the NBA and second behind James among small forwards. If the Kings could have won more games, Gay’s name would be almost completely rehabilitated after his stint with the Raptors.
While Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward were busy locking up questionable max money deals, Sacramento inked Gay to a reasonable three-year extension that will carry him to his 32nd birthday. After paying him $19.3 million in 2014-15, the Kings are on the hook for $12.4 this season, $13.3 the following, and Gay has a $14.3 million player option for the 2017-18 season.
Versatility is what separates Gay from so many others. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-3 wingspan, he can play either forward position and may solve the Kings’ issues at the power position moving forward. He can run the floor, post up, hit a mid-range jumper and this season, he improved greatly from behind the arc.
Gay’s shot chart shows a few interesting trends. He is clearly a better 3-point shooter from the elbows than he is from the corners. His 35.9 percent shooting from behind the arc was the third-best percentage he’s hit from long range in his career. He will need to improve from all spots during this summer if he wants to fit the prototypical George Karl small forward.
While he isn’t a natural slasher, Gay still managed to shoot 62.9 percent at the rim. Much of that came in transition, although he is known to take a few dribbles and hammer down over a slow-footed opponent. Where Gay really excelled was in the 10-16 foot range. He took 184 shots from this area of the floor and knocked down 46.7 percent. When his mid-range jumper is on, he is nearly indefensible due to his length, balance and leaping ability.
As the season continued, Gay improved greatly as a facilitator, setting a new career-high in assists per game at 3.7 and assist percentage at 19 percent. His 3.7 assists were tied for fourth amongst NBA small forwards.
Defensively, Gay held his opponents under their season average by a single percentage point. His strongest area was from beyond 15 feet where he allowed his opponent to shoot 34.8 percent below their average for a negative-2.4 percent difference.
Gay shot a whopping 843 jump shots on the season and hit just 39.9 percent on those attempts. Too often he settled for the easy jumper instead of taking his opponent off the dribble or backing them down in the post. His numbers aren’t great, but that’s because jump shots are usually a low percentage shot. Gay is about as good as it gets in the league on the mid-range jumper.
Bumps and bruises cost Gay 14 games on the season, but very few of those misses were avoidable. Once Gay fell into the NBA’s concussion protocol late in the season, he missed eight of the team’s final nine games.
Gay had plenty of issues with turnovers throughout the season, but his numbers weren’t all that bad for a player with a usage rate of 27 percent. He had three games of seven turnovers or more and his 2.7 errors per game were tied for second amongst small forwards.
The nine-year veteran could rebound a little bit better, block more shots and maybe pick up a few more steals, but he was a very good player overall in 2014-15.
Gay is a building block with a reasonable contract for the next three seasons. He can play either forward position, especially with the NBA moving more towards stretch fours. If the Kings would have continued their strong early play, Gay would have been an All-Star candidate, but that was all tossed aside when Michael Malone was relieved of his duties.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Gay isn’t back with the team next season. He isn’t untouchable per se, but he represents one of the few things the Kings front office has got right in their first two seasons. If they were to package him in a deal, it would have to be for a star level player.
Gay will open the season as a starter and may even be a focal point of the Kings offense in the same way that Carmelo Anthony was in Denver under Karl.
Cowbell Kingdom would like your opinion. How do you grade Rudy Gay’s season?
This is part six of our continuing “Season in Review” series. Below are links to the first five articles.