San Antonio Spurs: When is it time to pull the plug on Rudy Gay?

San Antonio Spurs Rudy Gay (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Rudy Gay (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

Rudy Gay has had a remarkable NBA career, but is his rough start to the new season enough for the San Antonio Spurs to look to other options going forward?

The start of the season has been less than ideal for the San Antonio Spurs. Currently riding a four-game losing streak into Los Angeles, they’ll also be without the services of Derrick White for the foreseeable future after his toe re-injury.

December had its ups and downs for the Spurs, with the brightest spot being the fearless play of Keldon Johnson on both ends of the floor. As San Antonio enters a brutal January where they’ll have a maximum of one day of rest between games all month, they may need to make some changes to keep afloat.

One of the downs for Silver and Black so far has been the play of 15-year vet Rudy Gay. In the first six games, it seems like Rudy has been trying to meet a quota for shots attempted, with many of them being questionable shots. Rudy has been in the league long enough to know that no one’s making this shot over Anthony Davis.

Gay has attempted nine or more shots in all but one game so far this season, which would be ok if he wasn’t shooting a career-low in both field goal percentage (39.4) and 3-point percentage (27). He’s also attempting way too many threes at 6.2 per game, while the next Spur on the list is Patty Mills with 4.7.

At 34-years-old, Gay isn’t washed by any means. He’s still a prolific scorer that may be having a rough start to the season, but the Spurs can’t afford for that slump to last much longer. Without Derrick White, San Antonio’s defense can’t keep up with its offense against most teams.

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How should the San Antonio Spurs adjust their usage of Rudy Gay?

Until Derrick White returns to the lineup, Gregg Popovich will probably keep utilizing Gay for about 25 minutes per game, as he’s been doing. At 6-8, Rudy is often the only option to guard certain athletic forwards off the bench. That is, of course, if you’ve completely forgotten about Devin Vassell.

I know Coach Popovich isn’t one to play rookies very often, but Vassell isn’t the typical low draft pick they’re accustomed to drafting. Drafted 11th overall, Vassell has displayed a keen sense of both on-ball and help defense in his limited minutes.

Vassell has been caught losing his man in the corner from time to time, but those moments will decrease as he learns from valuable on-court experiences. Devin is currently averaging 16 minutes per game, and his minutes will almost assuredly decrease even more with White’s return.

Ideally, the Spurs should start giving Vassell some of Gay’s minutes as the season progresses. The Spurs’ offense may take a slight hit, but offense hasn’t been their main problem anyway.

The tricky part about managing Gay’s minutes lies in the fact that the Spurs, and Rudy himself, may be trying to increase his trade value before the March 25th trade deadline. That would certainly explain why he’s attempting more shots per game than he ever has in the Alamo City.

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But if there are contenders out there that still need further proof of Rudy Gay’s abilities before pulling the trigger, they probably won’t offer much anyway. Unless he improves significantly on both ends of the floor, the Spurs need to focus on what’s better for the team and start distributing some of his minutes elsewhere.