NBA Trade Rumors: Trading Rudy Gay Would Hurt Memphis Grizzlies' Title Chances

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJune 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies controls the ball against Caron Butler #5 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Grizzlies won 90-88 to tie the series at three games each.  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.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Rudy Gay was the hero for the Memphis Grizzlies during the regular season, and he did a decent job against the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs. Now, as Hoopsworld has reported, the Grizzlies are rumored to be shopping Gay. Trading Gay might save the Grizzlies money, but it'd slam their title window shut.

Some might get excited over the possibility of what a trade involving Gay might bring, but the haul would be nothing compared to what the Grizzlies would lose.

Memphis TV reporter Rob Fischer made a great point in replying to a suggestion made by someone on Twitter, saying:


@theRealHrdlicka a lotto pick, a good player, and a salary dump WILL NOT make Grizz better. No chance Grizz get better trading Rudy

— Rob Fischer (@thefishnation) June 6, 2012


The Grizzlies might get a top 10 pick if they were to trade Gay to the Toronto Raptors or Golden State Warriors, two teams that are said to be interested in the small forward.

But even if they were to get Harrison Barnes, who is probably the most dynamic scorer available at No. 7 or No. 8 in this year's draft, they'd have to regroup offensively and hope that Barnes can develop into the scorer that Gay already is.

Not many draft picks are surefire stars, even in this draft, which seems to be fairly deep. Moreover, to project a player to be an effective replacement for an established premiere scorer like Gay is ludicrous.

Trading Gay wouldn't bring the Grizzlies any closer to a championship. If they were to deal him, it could create an imbalance on offense. They could go from having their double-post offense options in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol with Gay as an outside third option to having someone who thinks the offense runs through him.

Some might allege that this is the case with Gay. While Gay was the offensive leader this season, he'll likely accept the offense returning to the double post with him knotted with Randolph as the top shot taker.

Furthermore, a trade could disrupt the defensive system. Trading with a spastic Orlando Magic team or a defensively challenged Brooklyn Nets team, both of which are said to be interested in Gay, may bring in a player who isn't committed defensively.

The Grizzlies couldn't have that. Not in Tony Allen's "Grindhouse."

The Grizzlies rely on tough defense. They led the NBA in steals and turnovers forced the last two years. Allen's high defensive intensity defines the Grizzlies.

Acquiring a player who wouldn't buy into his style of defense would be unacceptable.

Additionally, the Grizzlies are committed to their core of Gasol, Randolph, Gay and Conley. Each of them were locked up after the 2009-10 or 2010-11 seasons to be Grizzlies through at least 2013-14.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley told The Commercial Appeal in December that he believes that Memphis can win a title in the next couple years, noting the strengths of its core players. He also said that Gay is "very important" to the Grizzlies' title chances.

Indeed, the four core players represent a substantial investment for the Grizzlies. For 2012-13, they'll receive a total of $55.1 million. In 2013-14, they'll receive a total of $58.5 million. If Randolph and Gay exercise their options for 2014-15, the four would combine for $59 million.

Still, it's very much worthwhile. The Grizzlies have correctly identified these four players as the ones who are equipped to lead a title run. Randolph was one of the three best rebounders in the game before his injury—and one of the best overall players in the game. Gasol is a strong shot-blocker and rebounder.

Conley is emerging as a top-flight point guard.

Gay is a top-five small forward. He's an outrageous scorer, able to go wire-to-wire to score and pose an inside-outside threat in the halfcourt. He's also a premiere perimeter defender, snatching steals and helping seal off passing lanes.

That type of player is difficult to replace. The Grizzlies can't trade Gay with the thought of getting a couple of good players and still compete for a title. They'd drop in the tough Western Conference if they were to trade Gay. They'd lose a major scorer and a committed defender.