The San Antonio Spurs are looking to keep their core roster intact, but with Rudy Gay’s contract expiring, the team would be smart to move on.
After proving a lot of experts wrong, the San Antonio Spurs finished their season feeling like they could have played a couple more games. With two experienced star players leading the way in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the other three position starters were in a constant rotation.
12-year veteran Rudy Gay served as a starter for the majority time, replacing a deep hole left by former Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard. Gay improved drastically in his second year as a Spur, but is he worth another $10 million extension? The answer is no when one takes his minutes and compares them with his stats or expectations vs. his real production.
Starting about 60% of the season, Gay is in a strange position. He is a key player but is not considered a trusted full-time starter. Head coach Gregg Popovich has gone public, saying it is a top priority to try to bring Gay back because of his scoring ability. The problem with Rudy Gay, which might explain why he is not a full season starter, is his lack of consistency on the court. Some games he reminds every one of why he is a former 8th overall pick, and some other games he shows us why he cannot be trusted to start every game.
Let’s cut to the chase: Gay has a turnover problem and his production simply has not lived up to his contract, minutes or hype. He is an older player, and to his credit, has bounced back from a tough injury, yet in all this time he has not proved to be a star in the NBA.
Gay is a solid player – he has a good size to him and can impact all areas of the game, but it is simply not enough. The Spurs cannot keep entering seasons with system players, they need stars and they need them now. The Big 3 are gone and replacing them is no easy task.
The Spurs cannot and will not win a championship as long as their third best player is Rudy Gay, Aldridge and DeMar will never be enough. The hope is that one or two young players exceed expectations, and make the Spurs a contender, but if Rudy Gay is there, he will be a hindrance.
Look at it like this: DeRozan and Aldridge led the Spurs in turnovers with 199 and 144. Third on that list was Gay with 114. It may seem like a big difference, but when one contrasts the numbers of the first two names, it shows Gay’s lack of efficiency.
DeRozan and Aldridge started 77+ games compared to Gay’s 55 starts. They each logged 2680+ minutes played to Gay’s 1842 minutes played with 1,635 and 1,727 points scored respectively compared to 946 for Gay. He can be a helpful player, but can the Spurs trust him to show up every night and not turn the ball over while racking up positive numbers?
No, and the team needs someone who can. The two stars of the team can get away with having that high number of turnovers and having bad nights occasionally, simply because they produce more often than not.
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In the regular season Rudy Gay had one less turnover than Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson. If a player is going to have Klay’s level of production, then 115 turnovers means nothing, but there’s a talent gap between these two players.
Bringing Rudy off the bench with a cheaper salary would be ideal for the Spurs’ lineup. They would keep an experienced player and would give more minutes for the young players who need to develop or maybe even a bigger name forward signed in free agency. It will come down to if Gay is willing to play and earn less to hopefully win more.
There are some solid forwards hitting the market along with Gay, and although they might be more expensive, it could be just what the Spurs need. My favorite idea for Gay’s replacement is Khris Middleton. He is younger than Gay and has become a well-rounded leader as starter for Milwaukee. Coming in at 6-8 ft, 222 lbs., Middleton is one of the most underrated forwards in the NBA. He is currently earning $13 million and after being an All-Star for the first time, his asking price next year will be higher.
San Antonio is in good shape and Gay is a positive player, but in a league where the Warriors have six All-Star-caliber players on their roster, just good will not cut it. If the Spurs really want to make deep run next season, they need apply the pressure on their young starters, and that means less minutes for older players who cost $10 million.