Arrived as we have in the age of advanced analytics, players don’t get much more polarizing than Rudy Gay, the enticingly talented small forward who has struggled with his efficiency throughout his eight-year NBA career.
Now, the Kings are pulling out all the stops to make sure Gay opts into his $19.3 million player option for the 2014-15 season.
From Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears:
Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, a former Kings star, are expected to join Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D'Alessandro and head coach Michael Malone when they meet with Gay…
…During the meetings, the Kings also will have Gay wear a headset with eyewear that will give him a complete virtual digital tour of the inside of the new Kings arena, including the locker room and arena floor. The new Kings arena is expected to open in September 2016.
Wondering what Chris Mullin—who never so much had a cup of coffee with the Kings during his 16 years in the Association—has to do with all of this? He was actually brought on as an advisor to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive ahead of last season (per NBA.com).
As for Gay, the financial implications here are pretty complex. Few believe Gay to be worth the $19.3 million he’s owed, meaning it stands to reason he’d re-up with Sacramento.
At the same time, it behooves Gay to at least put his feelers out to the rest of the league, to gauge whether another team might be risky enough to sign him to a better deal than whatever extension the Kings could give him ahead of next summer.
The logic is that said competitor would take Gay’s production from the second half of the season as a sign he’s turned some sort of statistical corner, thereby going out on something of a financial limb.
Predictably, Gay told Yahoo, “I’m just taking my time. That’s all.”
As for the Kings, no one can say that Ranadive isn’t looking hard at the numbers. Here he is speaking on Gay in particular during a March 28 interview with True Hoop’s Jared Dubin:
Look at Rudy Gay. You could look at one level of numbers and say, ‘In Toronto he’s scoring 24 points a game, so he’s great.’ And then you go next level and say, ‘Yeah, but he’s only shooting [X] percent, so he’s terrible.’ What we did is, we looked at all six years of data, we looked at spatial data, we looked at what happened with a big guy, and what would happen if he was the second or the third option. We concluded that his efficiency would go up dramatically, and sure enough, it’s gone up 20 percentage points. (Note: Gay’s true shooting percentage has increased from 46.8 with Toronto to 57.4 with Sacramento this season, a jump of 8.6 percent. His player efficiency rating, a measure of per-minute efficiency, has gone from 14.7 in Toronto to 20.5 in Sacramento.)
With the Kings committed to building around the low-post prowess of DeMarcus Cousins, Gay stands to remain a second or third fiddle in the coming years. That might be a bad thing for his raw numbers, but it’s already done wonders for his overall efficiency.
Smart money says the Kings and Gay will work out some sort of opt-in-and-extend arrangement. He’ll never sniff the near-$20 million owed to him this year ever again, but that seems secondary in light of the greater story: a once flawed fringe star getting a chance to dash the doubters and rewrite the nasty narrative.