Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Rudy Gay During 2014 Offseason
Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay has an important decision ahead of him, and it's one that could heavily impact his bank account and the payroll for the suddenly expensive Sacramento Kings. Gay has a player option this season worth a whopping $19.3 million.
Realistically, there are three choices for him to choose from. Gay can accept the giant payday and play out the last year of his deal, becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
Gay could decline his player option but re-sign with Sacramento to secure long-term financial security and help keep the Kings under the luxury tax. Lastly, Gay could decline his player option and leave Sacramento altogether, signing as a free agent somewhere this summer.
While it certainly seems most likely that Gay will take his major payday and delay free agency until next year, you never really know in the NBA.
Let's take a look at Gay's best landing spots around the league if he does decide to decline his option and become a free agent.
Here's where having friends around the league could help Gay if he becomes a free agent. Gay has a long-standing relationship with Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, and Rondo has advocated for Gay coming to Boston in the past, as Gay told Marc J Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
It’s hard to talk to [Rondo] because he is always saying, ‘We need you over here. We need you over here,’ " Gay said. "So it’s not easy talking to him. But he’s being a friend, just telling me about keeping everything together and he makes you feel like you are still valuable.
One would assume that the Celtics are prepared to placate Rajon Rondo however possible in advance of his possible 2015 free agency.
The only real issue here, other than maybe Boston's actual desire to acquire an average defender and inefficient scorer, is that signing Gay to a deal that extends beyond Rondo's deal seems awfully dangerous.
If Gay were to leave Sacramento and the $19.2 million owed to him next year, you would have to assume he'd be looking for more long-term financial security and not a smaller one-year offer in the range of $7-8 million. That's right about what Gay is probably worth, but it's also in the neighborhood of what Boston can actually offer in free agency.
Perhaps a more likely scenario than Gay opting out and then signing with Boston would be for both sides to negotiate a trade. If Sacramento knows it can't keep Gay, turning him into something of value makes sense.
For Boston, dealing a salary that's on the books beyond 2015 (in order to clear more cap space) would make a lot of sense, and there are two forwards in Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green who fit the bill, along with decent-sized expiring players like Brandon Bass and a big leftover trade exception to utilize.
While Wallace would absolutely need draft-pick sweeteners attached, Green is a great starting point, even if it's hard to see Gay being an upgrade over him.
Boston has bigger fish to fry right now in its pursuit for Kevin Love, so it's unlikely this is something that would be in the works as a first priority.
Still, if Boston misses out on Love, this could potentially work if Gay accepts his player option, with Boston shedding future salary in exchange for Gay's massive one-year deal. Then, the Celtics could pair Gay with Rondo on the cheap, while general manager Danny Ainge brings in a star to join them.
Cleveland is another team that likely wants a piece of the 2015 offseason, so it might be unlikely it signs any player to a long-term deal that isn't a "can't miss" addition.
Gay certainly doesn't qualify as that, as he's left a wake of fired executives and coaches in his path, but it's not hard to imagine Cleveland being interested. Luol Deng seems as though he's good as gone in free agency, and if the Cavs take a big man like Joel Embiid with the first pick, there will still be a massive hole to fill at small forward.
Gay could potentially slot in there, although Cleveland would probably be wise to at least leave the light on for LeBron James in 2015. Gay's contract would interfere with that and so would his style of play.
Like Boston, though, Cleveland might reach out to Sacramento at some point in order to clear future salary so long as Gay accepts his player option and remains on an expiring deal.
The Cavs have cap space, so if LeBron signs long term elsewhere and the team takes Embiid over Andrew Wiggins, this could potentially work.
While some potential suitors would rather have Gay for his large expiring deal, the Charlotte Hornets could actually use Gay primarily for his play.
Although he's potentially looking to be overpaid since he's been attached to such a high-dollar amount for so long and he would be leaving so much money on the table to enter free agency, Gay could find a home in Charlotte if the market isn't as booming as he anticipates.
A similar thing happened with Al Jefferson last season, although expecting similar results (like an All-NBA team nod) would be foolish.
That being said, at the right price of around $8 million a season over four years, Gay could provide some decent value as a scoring wing or even a small-ball 4.
Charlotte desperately needs someone other than Kemba Walker who can create his own shot off the bounce, and Gay can do that, even if the results aren't always spectacular.
Beggars can't be choosers, however, and Gay would be a pretty substantial offensive talent upgrade while still providing athleticism. That's what Charlotte needs at the forward spot, so this could be a pretty good fit so long as the price is right.
The Wizards are in a difficult spot this offseason, as two of their best players in Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat are headed for unrestricted free agency. Here's how NBA.com's David Aldridge sees the situation playing out:
They've already committed $80 million to Wall in a new extension, and Beal will be in line for his in a couple of years. And they can't let unrestricted free-agent center Marcin Gortat walk. Gortat, acquired from Phoenix after Okafor suffered a season-ending neck injury, has infused the locker room with his goofiness and tough play inside.
But they can't pay Ariza, who also pines to return to the West coast, what he'll likely ask for as a free agent. Ariza recently hired Rob Pelinka as his agent, a man not known for taking 70 cents on the dollar. It's a tough, tough call for a team that desperately needed a perimeter defender like Ariza.
If Ariza really does head for the West Coast and signs elsewhere, the Wizards will have a need on the wing. Getting a player who is probably better suited to play some 4 makes sense as well, seeing as Nene is injury prone, and the Wizards may lose a lot of their other frontcourt depth in guys like Kevin Serpahin to free agency.
While Gay is a much worse fit for Washington because he's not nearly the level of defender or corner three-point shooter that Ariza is, he would give the Wizards another post-scoring option and transition threat next to John Wall and Bradley Beal.
If you can catch the theme at this point, no team really "needs" Gay and what he brings to the table. That said, if Washington isn't prepared to make a playoff run with Martell Webster and Otto Porter Jr. absorbing almost all the minutes at the 3, going after Gay might not be a bad option if bigger moves don't pan out.
Gay is capable of being a good player, after all, but he just needs to be a third option, similar to what he's been in Sacramento where his efficiency has jumped up and his overall play has improved. With Wall and Beal, at least you'd hope that would transfer.
Finally we've arrived to the best free-agent destination for Gay, which is right where he is now.
This is a pairing that works for both sides. Sacramento is going to have an awfully tough time recruiting marquee free agents simply because it's a smaller-market team without a lot of big-city shine, so getting a player with the talent level of Gay isn't a bad call, particularly since Sacramento is capped out and wouldn't be able to replace his production with a meaningful player anyway.
For Gay, Sacramento will probably be the most willing spender long term, mainly because it can look at any multiyear deal he signs as a sort of discount. While every other team will look at Gay for face value, the Kings would technically be getting Gay 50 percent off if he signed for something around $9-10 million a year annually.
The new Kings are also the type of franchise that will embrace a smaller star, which probably wouldn't happen in a place like Boston.
Here's more from Gay's recruitment to stay in Sacramento from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
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.
Gay was originally expected to have the meeting in his offseason home of Memphis, but preferred to have it in Sacramento.
When asked recently about his decision process, Gay told Yahoo Sports: 'I'm just taking my time. That's all.'
If Gay is going to pass up so much money for next year, you would think Sacramento would be more than happy to reward him and keep him next to DeMarcus Cousins for the future.
Along with Isaiah Thomas, that's a solid start for a top-10 offense, so long as the rest of the roster can fill in the blanks with perimeter shooting.
We'll see which way Gay decides to go, but it would be a surprise if he didn't end up in a Kings uniform for next season.