San Antonio Spurs: 4 things to know about Rudy Gay

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
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San Antonio Spurs, SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
San Antonio Spurs, SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay

The San Antonio Spurs signed forward Rudy Gay in the offseason. What is there to know about him?

The biggest splash of the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason was the signing of Rudy Gay. The organization gave him a two-year, $17.2 million deal, with a player option for the second season. Gay arrives after spending the 2016-17 season with the Sacramento Kings.

Gay is an 11-year pro of the NBA, getting his start in the 2006 season. So, his résumé is extensive with experience on three teams.

Before the 2017-18 season begins, there’s plenty for Spurs fans to know or get refreshed on with Gay. Let’s learn more about this offseason pickup.

5. Gay was part of the UConn team that lost to George Mason

The 2006 NCAA Tournament will be known for George Mason’s historic run as the No. 11 seed. They ran all the way to the Final Four, including defeating the UConn Huskies, who were expected to win the 2006 NCAA Championship.

The Huskies had a talented team that featured future NBA players like Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong and Marcus Williams. However, they also had Rudy Gay, a 20-year-old forward that was one of the program’s top players.

Through two seasons with the Huskies, Gay had 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He was NBA-ready 6-foot-8 forward that had a successful college career and parlayed it into a top-10 pick in the NBA Draft.

This loss was one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history and highlighted George Mason’s historic run to the Final Four. It’s something that will always be on Gay’s college resume, but after 11 years, it’s not an important note to what he’s done in the NBA.

Next: Achilles rupture

SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay

4. The Achilles rupture

While a talented player, Rudy Gay will face adversity in the 2017-18 NBA season. He will return from a ruptured Achilles he suffered in January as a member of the Sacramento Kings. It put him out for the rest of the year.

The NBA’s history of Achilles injuries isn’t spectacular. Players like Kobe Bryant and Christian Laettner never fully recovered from this serious injury, and saw their season statistics wind down by the year. Bryant, who retired in 2016, battled other ailments for the rest of his NBA career, while Laettner saw his production shrink to that of a bench player.

Gay will look to get past the history of these players’ return from an Achilles tear. It won’t be easy and will take some help from the coaching staff.

If there’s one thing head coach Gregg Popovich will do, it’s rest his players, injured or not. He did this for Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to preserve them for the postseason, rather than getting used for a potentially meaningless regular season game.

Look out for Gay’s return from injury early and often when the season starts in October. Let’s see how the San Antonio Spurs use him in Year 1.

Next: No All-Star Games

SACRAMENTO, CA – NOVEMBER 6: Rudy Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA – NOVEMBER 6: Rudy Gay

2. Despite regular season success, Gay never made an All-Star Game

Before coming to the San Antonio Spurs, Rudy Gay had 11 mostly successful NBA season. He did this on the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings.

For Gay’s career numbers, he’s averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and almost a block per game. He exceeded 20 points per game in three of his seasons (2007-08, 2013-14, 2014-15), which is quality, but it didn’t result in something bigger for Gay — an All-Star Game.

The Western Conference is loaded with talented forwards, which hurt Gay over the past decade for getting an All-Star Game accolade since he spent most of his career in the western part of the United States. Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love are among the forwards that consumed All-Star spots for years, with Durant, Griffin and Love in their primes. They were all great players, which didn’t help the very-good Gay.

The same would have gone for the Eastern Conference, as Gay wouldn’t be able to shake LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Millsap, and other skilled forwards. The Brooklyn, NY native joined the Raptors too late into the 2012-13 season and left too soon in 2013-14 to be considered for the Eastern Conference.

At this point, finding room for Gay on an All-Star team may be impossible. Unless he’s in for a career revival as a top forward, this won’t happen.

Next: Offensive versatility

SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay

1. Will provide offensive versatility

The Rudy Gay signing will provide the San Antonio Spurs with offensive versatility, something that should be eyed for the 2017-18 season.

At 6-foot-8, Gay has the prototypical small forward size. The same goes for his skill set, as he’s a good shooter, can grab a few rebounds, chip in a few blocks, but isn’t overly athletic to move around the lineup.

However, in the changing landscape of the NBA, Gay may go out of his comfort zone as a small forward. Look for him to be a stretch four in the Spurs’ smaller lineups.

San Antonio only picked up Joffrey Lauvergne to back up the big men, while power forward David Lee wasn’t re-signed. That leaves a hole to back up the four spot. It may not go to any particular player, but it opens the path for Gay to see time there as a player who’s more athletic than your typical power forward and stretch the floor.

Must Read: 25 forgotten players that were on the Spurs

Gay can also go to his usual spot at the three, which allows for Kawhi Leonard to go to shooting guard or take on the distribution role. So, Popovich will have options for how to deploy the lineup, as long as the 31-year-old stays healthy.

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