Gay’s start to the season has been impressive but what does it mean?
It doesn’t look like the Sacramento Kings will be contending for an NBA championship anytime soon. Rudy Gay knows that, and we also know that Gay has been playing at a really high level through the first 11 games of the season.
Gay is having the best season of his career, at least so far. Yes, I know, Gay has only played in 10 games and it’s hard to get a good gauge of what it means, but it isn’t meaningless.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Gay is averaging the most points (22.3), field goals made (7.9), and free throws made per game (5.2). Not only that but this year is his best when it comes to field goal percentage (49.1 percent), and 3-point percentage (41.9 percent).
In both the ’16-17 season and the ’15-16 season, Gay played in 10 of the first 11 games of the Kings’ season.
In those first 10 games of the ’15-16 season, Gay’s field goal percentage was barely 45 percent as he shot 74-of-166 from the field.
This year Gay is shooting 49.1 percent from the field on 79-of-161 from the floor.
Even defensively, Gay is getting it done. According to NBA.com, when Gay is defending a player they shoot 40.5 percent from the floor.
According to the same page, when Gay isn’t guarding those players they shoot 44.7 percent from the field.
That 4.2 percent boost for Gay is better than Marcus Smart, Jimmy Butler and even Kawhi Leonard. Now, is Gay better than Leonard? No, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
Let’s stay with Jimmy Butler for a second. Butler is the prototype for what the NBA is going towards. He’s a tall, lanky scorer who can defend at a high level and is developing a 3-point shot.
As of right now, Gay has a better defensive rating than Butler. (The lower the number is the better).
Jimmy Butler defensive rating is 106.1
Rudy Gay defensive rating is 105.6
As mentioned above, Gay holds his opponents to a worse field goal percentage than Butler and Gay is neck and neck with Butler in points, (22.3 for Gay and 22.9 for Butler) rebounds, (6.5 for Gay and 5.2 for Butler) field goal percentage (49.1 percent for Gay and 48 percent for Butler) and steals (1.4 for Gay and 1.9 for Butler).
So why is this happening? Well, one could say that Coach Dave Joerger understands the shots that Gay is good at and lets him thrive. So far, Gay has taken, on average, eight shots a game within 10 feet of the basket. With those eight shots, Gay is shooting 63.8 percent.
Last season Gay shot 52.3 percent from within 10 feet on less shots on 7.3 attempts per game. It makes sense that if you make a few more shots when you’re closer to the basket then it helps your confidence when you take longer-range shots. Take a look at the makes he had against the Toronto Raptors.
Every 2-point shot he made was close to the rim. Then, at the end, he knocked down the 3-point shots with confidence.
Speaking of long distance shots, Gay is making 3-point field goals at a much higher percentage than last season. Last season Gay shot 34.4 percent from behind the arc. This season he’s shooting 41.9 percent.
Therefore, long story short, Gay is a better shooter than he was last year by a decent margin. However, even with all of that said, what does all of it mean?
After all the team is still losing (4-7) and, at best, will make the eighth seed in the Western Conference where they would await the opportunity to get beaten down by either the Spurs, Warriors or Clippers.
Maybe this is the best opportunity to use Gay as trade bait or maybe Gay is adapting better to Joerger’s system considering his familiarity with it when they both were in Memphis.
Whatever the case is, Gay has been a much better and more efficient player than you’d think he would have been going into the season. Maybe he doesn’t keep it up, but for right now, it’s nice to see Gay playing at a high level.