Rudy Gay, you have a trade suitor. Or 50.
In the Memphis Grizzlies' never-ending quest to avoid any luxury tax penalties, Gay remains the most likely source of collateral damage.
Rumors have swirled since ESPN Grantland's Zach Lowe reported the Grizzlies were actively entertaining trade offers for their star, albeit overpaid, forward.
But while the $53 million Gay is owed over the next three years was supposed to hinder Memphis' pursuit of a deal, the market for its athletic wing has been brimming with interest. Like a lot of interest.
From the Toronto Raptors to the Boston Celtics to even the Los Angeles Clippers, plenty of teams not only aren't deterred, but have reveled at the prospect of acquiring Gay.
Exuded interest doesn't necessarily mean every rumored team remains a viable destination, though. Memphis is looking for a package that saves the team money while preserving its ability to contend.
Only a handful of teams can satisfy such requirements, and only some of that narrowed field would subsequently be willing to.
Which teams are those?
Gay has certainly been a hotbed for alluring trade scenarios, but not all of the purported sequences are to be taken at face value.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 13, 2013.
Buy or Sell: Sell
The only thing we should be buying about the Toronto Raptors is their sudden aversion to deal for Rudy Gay.
Per Smith, Memphis was insisting the Raptors include Jose Calderon, rookie Terrence Ross and one of Toronto's young bigs, like Jonas Valanciunas.
To that I ask: Are the Grizzlies out of their mind?
Understandably, the team wants to maximize the return on Gay, but the Raptors would be getting hosed here. Though Gay provides some much needed scoring on the wing, taking on his contract would be overkill without moving Andrea Bargnani. And let's face it, Memphis is taking on that eyesore of a deal.
Also of concern he would be the inclusion of Valanciunas. He's shown some serious two-way upside this season. The same can be said of Ross. Why on earth would the Raptors ship out multiple players with endless potential for an inefficient scorer?
They wouldn't, and they won't.
Expect the Gay-to-Toronto rumors to continue until he's ultimately moved or the trade deadline passes.
But also expect them to amount to nothing.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Rajon Rondo strikes again.
According to Mark J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Boston Celtics point guard is leading the Rudy Gay-to-Boston charge.
There's no denying that Gay would be a great fit alongside Rondo. He would serve as a youthful and athletic presence, and enhance Boston's transition offense considerably.
Toss in Ken Berger of CBSSports.com's report that the Celtics were willing to deal Paul Pierce and Gay's future arrival in Boston appears to be etched in stone.
Except that it isn't.
Pierce and Gay's salaries nearly match up, but 1) the Grizzlies are looking to save money and 2) Pierce is nearly a decade older than Gay. If I'm Memphis, I'm not doing a deal like this. Or any deal with the Celtics for that matter.
Outside of Pierce, Boston has some young talent in Avery Bradley, but he would have to be accompanied by a wealth of other contracts that don't fit Memphis' current needs.
As if that's not enough, Boston's Danny Ainge (per Boston.com) has said that he's content with the Celtics roster.
Obviously, Ainge's stance could change, but what the Celtics can offer won't.
Plus, if you're the Celtics, do you really want to trade Pierce's 19.6 points on 43.6 percent shooting for Gay's 17.8 on 41.4?
I didn't think so.
Eric Bledsoe is a candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Allow me to explain.
Clearly, there is nothing wrong with the Clippers. Not only do they hold the NBA's second-best record, but they are one of only two teams (San Antonio Spurs) to be in the top five of both offensive and defensive efficiency.
That said, in Los Angeles' never-ending quest to legitimize itself as a powerhouse, its reported interest in Rudy Gay is completely plausible.
Per Sam Amick of Usa Today, the Clippers are among the teams who have shown interest in acquiring Gay. And I'm not surprised.
Amick notes that Los Angeles would have to assemble a package consisting of Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe, among fillers, to strike an accord and I don't doubt they're willing to do so.
Butler's production on the offensive end (9.9 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting) is not what it used to be. Gay, then, is not only an upgrade offensively, but defensively as well. At present, he's holding opposing small forwards to a PER of just 12.7 per 48 minutes.
Relinquishing Bledsoe would prove to be more difficult. He has taken great strides on both ends of the floor and his per-36 minute averages of 16.8 points, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals are through the roof.
Bledsoe, however, plays just 18.1 minutes per contest on a Clippers team where Chris Paul is king. As such, he's unlikely to actualize the full extent of his ceiling in Los Angeles.
Speaking of Paul, the Clippers have also showed a willingness to take risks for the sake of his future in Hollywood. Latching on to both Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford were substantial risks, and both have paid off. Don't put it past the team to take yet another risk in hopes of it paying huge dividends.
I won't pretend the Clippers aren't wary of breaking up their current convocation. Amick even notes their trepidation in the matter.
But don't ignore their interest either. Because it's definitely genuine.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Rudy Gay just isn't going to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Though Zach Lowe of ESPN's Grantland reported Minnesota was in an intriguing destination for the forward because of the Timberwolves' ability to move Andrei Kirilenko, I just don't see this one materializing.
Not only did Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in Minnesota already report that the Timberwolves shot down a proposed Gay trade, but how could we possibly believe David Kahn gives his blessing to a deal like this?
Minnesota is a team who was reluctant to pay Kevin Love and has made Nikola Pekovic available in an effort to avoid paying him in free agency this offseason.
Why would they want to commit big money to a near-superstar in Gay?
Given the Timberwolves "quickly" rejected whatever deal was proposed, we can also conclude Memphis' asking price was too high.
But what if they come down?
Well, Minnesota might not reject it as quickly, but I still don't see it happening.
Kirilenko is on a reasonable deal and could almost certainly be had, but the Timberwolves aren't about to move Pekovic without receiving some size in return. And they're not about to trade Love at all.
Plus, while the team is 21st in the league in points per game (95.2), they are dead last in three-point percentage as well (29.7). Gay provides some scoring, but his 31.2 percent clip from behind the rainbow is regrettable.
Yes, Minnesota could offer one of the more enticing packages out there, one that satisfies all of the Grizzlies' presumed needs.
But just because they can doesn't mean they're going to.
Because they're not.
Buy or Sell: Sell
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Phoenix Suns emerged as a potential destination for Rudy as soon as he hit the chopping block.
This, I do not doubt. Phoenix is desperate for a go-to scorer, evidenced by their unbridled pursuit of Eric Gordon over the summer. Michael Beasley hasn't panned out at all and, as such, the need for a star-esque presence on a Suns team that scores just 95.5 points per game (18th in the league) has only increased.
Personally, I'm impressed by Gay's continuously understated defense and I cannot deny his potential as a scorer. The key word here, though, is "potential."
Are the Suns about to invest $53 million in inefficient potential? They've already had one venture of such caliber go sour in Beasley, why would they subject the team to such failure again?
Wojnarowski also reports that Phoenix has no concrete idea as to whether it can come up with the cash necessary to pay the forward. So why are the Suns even wasting their time?
Better yet, why are the Grizzlies?
Memphis wants to preserve its ability to contend and shipping Gay out in favor of a package where Jared Dudley would be the reported centerpiece reeks of desperation.
And as financially strapped as the Grizzlies are, I seriously doubt they're that desperate.
Buy or Sell: Buy
With Brandon Rush out for the rest of the season and Harrison Barnes still learning the ropes, it's easy to see why the Golden State Warriors would be interested in Rudy Gay.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Golden State was one of the teams Memphis originally reached out to, but as he notes, talks broke down because of the Warriors insistence Richard Jefferson's contract be included in the deal.
Don't count out Golden State just yet, though. If the Grizzlies don't back off their anti-Jefferson stance (they won't), the Warriors could go out and find a third team to facilitate such a transaction.
Difficult? Absolutely, but not impossible.
Jefferson is owed more than $10 million this season and has a player option (which he will surely exercise) for $11-plus million next season. That said, after watching the Atlanta Hawks find a team for Joe Johnson, I'm not about to call Jefferson immovable.
The fact is that the Warriors are ninth in points scored per game (101.1), but 22nd in points allowed (99.4). Gay has the potential to strengthen Golden State's offensive attack even further while also locking down their otherwise porous defense.
Gay's presence also allows the Warriors to run some more unconventional lineups where he plays the 4 alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Barnes.
His inefficiencies are undoubtedly of some concern, but if the Warriors find a taker for Jefferson, I could see Gay running alongside Curry.
Yes, that's a pretty big "if," yet I've still bought into Golden State's interest in Gay.
As should you.
Washington isn't moving Bradley Beal.
Buy or Sell: Sell
When it comes to the Washington Wizards, don't believe everything you hear. And this time, that's a good thing.
According to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, one thing is stopping Rudy Gay from suiting up for our nation's capitol: Bradley Beal.
Gay isn't going to Washington.
I don't care what argument you make, not even the Wizards are daft enough to ship out Beal.
For those that point out Washington willingly bid JaVale McGee adieu, well, you have no idea what you're talking about.
McGee and Beal are two different situations entirely. The former was on a team void of veterans and desperately needed some guidance, hence his success under George Karl and Andre Miller's tutelage with the Denver Nuggets. McGee was also set to become a restricted free agent who Washington had little to no intent of paying.
Does that sound anything like Beal?
Not only is Beal nowhere near being a free agent, but he has proven mature well beyond his years. Sure, his struggles from the field (36.7 percent shooting) are of concern, but he's already hit numerous big shots.
Attempt to convince me that the Wizards (yes, even the Wizards) are willing to send off a rookie with an immeasurable ceiling for an overpaid Gay, and I'll promptly ask you to have your head checked.
Trust me, I could see why Memphis would be intrigued.
But I also see why the Wizards aren't.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Trading DeMarcus Cousins would be a mistake for the Sacramento Kings. Dealing for Rudy Gay wouldn't.
Per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Kings are among the teams who have shown an interest in Gay, and this is one situation where you can't exactly fault Sacramento.
As Stein writes, any package would certainly include the ever versatile Tyreke Evans. His size would give the Grizzlies a scorer who can run the point in a pinch, but also man the shooting guard and small forward spots as well.
Evan's broken jump shot is definitely cause for concern, but the Kings also have a few shooters in Marcus Thornton and Francisco Garcia who are on reasonable deals that they could pair with Evans to make this work.
For Sacramento, Gay would (finally) give them the type of veteran leader they so sorely lack. Cousins needs someone to defer the fate of this franchise to, because he hasn't fared well as the team's cure-all.
Gay's underrated defense also provides some much needed assistance to a Kings faction that is 28th in points allowed per game (103.5).
I understand Gay's contract is steep, but he is eligible to become a free agent in 2014, so Sacramento may not even be on the hook for the full $53 million-plus he's still owed. Plus, his presence would at least show the team's remaining fans they're committed to improving.
Toss in Evans' inevitable departure come this summer and Sacramento's desperate need for change—of personnel, not location—and this is a potential destination to buy high on.
Like really high.