San Antonio Spurs: The Grandeur of Rudy Gay

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: Kawhi Leonard
SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: Kawhi Leonard /

The San Antonio Spurs unexpectedly signed forward Rudy Gay to a two-year contract following a slow start to free agency. What does his addition mean for the Spurs?

Besides a new contract for spark plug Patty Mills and a qualifying offer to swingman Jonathon Simmons, the San Antonio Spurs started off free agency very quietly. Rumors swirled but San Antonio struggled to find the right fit.

This changed when it was announced that Rudy Gay will be leaving Sacramento to join the Spurs. Gay brings an element of dynamic play and explosiveness to the San Antonio rotation. He’s coming off of a successful season cut short by an Achilles injury in January.

Despite interest from multiple contenders, Gay was drawn to San Antonio for its winning culture and opportunity to compete. Luckily, General Manager R.C. Buford found the cap space to take on the UConn product’s talents.

Woj says he spoke w/ RC Buford tonight. Mentioned RC felt he could see a dark cloud leave Rudy Gay's head as he signed his contract in SA.

— John Diaz (@ByJohnDiaz) July 7, 2017

By the Numbers

In 33.8 minutes per game, Rudy averaged 18.7 PPG along with 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals. He also notched the second highest three-point percentage of his career and his third highest rebounding average.

Rudy Gay is one of just four players to average 15+ points and 5+ rebounds in each of the last 10 seasons. #GoSpursGo

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 7, 2017

Considering his numbers, the forward’s two-year/$17 million contract comes as one of the most favorable in the NBA. Gay’s $8.5 million per year pales in comparison with Otto Porter’s proposed $26.5 million annually or Tim Hardaway Jr’s $17.75 million annually.

As of now, San Antonio will be operating around the salary cap. Their $8.4 million Mid Level Exception (MLE) allowed them to obtain Gay without totally harming their cap space.

Despite the addition, they’ll still likely retain Simmons while re-signing Pau Gasol and potentially Manu Ginobili on a veteran’s minimum.

Lineup Versatility

Gay’s athleticism, size and versatility allow him to play positions two-through-four for Coach Gregg Popovich. His addition creates a plethora of dynamic lineups for the team to experiment with, including a deadly small-ball lineup.

At 6’8” and 230 lbs, Gay can easily compete on the low block. His strength and conditioning allow him to dominate in the post and his quickness will allow him to score against opposing forwards. This should create space for superstar Kawhi Leonard to isolate and for Lamarcus Aldridge to operate in the post.

His addition will also ease some of the weight on Leonard’s shoulders. Whether they’re playing alongside or in place of eachother, the dynamic small forwards are both exceptional. Over the last four seasons, Gay has played off ball from bigman Demarcus Cousins. He’s well versed in playing alongside superstars and thriving without the ball in his hands.

This also allows San Antonio to run a big lineup. Whether Leonard or Gay fills the shooting guard role is up to Coach Popovich, but the option is there.

A lineup of Murray/Gay/Leonard/Aldridge/Gasol could use physicality and versatility against weaker lineups.

The Spurs' roster at moment when they bring Gay in and if they re-sign Simmons and Pau.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) July 7, 2017

This could also be a great option against Houston’s small-ball lineup or Golden State’s ‘lineup of death.’ By overwhelming the opposition physically, San Antonio could drain opponents and dominate the boards.

The Spurs’ superiority on the glass is what led to their 25-point lead against Golden State to open the 2017 Western Conference Finals. While Leonard’s injury disrupted San Antonio’s run, the gameplan clearly worked. By adding Gay to this dynamic, the Spurs have a real chance at contending against the league’s elite talents.

The Verdict

In today’s NBA, you need versatile players who can contribute in multiple ways. Gay fits the mold perfectly for San Antonio. His well-roundedness should allow for an easy transition into Popovich’s offense.

Rudy Gay was drafted in 2006. He and two other players have 13K points, 4K rebounds, 1K steals since then: LeBron James & Russell Westbrook.

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 7, 2017

The swingman is set to return for training camp, where he’ll become acclimated with the Spurs’ gameplan. He’ll likely contribute as a sixth man to start off the season. With time, the lineups may adjust and he could see a starting role.

Most importantly, Gay seems eager to join the San Antonio squad. His activity on social media has shown his anticipation for the coming season.

The possibilities

A post shared by Rudy Gay (@rudygay) on

Whenever the Spurs acquire a new player with Gay’s attitude, they generally acclimate well. Popovich’s style of coaching doesn’t mesh well with everyone but also creates the opportunity for growth. Considering his love for the game, Gay will likely fit greatly with the team.

Should Buford keep the rest of the team intact, the Spurs will be poised for another strong season. Now is the time to keep watch of Simmons, Ginobili, Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon whose potential returns would be huge.

Next: Spurs: 5 Potential 2017 Free-Agent Targets After Rudy Gay

Free Agency has barely begun so now’s the time to stay sharp and prepare for another winning season.