San Antonio Spurs: 4 Ways Rudy Gay Impacts the Team
By Rob Wolkenbrod
With the San Antonio Spurs signing Rudy Gay in free agency, what will he bring to the table?
On Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs officially signed small forward Rudy Gay. They gave him 2 years, $17.2 million, with a player option for the second year. He’s formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings.
Gay is San Antonio’s first free-agent signing of the offseason, if the re-signing of Patty Mills isn’t factored in. This will see the 2006 NBA Draft pick step into a potentially diminished role, something he hasn’t had in his 11 years in the league.
What ways could Gay impact the team, though? He might make a dent on the team’s lineup throughout the 2017-18 season.
4. Eases the Pressure of Others
The San Antonio Spurs had a talented roster in the 2016-17 season, but were mostly led by Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s production. They combined for 42.8 points per game, while age-36 Pau Gasol and age-34 Tony Parker were the third and fourth leading scorers, respectively. Their production will only decrease with age, which means more pressure would go on Leonard and Aldridge
By adding Gay, he’ll take some of that pressure off the leading men on the Spurs. He can aid the scoring loss that may be present next season, especially if Dejounte Murray can’t make up ground at point guard and the potential loss of Manu Ginobili to retirement.
Gay’s role will be explained later on, but he’ll at least be able to lessen the loads for Leonard and Aldridge. They may not put up as gaudy of stats in the fall, but if it keeps them fresher, then it may be best for the outlook of the team.
Next: Efficiency in Smaller Role
3. Could Be More Efficient in Smaller Role
Rudy Gay played like one of the most consistent small forwards in the NBA, in most of his time with the Memphis Grizzlies. However, he struggled in his age 23, 25 and 26 seasons, shooting just 32 percent from beyond the arc. Disappointing percentages in Toronto didn’t help, either, including a 38 percent mark from the field, before being traded to the Sacramento Kings.
With the San Antonio Spurs, it’s possible Gay works into a more efficient role, especially with being asked to do less as a contributor. He played quality basketball in Sacramento, shooting 45 percent and averaging 19.3 points per game. While the latter total will likely decline, Gay could find better shots next to the likes of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, so his shooting percentage could actually rise.
Would it be surprising to see Gay average close to 50 percent from the field in 2017-18? Maybe not. He can be the bigger bench scorer that San Antonio needed, and won’t face the pressure of needing to be the top man or second fiddle like he was in Memphis, Toronto and Sacramento. His role could be as the main scorer off the pine, however, which could work.
Next: The Sixth Man
2. A Potential Sixth Man
By signing Rudy Gay, the San Antonio Spurs can make him into their sixth man. If anything, he may be one of the best they’ve had in this role, even since Manu Ginobili time in this spot, where he was a main contributor off the bench.
Gay won’t start because of Kawhi Leonard’s spot in the starting lineup, which is firm. That could be for the best, given he’ll come off an Achilles injury and may struggle to regain his previous form.
By having Gay come off the bench as the sixth man, he can be a go-to scorer when the first-quarter defenses tire out. Maybe he’ll turn into a player known for his instant offense. That could be a stretch since the UConn product isn’t a dynamic 3-point shooter like in Jamal Crawford’s prime, but the former is still a well-rounded scorer that can hit from all points of the court.
This role will, as noted, take the pressure off Gay to be a leading man. He won’t need to shoot 15 times per game anymore, while having teammates like Leonard, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge and others to make up for the shot attempts.
When Gay enters the lineup, he’ll allow the Spurs to play things differently.
Next: Spurs Can Play Bigger Lineup
1. Allows Spurs to Play Big Lineup
Rudy Gay stands at 6-foot-8, with the ability to stretch the floor as a former top wing scorer in the NBA. These two traits will easily allow Gregg Popovich to toy with his lineup for next season.
Gay may be regulated to the small forward position, given his potential loss of athleticism and weaker ability to guard quicker players. However, that will benefit Kawhi Leonard, who can slide to the shooting guard role. He’s 6-foot-7, so it gives the San Antonio Spurs two big players on the wing.
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At point guard, Dejounte Murray could step in as the starter. He stands at 6-foot-5, which is terrific size for this position.
Along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol both being 6-foot-11 and above, it gives the Spurs excellent size for a potential second-tier lineup. This may give the opposition issues, depending on what team it is, when figuring out who to pair against this larger group of players.
If the Spurs wanted to test it out, they could even put Leonard as the primary ball-handler. That may push Gay to the two-guard, allowing someone at a similar size to play the three (Jonathon Simmons, if he re-signs) and use a pairing of Aldridge, Gasol and Davis Bertans.
Next: Would Available Celtics Fit the Spurs Roster?
How will Gay impact the Spurs next season?