5 Reasons Why the Memphis Grizzlies Don't Miss Rudy Gay
The Memphis Grizzlies have regained their swagger since an initial slide after trading Rudy Gay. After losing three of four games in the wake of the trade, the Grizzlies have won seven straight. Despite some initial pains, the Grizz have adapted to their new look.
Memphis has overcome the loss of their leading scorer in unexpected ways, especially when one looks at the metrics. And they've managed to replace Gay's presence on the fast break.
The problem of whether they'd be able to replace him on defense turned out to be less serious than initially believed.
Follow along to see more about why this small-market squad is just fine without one of its former high-earners.
All advanced metrics except monthly defensive-rating splits come from basketball-reference.com. Defensive-rating splits come from nba.com.
Conventional NBA wisdom may dictate that high-volume isolation scorers are abundantly helpful to an offense.
However, Rudy Gay's style wasn't always supportive of good overall offensive health. Oftentimes, his isolations ended up in ill-advised long-range shots.
The Grizzlies won't miss that inefficient one-on-one action because of what has emerged in its place: better passing and improved ball movement in the half-court offense. From January to February, their assists-per-game average has so far jumped from 19.9 to 23.1.
Overall, this season, the Grizzlies' assist rate is 8.6 percent better with Gay off the floor (or traded).
Mike Conley is averaging 6.6 assists per game in the last 11 games, compared with 5.8 per game before the trade. Marc Gasol, the No. 2 facilitator, is averaging 4.4 assists per game since the trade, compared with 3.7 per game beforehand.
No Loss of Scoring
The biggest worry regarding the Rudy Gay trade was the loss of his scoring. That anxiety has been wiped away.
The three players acquired in the trade have combined for more points per game (19.5) than Gay (17.2) did before being dealt.
Others have stepped up their scoring. Tony Allen is averaging 10.8 per game since the trade, compared with eight per game beforehand. Mike Conley is putting up 15.1 per game in the last 11 outings—2.2 more per game than before Gay was dealt.
Overall, the Grizzlies' scoring average since the trade is identical (93.36 per game) to what it was beforehand.
No Loss of Fast-Break Scoring
One of the biggest concerns about the post-Rudy Gay Grizzlies was that they might lose their identity as a transition-scoring team. However, the Grizzlies have managed to push the fast-break action since he went to Toronto.
The Grizzlies are scoring a bit more without Gay than they did when he was wearing the three shades of blue. They're averaging 13.5 fast-break points per game. Before trading Gay, they put up 12.9 per game on the break.
Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye have joined the fast-break fun, while other role players have stepped up to create quick points.
Role Players Stepped Up on Defense
Rudy Gay had played well defensively before being traded. He has allowed 100 points per 100 possessions, seven fewer than his career rate. The trade put the Memphis defense at risk, partly because Gay was having a career year defensively and partly because the team's defensive chemistry could have been affected.
Fortunately for this defense-oriented team, the defense has not fallen off. The team's defensive rating has only risen 0.1 points per 100 possessions since the trade.
That's because role players, including those acquired in the deal, have elevated their defense. Jerryd Bayless has allowed 102.4 points per 100 possessions in February, compared with 104 points per 100 possessions the rest of the year.
Tayshaun Prince is allowing 103 points per 100, compared with 110 per 100 for the Detroit Pistons before being traded. He had a key steal in the final seconds of the win against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday that sealed the deal.
Austin Daye has also seen improvement since moving from Detroit to Memphis. He went from allowing 107 points per 100 possessions for the Pistons to 101 per 100 for the Grizzlies.
Hardly Any Loss in Length
Rudy Gay is a physical freak, standing 6'9" and 235 pounds with a freakish 7'3" wingspan.
His length was a rare asset for a team that wasn't especially intimidating in terms of athleticism. Trading that away posed some risk, considering his ability to use it to grab steals.
However, the Grizzlies managed to pick up two swingmen in the deal who are almost as long in Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. Daye's wingspan is just a quarter of an inch shorter than that of Gay. Despite standing two inches shorter than Gay, Prince's wingspan is also less than an inch shorter than that of Gay.
Prince's length is sneaky, considering his wingspan is between five and six inches greater than his height.
With these two lanky former Pistons, the Grizzlies are just as capable of challenging backcourt scorers as they were before the trade.