He’s been a valuable role player for the San Antonio Spurs over the past 3 years but this season showed that Rudy Gay has become replaceable
When the San Antonio Spurs and Rudy Gay agreed to a deal in the summer of 2017 many, including yours truly, were skeptical. He was a predominantly mid-range oriented scorer coming off of one of the most devastating injuries that a basketball player can undergo.
His first year in the Alamo City was nothing particularly special but his second year showed that he could be a real asset to the team. He set a new career-high in 3-point percentage, pulled down more rebounds than ever before, and provided much needed positional versatility as a stretch four.
In year three with the Spurs, Gay took a sizeable step back. His regression, along with the emergence of Trey Lyles and impressive G-League season from Luka Samanic, has put Gay’s future in San Antonio in question. Given those two, as well as the Spurs’ upcoming first-round draft pick, Gay is quickly becoming replaceable for the Spurs.
Gay’s biggest contribution to the Spurs last season was his presence as a 3-point threat. As he knocked down 40 percent of his attempts from deep, Gay made it possible for DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White to play their preferred style while he brought his man out to the perimeter. This year he plummeted back to earth, only hitting on 31.4 percent of his 3-point shots. That’s one of the lowest marks of his career and just .2 percentage points above his career-low.
He’s slowing down on defense as well. Like DeRozan, he’s not the worst offender on the team but he’s not great. He had one of the worst years of his career in terms of defensive box plus-minus and defensive win shares contributed.
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To be fair to Gay, he at least tries. He gives solid effort and is in the right places more often than not. But he’s never been an outstanding defender and isn’t likely to improve as he continues to age. His best days are behind him and the future looks questionable. The Spurs would be better served by using a combination of Lyles and Keldon Johnson to fill his minutes.
There’s interest in Gay. As former Spurs reporter and current CNBC writer Jabari Young reported earlier this year, other executives around the league think that the Spurs could get something nice in return for Gay. Their asking price is reportedly too high for most teams to bite on, or at least it was at the deadline, but that could trade as the summer goes along.
As he is approaching unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021 and doesn’t seem to be a part of the Spurs long term future, perhaps the team would be better served by using him as a trade piece to move up in the draft or acquire some picks or assets for down the road.
As is the case with many of the San Antonio Spurs veterans, Rudy Gay’s time in San Antonio might be coming to a close. His performance this year showed that he’s replaceable, now we have to wait and see if the front office acts on that.