It may sound crazy, but the San Antonio Spurs’ most valuable player this season has not been one of their two All-Stars. It’s been Rudy Gay.
The San Antonio Spurs brought in Rudy Gay two years ago to add another veteran wing to a team that was looking to make a championship run.
Gay was coming off of an Achilles injury after the age of 30, so the Spurs didn’t really know what they were getting when they signed him as a free agent.
The former UConn Husky played well enough to earn another contract in San Antonio, and he has improved dramatically in his second season with the Spurs.
While DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge get most of the headlines, Rudy Gay has actually been the most important player on this team. Here are three reasons why he deserves the team MVP award halfway through the season.
The San Antonio Spurs ranked third in defense last season thanks in large part to Dejounte Murray being one of the most dominant and versatile defenders in the league.
The Spurs were left incredibly thin on the wing when Murray suffered a torn ACL, and they were counting on Rudy Gay to step up on the defensive end of the floor this season. He’s done exactly that.
Gay currently ranks fifth among the league’s small forwards in defensive real plus-minus this season, and he’s been a major reason why the Spurs have continued to field an above-average defense despite having many defensive liabilities on their roster.
Gay is often asked to guard the opposition’s best player and he’s been up to the task time and time again this year.
Without Gay’s contributions, San Antonio’s defense would likely be near the bottom of the league.
Next: Three-point shooting
The Spurs do boast the league’s best three-point percentage, but most of their best outside shooters come off the bench and play primarily with the second unit.
Rudy Gay has been scorching hot from three all season long (41.7%), and his outside shooting has been extremely important in the starting lineup.
Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, and LaMarcus Aldridge don’t shoot very often from three, so it’s been Gay’s job to keep opposing defenses from packing the paint and defending the post and midrange.
Gay provides some much-needed spacing in the starting lineup that allows the rest of the starters room to operate in the areas of the floor that they feel most comfortable in.
It remains to be seen whether Rudy can keep up this type of shooting all year long, but it’s been extremely important to San Antonio’s 7th-ranked offense this season.
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While DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have both been dominant during different times this season, they have also gone through some real rough patches this year.
Aldridge was pretty terrible at the beginning of the year as it took him over a month to find his shot.
And DeRozan looked like an MVP candidate for the first couple of months, but he has recently fallen on some hard times that have really hurt the team.
Meanwhile, Rudy Gay has been a model of consistency all year long.
He has shot over 46% from the floor and scored more than 12 points per game every month this season, and Gay’s contributions on the defensive end have been impressive every single time San Antonio takes the floor.
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The Spurs would probably not be in the playoff picture right now if it weren’t for Rudy Gay’s three-point shooting, versatile defense, and his consistent production all season long.
Check out who took home our other Midseason Awards: