After underperforming on the offensive end this past season, the New Orleans Pelicans will be in the market for help during free agency. Rudy Gay is expected to opt out of the last year of his contract, so are the two a good fit?
Last week, The Undefeated‘s Marc J. Spears reported that veteran NBA swingman Rudy Gay is planning on opting out of the final year of his contract with the Sacramento Kings to become a free agent this summer.
This is a major risk for Gay as he was scheduled to earn a guaranteed salary of $14.3 million next season. Making matters riskier, Gay is still recovering from the tear to his left Achilles tendon suffered this past January, which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
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The good news is that Gay is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and should be able to resume on-the-court activities mid-June.
After landing in the bottom half of the league this past season in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and offensive efficiency, the New Orleans Pelicans will assuredly be in the market for added help on the offensive end this summer.
On the surface, the pairing of Rudy Gay and the New Orleans Pelicans makes a lot of sense for both parties. He’s a proven veteran scorer who checks off a lot of needs for the Pellies. At the age of 30, the 11-year vet is reaching that stage in every player’s career where priorities often switch from trying to get the most money to trying to getting the most wins and a chance to compete for a ring.
For the Pelicans, Rudy Gay would add dynamic scoring threat from the small forward position who can create his own shot and generate offense from anywhere on the floor.
Gay boasts a career scoring average of 18.4 points a game and aside from his rookie season where he averaged 10.8 points per game, Gay has put up more than 18 points per game in each of the 10 seasons since.
Offensive production from the small forward position is something New Orleans has lacked for some time and was an issue for the Pelicans last season. Solomon Hill — who the Pelicans strongly invested in with a four-year, $48 million contract during last summer and currently occupies the starting small forward position — averaged a pedestrian 7.0 point per game this season.
For Rudy Gay’s part, there are only two reasons why the risk of opting out of his contract after suffering a season-ending injury would make sense to him. Either he believes he can get more money for his services in today’s NBA market or the prospect of remaining with a team who’s clearly in rebuild mode can’t, in his mind, justify what would be his salary of $14.2 million next season — meaning he would prefer to play for a contender; even if that means sacrificing a portion of his salary.
After swinging a blockbuster trade for Gay’s former teammate DeMarcus Cousins at last year’s trade deadline, the Pelicans have now become the type of contending team that Gay would be looking for at this stage in his career.
However, is Rudy Gay really the type of player the Pelicans need at this stage as they continue to build around what is expected to be a three-headed monster of Anthony Davis, Cousins and Jrue Holiday?
Gay’s style of play certainly gives cause for concern. Yes, he’s a potent scorer who can light it up on any given night, but he’s also a volume shooter who dominates the basketball.
He’s an inefficient player and an analytics nightmare. His career average of 18.4 points per game comes off of 15.4 shot attempts. He doesn’t take a lot of threes (only 3.0 per game for his career) and when he’s attempting from outside, converts at a 34.5 percent clip (which isn’t bad, but it’s not great either).
At 6’8″, he isn’t as physical a player as you would like and tends to settle for bad jump shots rather than taking it inside for a higher percentage shot or the possibility of drawing contact. For a prolific scorer of his stature, he surprisingly only gets to the line 4.3 times per game for his career, which is disappointing because he is a near 80 percent free throw shooter.
And that’s not to mention what the Pelicans would be giving up on the defensive end. Solomon Hill may not have given New Orleans what they need on the offensive end this past season, but it’s hard to deny his defensive impact. The Pellies were one of the better defensive teams in the league and Hill is a big reason why. He’s typically tasked with guarding opponents (and the league’s) best perimeter players and has done a stout job in doing so.
Rudy Gay, despite his athletic ability has alway been a below-average defender and I don’t expect that to change as he moves on into the next chapter in his career.
As alluded to earlier, if the Pelicans do end up bringing back starting point guard Jrue Holiday, they will have a three-headed monster with three guys already capable of creating offense for themselves and for others.
Shots will be limited next season, leading to an increase in demand for quality shots from the supporting cast. Instead of bringing in a player who dominates the offense with one-on-one ball, what the Pelicans need is a player who complements the pieces already in place.
In a previous article, I took a preliminary look at some of the possible free agent targets the Pelicans may have interest in and outlined two wing players in Jonathon Simmons and Joe Ingles who, in my opinion would be a better fit for what the Pelicans need. I’ll add a third guy in Otto Porter, who is a restricted free agent with the Washington Wizards in that mix as well.
What those three players have in common are that they are small forwards who can defend multiple positions on the perimeter, create their own offense when needed and hit timely shots from outside on a consistent basis — without having to dominate the ball or offense.