Amidst the commotion of LaMarcus Aldridge’s separation from the team, trade attention for other key veterans on the San Antonio Spurs has seemed to dwindle, and understandably so. How could anyone talk about anything other than a departing seven-time All-Star when discussing the Spurs right now? In the eyes of many around the league, he could be the missing piece to a championship contender.
Although that may be true, another player that could prove vital to a team’s championship run is Rudy Gay. At age 34, Gay is still managing to average 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in a diminished role this season, coupled with 38.2 percent shooting from three.
The poise with which Gay plays indicates the confidence he possesses not only in himself but also in his role on the team. This confidence is infectious as his mentorship has undoubtedly been beneficial to the development of young players such as Lonnie Walker and Devin Vassell.
In the game against the Orlando Magic recently, it was Rudy Gay who scored 10 straight points early in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good. By knocking down two threes, hitting a mid-range jumper, and throwing down a ferocious dunk, Gay continued to prove that he still has much to offer to any team that desires his services.
Despite these highs, Rudy’s game does not come without a major fault. Due to his unwavering confidence, Gay can frequently check into a game and chuck up brick after brick, with no end in sight. In these moments, Spurs fans would much rather trade Gay away to see more of what the younger guys can do.
Should the San Antonio Spurs consider keeping Rudy Gay?
Ultimately, the Spurs’ decision to keep Gay or not will come down to how big of a role they want to carve out for their younger guys. Do the Spurs sacrifice experience and veteran leadership to further develop guys like Vassell and Luka Samanic? Do they hold onto Gay for the rest of the season and let their young guys sit on the bench? Taking it a step further, could Coach Popovich and the front office be so enthused by Gay’s contributions that they re-sign him during the offseason?
If it were up to me, I would trade Gay as soon as possible. I’d love to see Gay’s minutes go to young guys like Devin and Luka. In 17 minutes per game this season, Vassell has already shown an ability to defend at an elite level while knocking down 40 percent of his threes.
Samanic has shown much less, but his contributions following his return from the G League have provided some optimism for an expanded role. The development of these guys is essential for the Spurs to reach the full potential of their youth movement.
Rudy Gay’s presence on the team represents the key internal dilemma of this iteration of the San Antonio Spurs: finding the balance between winning now and developing the future. The multitude of veteran players with expiring contracts this offseason provides the Spurs with a crucial opportunity to define their future plans.