Would the Sacramento Kings improve defensively without Rudy Gay?
It looks like a near certainty that Rudy Gay will be leaving the Kings either at the NBA trading deadline or in the offseason. Whether it’s a trade for Goran Dragic or something involving the Los Angeles Lakers, the rumors are everywhere.
However, for now, let’s try to wrap our heads around what the team would look like without him and see how Matt Barnes or Omri Casspi would hold it down on the defensive end.
There’s a few ways to look at this when it comes to defense. The first way is to look at some of the basic defensive stats. By basic I mean things like steals, blocks and rebounds.
Rebounds are included in defense because if you can’t prevent the other team from getting the ball then you give up easy points and that’s bad defense.
During the ’15-16 season, Gay averaged 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and 6.5 rebounds per game while playing 34 minutes. As far as small forwards rank, Gay is 8th in rebounds, 6th in steals and 6th in blocks. All of these lead you to assume that Gay is an above average defender for his position.
Barnes’ numbers look like this: 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 5.5 rebounds while playing 28.8 minutes. For Casspi, it was 5.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks while playing 27.2 minutes. So far, Gay has the edge over Barnes and Casspi.
Then, looking a little deeper, we go to this map above that shows Gay’s defensive breakdown at all ends of the court. When you look at it and see that LA means league average, it shows that Gay is an above average defender when you look at his numbers in most areas.
If you take a look at those six positions on the court, you see that Gay is better than the league average on four of them. Only when a defender has made it to the rim and in the left corner is where Gay becomes below average.
When looking at Barnes’ numbers again, they are slightly worse but not terrible. From the left side of the rim, Barnes holds opponents to 25.9 percent from the corner and 34.3 percent from the upper left end of the arc.
The same goes for Casspi as he allows 28 percent from the left corner and 29.6 percent from the top left. If you take a look on NBA.com, Casspi holds his opponents to a FG% of 48.2 percent and Barnes holds his opponents to 48 percent.
Still, if you take into account that Gay holds opponents to 44.1 percent from the floor then you’d be led to believe that Gay is going to be hard to replace.
If you want to be positive, some of the categories that Barnes does have Gay beat are in defensive win shares (2.2 for Barnes and 2.1 for Gay) and block percentage (2.4 for Barnes and 1.7 for Gay). All of this according to basketball-reference.com
Now what is a defensive win share? It’s a long, complicated stat that you can read further by following the link below, but it takes into account pace, defensive possessions, steals, blocks and many other things.
For steal percentage, it takes into account the percentage of times a steal happens when the player is guarding someone. The higher the percentage is the better that player is.
Also, don’t forget about the wingspans on these players. While it might not seem that significant, remember that Gay has an 87’’ wingspan, while Barnes and Casspi only have an 81 and 81.25” respectively. Those inches help when reaching for a ball or defending a shot.
Here is a deeper chart of how Gay does against other forwards/guards:
How Barnes does against other forwards/guards:
Here is a deeper chart of how Casspi does against other forwards/guards:
Therefore, after looking at everything, if Gay does go expect a drop-off in defensive production from the small forward position. Barnes has proven to be a capable defender but considering he’ll be 37 years old when the season is over, it would be asking a lot for him to be the main defender on players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard every night. At least when he was on the Grizzlies he had Tony Allen to help him out.