San Antonio Spurs: Rudy Gay’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year pursuit
By Dylan Carter
Veteran forward Rudy Gay joined the San Antonio Spurs with the intention of joining a winning culture. Now, he may have a chance at snagging the league’s coveted Sixth Man of the Year Award under Coach Popovich’s system.
San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay has been no stranger to the injury bug in his 11-year NBA Career. Since entering the league in 2006, Gay has had four seasons of 68 or fewer games played. Now, coming off of a ruptured Achilles earlier this year, he’s prepared to take on a new role: sixth man.
With Kawhi Leonard as the unquestioned starter at the small forward position, Gay is prepared to transition his role.
Signing with San Antonio made Gay’s priorities clear. He’s ready to be part of a winning culture at any cost. Heading into the latter half of his career, the 31-year old is willing to sacrifice personal accolades to pursue championships.
Taking small steps to a bigger picture
— Rudy Gay (@RudyGay) October 15, 2017
Through 30 games in the 2016-2017 season, Gay averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest. In addition, Gay shot 45.5 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range.
Projecting Gay’s Output
Gay is expected to take on a large role with the second unit this season. His scoring ability and athleticism are focal points for the team’s bench. He’s projected to be the third leading scorer on the team behind Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Spurs’ newest addition was highly efficient through four preseason games this year. Gay shot 50 percent from the field and averaged 5 rebounds per contest. Most recently, he scorched the Rockets for 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal in 24 minutes.
If this is any indicator for Gay’s season numbers, he has a great chance to win the Sixth Man award this season. His ability to stuff the stat sheet will be his biggest tool in chasing the award.
He’ll find many catch and shoot opportunities for San Antonio. Shooting was never a specialty of Gay’s, but it’s certainly become a strong suit. Before his injury, Gay shot 38 percent from three-point range on 3.8 attempts per game. This was his second highest three-point percentage of his career on the second most attempts.
Coming off of his injury, Popovich will likely limit Gay’s playing time to preserve his health for the postseason. Regardless, Gay should have no trouble scoring and generating stats.
It's just a small workout, but Rudy Gay looks solid. #Spurs pic.twitter.com/30dDmwNTYW
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) October 16, 2017
Gay’s Sixth Man Candidacy
The era of superteams has come into full effect. Many exceptional players have taken bench roles to compete with the league’s elite, so competition for the award may be dense.
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One exceptional candidate for the award is Eric Gordon. The 28-year-old guard won the sixth man title for his efforts in Houston last season. His exceptional three-point shooting and playmaking abilities stood out among candidates.
Luckily for Gay, Gordon will have a reduced role with the implementation of Chris Paul as a primary ball handler for the Rockets.
Runner-up Andre Iguodala is a perennial candidate to win sixth man of the year, but is also subjected to a reduced role. On a team with four other All-Stars, it’ll be difficult for Iguodala to keep his numbers up.
The last player to win Sixth Man of the Year as a forward was Lamar Odom in 2011. In 32 minutes, he averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Gay has the potential to average similar numbers, but won’t play quite as many minutes as Odom did in 2011.
Gay has a clear opportunity to win the Sixth Man of the year Award. Should he remain healthy and produce as expected, he’ll be a sure-fire candidate.