San Antonio Spurs: 3 goals for Rudy Gay in 2017-18 season

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 10: Rudy Gay
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 10: Rudy Gay
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San Antonio Spurs, SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay #8 of the Sacramento Kings attempts a free-throw shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 15, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs, SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay #8 of the Sacramento Kings attempts a free-throw shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 15, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

What San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay should look to accomplish in the 2017-18 season.

In the 2017 offseason, the San Antonio Spurs gave Rudy Gay a two-year, $17 million contract. He joined after the decision to opt out of his deal with the Sacramento Kings.

The 2017-18 NBA season should be an intriguing one for Gay. He’ll return from an injury that ended his season in January, so when the next one starts on Wednesday, Oct. 18, it will be nine months removed from when he went down.

With Gay’s recovery and return, he should have a few accomplishments in mind for his first year in the Alamo City. There are three particular ones to follow. What do they include?

Let’s look at what Gay’s goals should be for the 2017-18 season.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – DECEMBER 10: Rudy Gay
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – DECEMBER 10: Rudy Gay

3. Shoot 40 percent from 3-point range

Rudy Gay has always been able to shoot. He was never known as a prolific shooter, but as someone who found his range inside the arc and scored around 17-20 points per game. While the scoring average remained the same, in recent years, Gay showed off some of the best 3-point numbers of his career.

Here’s how Gay’s 3-point averages rose over the past four years:

  • 2013-14: 33 percent
  • 2014-15: 35.9 percent
  • 2015-16: 34.4 percent
  • 2016-17: 37.2 percent

Granted, the latest number came in Gay’s shortest season 30 games), but it was the second-highest mark of his career. Even though he’ll battle back from an injury, it’s a positive to take away for what he could provide the San Antonio Spurs in 2017-18.

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With the Spurs as one of the NBA’s top 3-point teams, look for Gay to take plenty of them. If Gregg Popovich deploys him as a player to consistently stretch the floor, then the 11-year pro should aim to be a sharpshooter for the team. He can build on the 37.2 percent from last season and attempt to make it 40 percent, which would be a career-high.

If Gay can do this, he’ll become the latest 3-point marksman for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Davis Bertans are all effective from behind the arc, so if the UConn product finds his stroke, he can just add to the bunch and fill a need that all teams should look to improve on, anytime.

Next: Buck the trend

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

2. Buck the trend

Gay needs to “buck the trend.” What trend, though?

In January, Gay suffered a ruptured Achilles, an injury that can derail an NBA player’s career. It’s been the case with stars of the league’s past, including Kobe Bryant and Dominique Wilkins. Others like Christian Laettner and Chauncey Billups weren’t able to be the effective contributors their respective teams grew to knew.

It’s not a good look for Gay, who has a hill to climb, even if he’s healthy for the start of the regular season. His numbers are likely to decline, either way, in a reduced role for the San Antonio Spurs, but an eye should be kept on how he runs the court and the ability to defend. If he can keep up, then his value to the Spurs will only increase.

While how Gay’s body reacts might not be something he can control, he should still look to be as effective as possible for the Spurs, and break the trend of past players that suffered ruptured Achilles tendons. This might mean a change in how he plays, as in the increased 3-point shooting, but if that’s what it takes to contribute to a contender, then he should follow through and lead by example.

2017-18 is potentially the most important year of Gay’s career. Will he recover and play effectively?

Next: Win Sixth Man of the Year

TORONTO, CANADA – FEBRUARY 1: Rudy Gay
TORONTO, CANADA – FEBRUARY 1: Rudy Gay

1. Win the Sixth Man of the Year Award

Kawhi Leonard is going to start at small forward for the San Antonio Spurs. That’s not a rumor or breaking news, but a fact this Spurs team. Rudy Gay, who plays the same position, won’t start over Leonard. He could still start at the three on occasion, but only if the Claw suffers an injury, rests, or gets moved to shooting guard in a lineup shakeup.

If that’s the case, Gay will come off the bench. However, he’ll be the most used player from the pine, making him San Antonio’s de facto sixth man, if that’s not the plan already.

If Gay’s about to come off the bench, he should aim to be the best sixth man. That includes winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, to honor the best bench player in the NBA.

The previous two goals play into this. He’ll need to have his best 3-point shooting season, whether it’s at 40 percent or not. The 2017-18 season has to be a productive one for Gay, as well, and not one where his stats take a nosedive like previous players that suffered Achilles ruptures.

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If Gay can average 15-17 points per game and shoot at a high percentage, it will keep him in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. The Spurs will contend, too, which is an added layer to his candidacy.

The 2017-18 season should be one that Gay uses to bounce back and be a top contributor for the Spurs. What goals would you give him?

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