Do Rudy Gay Trade Rumors Signal New Outlook for Memphis Grizzlies?

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 7, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks to shoot over Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on December 22, 2012 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Rudy Gay had once been a protected part of the Memphis Grizzlies’ core. In the dawn of the new Grizzlies ownership, that appears not to be the case anymore. On Friday, Zach Lowe wrote in a Grantland piece that Memphis is taking feelers for Gay.

On Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports told The Chris Mannix Show that those are more than just feelers.



From @wojyahoonba: "Grizzlies have been shopping Rudy Gay very hard over the last couple of weeks. They have reached out to several teams."

— Chris Mannix Show (@ChrisMannixShow) January 7, 2013



Wojnarowski also noted that Robert Pera’s group has a different view of the team’s current state from that of former owner Michael Heisley.



From @wojyahoonba: "They [Memphis Grizzlies] don't think they're a champinoship contender."

— Chris Mannix Show (@ChrisMannixShow) January 7, 2013



Heisley believed that this small-market franchise could win a title with the core of Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley by 2014-15 when their contracts expire. Because of this belief, he persistently denied rumors connected to his stars, particularly Gay.

Shortly after the Grizz bowed out of the 2011 playoffs, rumors swirled about Gay being on the block, since the team nearly made the Western Conference finals with its leading scorer out.

Heisley picked up the phone and barked at Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal that Gay wouldn’t be traded.

Last summer when Gay was on the rumor mill, Heisley gave a chilly denial, telling The Commercial Appeal, “We’re not looking to trade Rudy Gay.”

Fans of the three shades of blue won’t hear such denials from Pera—not even a non-denial denial. The young multimillionaire CEO of Ubiquiti Networks is too quiet to issue trade statements or dial up a local columnist.

Moreover, the new ownership is looking to get the team back under the luxury tax threshold, as Wojnarowski mentioned. If Chris Wallace and John Hollinger can find a way to move Gay by the trade deadline, then the team can avoid the penalty.

This would be a repudiation of Heisley’s all-in strategy at the end of his ownership, digging in to spend extra to ensure that the team can compete for a title.

Instead of just picking up one bargain-role player, letting Darrell Arthur walk and low-balling the rest, he allowed Wallace to re-up Arthur as a restricted free agent, grab Jerryd Bayless and raise Hamed Haddadi and Marreese Speights.

Then again, Pera likely informed by Hollinger’s analysis, doesn’t see the Grizz as a title contender as it stands. Gay appears to be at the crux of this. He has done anything but impress this season. He’s scoring at his lowest average since his rookie year.

Also, Gay’s shooting has been disappointing. He’s shooting just 41.2 percent from the field. This is a substantial drop for someone who hung between 45.3 and 47.1 percent from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

Hollinger likely looks at that, along with his 0.869 points per field-goal/free-throw attempt and sighs.

With the Baltimore native in his seventh season, Hollinger may look at him as a known commodity. Since his sophomore year, Gay’s scoring average hasn’t risen at all and his field-goal-attempt rate has barely risen.

Some might be further bothered by the 25-year-old’s inability to hit big shots. But the Grizzlies’ new front office stat head likely sees it as the Romo-esque tendency of a player who’s just happy not to make those plays.

Hence, Hollinger might be telling Pera that this high-end scorer isn’t quite the cold-blooded assassin who deserves the salary that the old regime gave him.

If the Grizzlies are shopping the Connecticut product this hard, then one must wonder whether they have someone in mind to replace him.

That they would deal Gay and let the rest of an insufficient core stand intact is hard to imagine. A salary dump for expiring contracts would set Lionel Hollins up for failure, leaving him to toss Quincy Pondexter into the starting lineup and hoping to score more and make the second round like in 2012.

Two possibilities, as I discussed in a piece looking at trade scenarios in case the new regime decides to shop Gay, are Monta Ellis and Paul Millsap, both of whom would be able fill the scoring void.

Millsap, who is also on the block, could easily fit into the 3 spot, since he takes a large portion of his shots from the perimeter. His size would create a mismatch. The only question is whether Tony Allen could get Millsap to play defense.

Ellis is well-recognized as a star scorer.

Pera and company bring a new outlook for the franchise. This view may include resetting the championship window, but whether that window would start next season or the season after is unclear.

What is clear is that the new order has no attachment to the current core.