NBA Rumors: Grizzlies Should Aim for Better Package in Rudy Gay Deal

Tim KeeneyContributor IJanuary 9, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots a free throw shot against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 12, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Trading Rudy Gay is fine. Trading him for Jared Dudley isn't. 

Nonetheless, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, that's the exact deal the Memphis Grizzlies are currently mulling over:

The Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns are engaged in trade talks centered on forward Rudy Gay, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Grizzlies have been shopping Gay to multiple teams, and found an interested trade partner with the Suns, sources said.

There's no framework of a possible deal in place, but the Grizzlies have expressed a strong desire that any package involving Gay include Suns forward Jared Dudley and future first-round draft picks, sources said.

To be clear, this deal isn't Robert Traylor-for-Dirk Nowitzki bad like many are making it out to be.

Jared Dudley's name doesn't get brought up in the same conversation as Rudy Gay's all the time, but the two small forwards aren't exactly miles apart in terms of production this season:

Player Pts/36 FG% 3PT% Rebs/36 Assts/36 Stls/36
Rudy Gay 17.6 40.8 32.3 5.7 2.4 1.5
Jared Dudley 14.0 49.0 38.2 4.0 3.0 1.3

It's worth noting that Gay is suffering through a career-worst season shooting ball. During a more typical season, there would be far less discrepancy between those field-goal percentages.

Still, it exemplifies the difference between the two players.

The Suns' 27-year-old wing works extremely hard to get open on the offensive end and knocks down the open shot with regularity. It has resulted in a staggering offensive rating of 119, which is far better than any season Gay has ever produced. 

But there's a reason the former UConn star gets paid the big bucks. While Dudley is a better shooter, Gay is a better pure scorer. He can create his own offense off the dribble much more effectively and when he gets going, he is nearly impossible to stop. 

Additionally, Gay is more aggressive on the glass, far more explosive and athletic, has ideal size and is a much better defender (his defensive rating of 99 is exceedingly better than Dudley's 111). 

Nevertheless, while Gay is still a far more accomplished player overall, this trade—especially when you consider the addition of a first-round draft pick or picks—is enticing. 

However, the Grizzlies are 22-10, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference and reportedly still believe they can contend for the Larry O'Brien Trophy (via radio host Chris Vernon):

Grizz brass has told me a Rudy trade would be an attempt to shed some salary but IMPROVE.Idea they don't view team as contender is false

— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) January 8, 2013

The need to eventually move Gay's massive contract contract is obvious, but why now?

Teams that are in the championship hunt don't generally sell low on one of their best players in the middle of the season just to save some money. At least not for someone who doesn't serve as a crystal-clear upgrade. 

If the Grizzlies can't improve, they should simply play this season out, avoid playing the "what if?" game and then look to move Gay in the summer.