San Antonio Spurs: 2 Potential replacements for Rudy Gay
By Ethan Farina
The San Antonio Spurs should consider replacing Rudy Gay with one of these two players
As a whole, the San Antonio Spurs 2019-20 season was one filled with underwhelming moments and disappointment. The team struggled to maintain an even record and was well on its way to ending the long-standing playoff streak. We can’t drop the blame at the feet of one player, front office member, or coach, but some members of the team did have substantially more disappointing season than others.
Rudy Gay has been one of the better scorers in the league for a long time but it seemed like he was finally slowing down as his age is catching up with him. He’s still got gas left in the tank, but for a team that’s trending towards a rebuild, playing an aging veteran when there are younger options on the open market or on their development team doesn’t seem like the best strategy.
He’s still a good and useful player, but as he approaches the last year of his contract he might be better used as a supplementary piece for a team with higher aspirations, one that views itself as just one stretch forward away from jumping up a tier. There were rumors that he was a player of interest near the deadline, but the Spurs asking price was too high.
After a disappointing year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team’s priorities shift to a rebuild, and the asking price for Gay drop accordingly. For the right package of picks or prospects, they should be willing to let him go. He’s played well in his time in San Antonio but let him go play for a team where he can chase a title and make a more meaningful impact at this stage in his career.
Holding on to Gay until the deadline wouldn’t be a bad play, he’s a great veteran to have and he seems like a good locker room guy. But if San Antonio does decide to move on from him these two players would make great replacements.
Next: A free agent acquisition
Potential San Antonio Spurs replacement for Rudy Gay – Christian Wood
Whether it is as a potential replacement for Rudy Gay or just a simple addition to the roster, Christian Wood should be a top priority for the San Antonio Spurs. After a breakout second half of the season with the Detroit Pistons, he’s more than proven that he’s deserving of the hefty pay raise he’s sure to receive this season.
After bouncing around the league, floating back and forth between the G-League and the NBA, Wood finally found a home in Detroit this year. He had played well for most of the year but after Detroit moved Andre Drummond at the trade deadline, Wood took off.
Over his final 15 games of the season, he was averaging 22 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 55 percent from the field. He also was chipping in nearly a block and a steal per night, he’s not just an offensive weapon.
Gay spent most of his time playing power forward this year while Wood effectively split his time between power forward and center, but his larger frame and ability to play more in the post would open up some interesting possible lineups down the road. The Spurs had experimented with going smaller this year, they tried out Gay as a center at times, but Wood would certainly be an upgrade down low.
He can stretch the floor and allow the Spurs to play two big men with him and Jakob Poeltl, he could function as a center with smaller wings and guards flanking him, eventually, he could form a very dangerous tandem with Luka Samanic. His game is so versatile and fluid that the possibilities are almost endless.
The only problem with the idea of Wood as a replacement for Gay is that he’s so talented and has been so underpaid that he’s likely to command a salary far outside what the San Antonio Spurs would be able to offer. That could change depending on other moves the Spurs could make, but Wood is not going to be short on suitors. After playing his career on much smaller deals you can’t blame him for chasing the largest bag possible at this point, regardless of where it comes from.
Next: An in-house replacement
Potential San Antonio Spurs replacement for Rudy Gay – Luka Samanic
One potential alternative to Rudy Gay would be bringing up Luka Samanic from the G-League. Now, he’s still far away from being ready to contribute to a team with playoff dreams, but that might not be where the San Antonio Spurs are next season.
Their struggles this year showed that the Spurs can’t rely on rolling out the same group and expect to make the playoffs. While teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans are building around their young talent the Spurs were acquiring veterans in an attempt to just make the playoffs. And while their records weren’t that different, the trajectory of the Spurs compared to that of the Grizzlies and Pelicans is startlingly different.
San Antonio does have a chance to keep its playoff streak alive, albeit with an asterisk. That asterisk is different than the one that Shaq put on the 1999 title, the Spurs really didn’t have a chance at the playoffs when the season was suspended. Let’s close that chapter of the franchises’ history and start focusing on the future.
Bringing Luka Samanic up from the G-League and playing him consistently would be a huge step towards building for the future. He’s still got a lot of work to do on building out his frame but the raw talent that we saw from the Spurs rookie in his time in the G-League is enough to get fans excited.
He can put the ball on the floor, has an ever-expanding bag of post moves, can hit the three, and has the lateral agility to stay pace with faster players on defense. He’s still very young and inexperienced and would likely struggle on the defensive end, but that’s the cost of developing a young player.
Gregg Popovich is notorious for not playing rookies or sophomores until they’re absolutely ready but at some point, the San Antonio Spurs are going to have to stop playing to his tendencies and think about the future. Replacing Gay with Samanic could be a step in doing that.
Keeping Rudy Gay around isn’t a bad option for the San Antonio Spurs, but replacing him with one of these two players could be exactly what the team needs to help build a better future.