Would Rudy Gay Really Turn Down Huge Payday, Leave Sacramento Kings?

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Rudy Gay is a polarizing player—a polarizing player with a $19.3 million option this summer. 

Is there a chance that Gay possibly leaves all of that money on the table to pursue free agency? Well, based on an interview he did with ESPN's Marc Stein, he's thinking about it.

When asked about which way he was leaning, Gay said:

I'm not sure. I have to go into the summer with my people, think about everything, weigh out the pros and cons. I don't know yet. But Sacramento's been great to me thus far. Obviously I'm trying to tune it all out right now. All I can think about right now is how great Sacramento's been to me.

Now, of course, Gay could merely be giving a politically correct answer. He doesn't want to commit to anything at this point, and who could blame him? This is a pretty major life decision for the 27-year-old.

However, let's think about this for a second.

Would Gay be able to get a lucrative contract from someone else if he leaves the Sacramento Kings?

The Toronto Raptors couldn't get rid of Gay soon enough after playing 51 disastrous games with the team spanning the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. 

During those contests, Gay shot a paltry 41.1 percent. In the 18 games he played with the Raptors this season, he connected on only 38.8 percent of his shot attempts and put forth an infamous 11-of-37 performance against the Houston Rockets back on Nov. 11.

Toronto was ninth in the Eastern Conference the day it traded Gay. Since then, the Raptors have surged, and they now currently own the No. 3 seed.

It doesn't help that Gay had developed a pretty poor reputation around the league prior to his stint with Toronto.

Let's remember that when Gay was injured for the 2010-11 playoffs, his Memphis Grizzlies upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. The following year, when Gay was healthy, the Grizzlies were ousted in Round 1 by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Then, in 2012-13, Gay was traded midway through the campaign, and Memphis advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

That can't bode well for Gay's free-agency prospects, can it?

Well, probably not, but we should all know how the NBA works by now. Someone is always willing to overpay, and maybe that is what the UConn product is hoping for.

It certainly helps that since being traded to Sacramento two months ago, Gay started hitting shots.

In 25 contests with the Kings, Gay boasts a 53 percent overall clip and is hitting on 56.1 percent of his two-point shots. What's more, he owns a true shooting percentage of 61.1 percent, an effective field-goal percentage off 55.9 percent and is averaging .151 win shares per 48 minutes.

Not only that, but Gay is sharing the basketball better than he ever has, averaging 3.2 assists a contest. That's a career best.

Gay has had a couple of monstrously efficient games recently, too.

Against the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 21, Gay scored 41 points on 25 shots. Compare that to the 29 points he put up on those 37 shots two months ago.

Then, 10 days later versus the Dallas Mavericks, Gay had another outburst, pouring in 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. The best part? He scored those 35 points on only 16 shots. 

You also had to love the shot selection by Gay during those outings. Take a look at some of the shots he was getting against Dallas.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that his numbers since arriving in Sacramento are pleasing, and the main reason is not that difficult to comprehend.

"I don't know, man," Gay told Stein when asked about his recent uptick in production. "I just think in Toronto we didn't have enough time to actually get rolling. Here I'm just back to being me, that's all." 

Translation? DeMarcus Cousins is pretty darn good, and having him occupying the low block certainly makes Gay's job easier. Obviously, opposing defenses have to key on Cousins in the paint, which, in turn, opens up Gay's driving and perimeter game.

As nice of a prospect as Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas is, he isn't DeMarcus Cousins.

Now, is that the only reason for Gay's sudden resurgence? Of course not. Cousins is certainly a significant benefactor to Gay's success, but enough to account for a 15 percent jump in field-goal percentage? I think not.

When you look at Rudy's career numbers, you might be surprised. He has not always been the chucker that he became known as with the Raptors.

Gay's career field-goal percentage is 45.1 percent, which isn't bad at all. He also enjoyed five straight seasons of shooting over 45 percent from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

So, in terms of efficiency, Gay hasn't been awful.

As you can see, 2012-13 is the outlier, and front offices may definitely consider that if Gay indeed decides to decline his player option. Plus, don't forget that Gay was playing with Zach Randolph during all of those years in Memphis, and just like Cousins in Sacramento, Randolph opens up Gay's game a lot.

Still, $19.3 million. Can Gay really turn that down? Does he really want to risk walking away from such a big one-year payday to test the waters and see if someone is influenced by his production in Sacramento?

The thought here is that he won't.

Gay can play well next season, get his $19.3 million and raise his stock some more for next summer. It seems like the most logical thing to do.

Unless Gay isn't confident in his ability to carry this level of impressive play into next year, the wise thing to do would be to take the money and continue impressing people around the league in 2014-15.


*All statistics in this article are from Basketball Reference.


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