As the trade deadline nears, rumors continue to surface about who is on the trade block and which teams are interested in making moves. The latest rumor to surface revolves around the Memphis Grizzlies’ star swingman, Rudy Gay (via CBSSports).
One of the teams reported to have interest in Gay is the Los Angeles Clippers. This comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering the Clippers are currently leading the Pacific Division and have one of the best records in the league.
Additionally, the Clippers chemistry seems to be at an all-time high, as evidenced by their 17-game winning streak that spanned the entire month of December. However, it is easy to see why teams would be interested in Gay, despite being owed $53 million over the next three years. He is a high-scoring wing and a borderline All-Star that would seem to fit into the Clippers’ future while providing a boost for the team’s half-court offense.
So should the Clippers push for a Rudy Gay trade?
First of all, while the Clippers surely could use an upgrade at small forward, the impact of subtracting the players necessary to complete the package would be unknown. Considering how well the team is currently playing, it might not be worth the gamble, chemistry wise, to shake things up right now.
Secondly, Gay is a high-usage wing who tends to create his own looks one-on-one instead instead of relying on the flow of the offense. This is one of the reasons why Memphis played so well with him hurt last season and also one of the many reasons why management is exploring trading Gay.
According to hoopdata, the league average for percentage of field goals assisted is 65.4. Gay’s percentage has only been above 44 once, his rookie season.
The Clippers do not need a volume scorer, especially considering the stellar play of Jamal Crawford and his willingness to hoist up shot after shot. Gay takes 15.2 shots per game for his career and is 10th in the league in field-goal attempts per game this season with 16.6. Combine those 16.6 shots with a high-usage rate (25.56) and low field-goal (41.4) and true-shooting (48.5) percentages this season, and the luster surrounding Gay begins to wear off.
Since his approach on offense might not allow him to mesh quickly with the starting unit, Gay would be asked to contribute in multiple other ways, such as on defense and on the glass. Unfortunately, neither are strong parts of his game.
Rudy Gay has never been a good rebounder, and considering that rebounding is one of the areas of need for the Clippers, Gay again looks like a bad fit. His total rebound rate of 9.2 this season ranks him 40th among small forwards. Perhaps he would put forth more effort into his rebounding if he had a new role on the Clippers, but there is no guarantee.
How about defense? Gay is a superior athlete with ideal size for a small forward, but plays average D. According to 82games, last season Memphis gave up six points more per possession with Gay on the floor. That number has improved this season as Memphis is only giving up 2.3 more points per possession with Gay on the floor. However, paying $16.46 million this year for a wing defender who must adapt his offensive game is not exactly an ideal situation.
Speaking of finances, the Clippers are around $1 million dollars under the luxury tax threshold this season. Adding Gay would likely send them over that threshold and force Donald Sterling to cough up additional cash for a move that might not even make the team better.
Finally, Memphis would insist on Eric Bledsoe being included in any Rudy Gay package. That is where this rumor officially falls apart. Bledsoe’s time in Los Angeles will likely come to an end in the near future, barring some creative juggling by the front office, but this will not be the deal that signals the end.
Furthermore, Caron Butler would likely be joining Bledsoe in this package, and in order to match salaries to complete the trade, Chauncey Billups would also have to be included. Butler’s loss would not necessarily hurt the team, but Billups is essentially an assistant coach and Bledsoe is one of the best backup point guards in the league. The package has too many variables to be strongly considered by the Clippers.
Overall, Rudy Gay does not seem like a very good fit for the Clippers. Though effective in transition, Gay's impact on offense would be questionable, especially after subtracting Bledsoe, Butler and Billups’s contributions.
His defense and rebounding are also marginal, and when the analytics are broken down, this move makes little sense. Factor in the finances and questionable chemistry shake-up, and the answer is an emphatic "no thanks."