Why the Grizzlies should not trade Rudy Gay

Photo by Chris Evans

(Photo by Chris Evans)

The Rudy Gay trade rumors heat up with every shot the 6’8″ 230 lbs. forward misses.  Gay leads the team in scoring, minutes played, and is seen as one of the more dynamic wing players in the NBA.  However, Gay is not living up to the $16.4 million (17th highest paid player in the association) he is making this season, giving the Grizzlies a good reason to shop him around.  Also not working in Gay’s favor is the deep playoff run the Grizzlies had two years ago in his absence, and his poor playoff performance last year in a first round exit courtesy of the Clippers.

Trading Gay before the February 21 deadline may not be a must for a small market franchise that has begun to see some success the past few years.  After all, this is the same player that helped lead Memphis to the best record in the NBA in November and one of the best starts in franchise history. So clearly when he is on his game he is an invaluable part of the team.

The higher-ups in the Grizzlies organization have made it clear that they are not simply looking to just dump Gay’s big contract.  They also want pieces in return to make the team better, and solidify Memphis as a legit contender in the Western Conference. Sure in a trade the Grizzlies would be getting back another talented player, but will that player be of Gay’s caliber?  Probably not, so it makes little sense to trade him.  Here are some more reasons why Memphis should not trade Gay before the trade deadline:

1).  The Grizzlies have a team in place that is competing with (and beating) the other teams in the Western Conference.  Memphis is one of only six teams in their conference that has a winning record against the Western Conference.  That might not seem like an impressive statistic, but the Rockets, Jazz, and Warriors all have losing records in conference.  Yet, all three of those teams will likely be in the playoffs at the end of the season.  Against the West playoff teams Gay is averaging 18.6 points per game which will be hard for the Grizzlies to replace in a trade.  If the team’s performance in Gay’s absence against the Clippers is any indication, then the Grizzlies will certainly want to keep Gay for as long as possible. Memphis struggled mightily to find any offensive rhythm against the Clippers (Clippers were also without Chris Paul, who had some interesting things to say about trading Gay).  In fact, the Grizzlies 73 points was lowest point total of the season, and the 30.3 percent Memphis shot from the field was the franchise’s worst field goal percentage at home ever.  It might have been just one game, but losing Gay definitely had an effect on the Grizzlies offensive performance.  When it comes time to play against the other playoff teams in the west his length and versatility are a huge asset for a team that averages only 93.7 points a game.

2).  Memphis has the sixth best record in the NBA and trading Gay mid-season could throw off the team chemistry.  Think about this, the Grizzlies and the Knicks have the exact same record, so if Memphis was in the Eastern Conference they would be just one game away from the Miami Heat for the number one seed in the East.  There would be no talks of trading anybody let alone the team’s leading scorer.  Alas, the Grizzlies are in the mighty West, where a 24-13 record is only good for the fourth seed in the playoffs.  Any time you trade players during the season there is going to be an adjustment period.  it takes the players that just joined the team a while to figure out the system and learn a new role.  Team chemistry is very important (just ask the Lakers), and if Gay is traded it will jeopardize it and possibly the Grizzlies record as well.

3).  Losing Gay will allow opponents to double team Marc Gasol and Randolph, making it more difficult for them to control the paint and get easy shots.  While Gay’s ball handling skills need to improve, and his jump shot needs to become more consistent, he is still one of the top wing players in the NBA, and a player you have to account for on the offensive end.  Gay’s ability to create his own shot makes him a player that the opposing defenses have to account for on the court, therefore making it hard for teams to double the two big men.  While Memphis is capable of spreading the court to make room for Gasol and Randolph with shooters like Wayne Ellington, Mike Conley, and Quincy Pondexter, Gay’s ability to drive into the defense and either pull up or pass to an open teammate is very difficult to defend.  With Gay on the court, the Grizzlies are a much more dangerous offensive team, because he occupies defenders which creates more space for the big men to do work in the paint.

4).  It will be hard to replace Gay’s scoring in a midseason trade.  Memphis is already one of the worst teams offensively in the NBA, and trading the leading scorer might prove too costly for the team to recover in a trade.  Of course the thought is with no Gay, Gasol and Randolph will get more touches, but what about nights when the two of them are off?  Who can you truly depend on to score?  Gay leads the Grizzlies with 11 20-plus point games, and the team is 7-4 when Gay scores more than 20 points in a game.  He can score in a variety of ways also.  From posting up to catching and shooting, Gay is a versatile offensive weapon.  The Grizzlies will lose their most dynamic scoring threat should they decide to trade Gay, and teams very rarely improve when that is done.

5).  Gay is a tremendous part of the Memphis community, and that has to mean something.  While we hear about athletes in trouble all the time, Gay manages to not only keep his nose clean, but also contribute to the community around him.  His philanthropic deeds even earned him the NBA’s Kia Community Assist Award in April of 2012.  He has donated $22,222.22 to St. Jude, and also serves as one of the Hoops for St. Jude ambassadors (click here to find out more about the foundation).  In addition to St. Jude, Gay (along with teammate Mike Conley) is a five-time Staxtacular host, which benefits the Stax Music Academy.  Last year alone, Gay helped the academy raise over $100,000.  During the holiday season it has become a tradition for Gay to help needy families buy gifts for their children.  This past Christmas, Gay and Randolph, along with Target, the Memphis Athletic Ministries’ (MAM) after-school programs, and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis (BGCM) gave 200 families a shopping spree.  Losing such a positive role model will hurt more than the Grizzlies.  It will hurt the community as well.

6).  While Gay’s contract is a huge concern, it can be taking care of in the off-season.  Sure his contract will put the Grizzlies over the cap making the small market franchise pay a luxury tax (which increases at the end of this season), but it happens at the end of this season.  This team is more than capable of making a deep playoff run with Gay, and even an appearance in the NBA Finals.  Yes, the Grizzlies will become more desperate as the NBA Draft approaches, but that is no reason to blow up the roster before you find out what this team can do in the playoffs.  Memphis is doing the right thing by shopping Gay around seeing what they can get, but trading him before the trade deadline would be a clear mistake.

CJ Hurt covers NBA basketball for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

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