The San Antonio Spurs are in better shape with Rudy Gay heating up

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs smiles during a game against the LA Clippers on October 31, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, 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 License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs smiles during a game against the LA Clippers on October 31, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, 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 License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
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After a slow start for the San Antonio Spurs, forward Rudy Gay is starting to find his rhythm for the first time this season.

Progression is key for a veteran player trying to find his way, but it’s not always easy. Basketball is a game of passion and the most successful players tend to be those who are the most dedicated to it. As a result of his 14 seasons of dedication to professional development despite injury-related turmoil, San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay was forced to adapt his game quite a bit.

Even after all that he’s experienced across nearly 900 career games with four different teams, Gay continues to evolve himself as a shot creator and floor spacer. Never regarded as a three-point sharpshooter in the past, he hit 50.4% of his shots including 40.2% of his triples last season and was expected to continue this with his new contract.

It’s been a rough transition back into regular-season competition for Rudy, but he’s starting to pick up steam and the Spurs are better off for it. Gay scored 16 points in each of his last two games on a combined 59.1% shooting with 5-of-10 shooting from behind the arc and 16 rebounds in that timeframe.

As a driving force of the Spurs’ exciting second-unit, Gay is proving his ability to set ego aside for the sake of winning. Rotations are not set and the starting power forward spot may not belong to Trey Lyles for the remainder of the season, but this is the role he’ll carry for the foreseeable future since he’s thrived under it.

Depth has been key to the Spurs’ success over the last two seasons and sliding Gay into a bench role ensures that the team can space out its rotation with quality talent for the entire duration of each game. Even while coming off the bench, Gay plays more minutes on average than any other power forward or center besides LaMarcus Aldridge.

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Even though he struggled with his jump shot in the early going, Gay has been excellent defensively, especially when guarding forwards around the perimeter. He’s putting his length to use by closing out on shooters and contesting shots around the rim. While he doesn’t quite have the bounce that he once possessed, Gay is still a superior athlete with sound instincts and a high motor.

Gay wasn’t afraid to duel against the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the most recent game against the Lakers and knows how to pick his spots as a shooter. His start to the year was a bit discouraging, especially considering the hefty loyalty contract he was awarded by the front office in San Antonio, but Gay is an integral member of this lineup and is going to give his best effort no matter what.

Not only is he averaging a team-best 97.1 defensive rating through six games, but he ranks fourth on the squad in offensive rating, net rating, rebound percentage, and effective field goal percentage. Needless to say, he’s pulling his weight for a ballclub trying to harness its identity.

Next. Can the Spurs finish at the top of the Western Conference?

Finding the flow of the offense was difficult for Gay at first in this young season, but the same can be said about most of his teammates and the scoring machine seems to be getting back to his winning ways. As a result, the Spurs will be a much more succinct team on both ends of the floor.

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