As you may have read in this space before, the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be in a bit of a predicament with regards to the salary cap, perhaps as early as this coming season.
With Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr., and Rudy Gay all possessing big extensions (and O.J. Mayo due for one), the Grizzlies are going to have to do some pretty acrobatic maneuvering around the luxury tax line to avoid paying that fee.
We’ve also established that if the Grizzlies were to trade one of their highly-paid players, then it would be Rudy Gay for a number of reasons. He is the team’s highest-paid player, but he’s also very talented. The problems with Gay on the Grizzlies is that they aren’t getting enough bang for their buck, and they already know that they can win in the playoffs without him in the line-up.
Nobody knows right now if the front office shares the same frustrations with Rudy Gay the player as some of the fan base does, and we may never know, but we do know that the Grizzlies have rarely engaged anyone in trade talks in his Memphis career and fell over themselves giving him a lucrative extension.
I think anyone would admit that Gay’s 2012 playoffs performance left much to be desired, including Gay himself, but there’s no telling how other teams would value Gay in a trade. It is exceedingly possible that Gay is worth more to the Grizzlies than he is to other teams. A large reason for that would be because of his gargantuan contract that was fair under the old CBA, but has potential to become a bit of an albatross in this new, stream-lined CBA. You don’t mind paying big money to your first or second best player if you’re an actual title contender, but if he’s your third best player and making that kind of cake? It’s a tough hill to overcome.
However, he is still a quality player and there are some teams that don’t have a single person on their roster that has Gay’s ability or even his stature as a “name” player. He’s very good, but it’s abundantly clear at this point that the Grizzlies may be better off without him, and he may benefit from a change of scenery.
One of the teams that should be interested in Rudy Gay as a player, and the face of it’s franchise would be the Charlotte Bobcats.
Charlotte is a team that is in the midst of a rebuild, but at some point may be pressed to trade one of their draft picks for a proven commodity.
You don’t trade the first overall pick (and Anthony Davis) for Rudy Gay, but who’s the second best prospect in this draft? Bradley Beal? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Andre Drummond? There’s no telling at this point. That’s not to say that those guys aren’t going to be awesome in the NBA, but we don’t know. What if the guy they pick doesn’t pan out? Can Charlotte afford to roll the dice like that?
The first call that Chris Wallace should have made after the draft lottery slotted the Bobcats at #2 was to Rich Cho, the Charlotte General Manager and offered Rudy Gay for the second overall pick.
Why Memphis does it:
The Grizzlies obtain the second pick and draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a guy that can step in and give the Grizzlies some affordable youth and payroll flexibility.
This move would help Memphis keep O.J. Mayo around, bring in a quality rookie that can produce numbers similar to Gay, and by the time he’d be up for an extension, Zach Randolph’s contract would have expired and the Grizzlies would have the flexibility to retain Kidd-Gilchrist or allow him to move on, whatever they decided to do.
Besides, for all the Grizzlies know, he could become a better, more polished version of Gay someday. He won’t join Memphis as the savior, just a guy that has to do his job and improve at his own pace.
Some may view this as a step down for the Grizzlies, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Just look at the Spurs this season. They traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard because they wanted some more flexibility at the wing position. Hill got a chance to play big minutes in Indiana and Leonard has been great for the Spurs. That trade worked out for both teams as Leonard tried to fit in with the Spurs’ culture and didn’t try to do anything that he can’t do.
A lot of people don’t like to trade known commodities for unknown ones, but I’m of the opinion that any swingman in the league can put up the numbers that Gay has in Memphis’ system, especially a big-time prospect like Kidd-Gilchrist who was the second best player on the national champions from Kentucky just last year.
This trade actually solves quite a few problems for the Grizzlies, even if they have to take back either Matt Carroll or Desagana Diop and their expiring contracts, the problem will be when you ask….
Why Charlotte does it:
The Bobcats had to be heartbroken over going through the worst season in NBA history and falling to the second pick in the draft. With every loss, their fans were able to console themselves with the thoughts of Davis saving their franchise. When that happened, the Bobcats had to have immediately set their sights on moving the pick for some more immediate help.
The Bobcats drafted Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo in the 2011 draft and while neither set the world on fire in their rookie seasons, most guys improve in year two. If they both pan out and they already have Gerald Henderson on the team. If they can add someone like Rudy Gay to their line-up, that’s suddenly a decent four-man core with some cap space waiting after the 2013 season. It’s unclear as to who they may be able to sign with that space, but that’s why they may look to move this pick for Gay in the first place.
If they can move that pick for Gay into their cap space, then they don’t have to worry about free agents coming or not, they’ll already have their guy in place.
On top of that, the Bobcats are living in a reality where the Chicago Bulls own one of their first-round picks. It’s heavily protected until 2016, at which point Chicago will obtain that pick no matter where it falls. Charlotte may be motivated to improve in a short amount of time. If their pick lands outside of the top 10 next season, Chicago takes that pick. That hurts, but it doesn’t hurt like losing potentially the top overall pick in four years. They may want to give that pick up and be done with it, rather than keep rolling it over.
Finally, has anyone been paying attention to these eastern conference playoffs? Could a Charlotte team of Walker, Henderson, Gay and Biyombo compete for a playoff spot next season? The Bobcats also have serviceable veterans in Tyrus Thomas, Reggie Williams and D.J. Augustin still on their roster. Could that team do a decent impression of the 8th seed Philly team that made it to game 7 of the second round this year? I think it could. What if the Bobcats asked for the Grizzlies’ 25th overall pick as part of the deal and drafted the best player available at that point? If that rookie panned out, suddenly Charlotte has the makings of something there.
I just think that Charlotte needs to make a move and get someone who can help them right now and that Gay or Andre Iguodala may be the two best targets available. Lucky for Charlotte that they have a glaring need at small forward and that’s the position that Gay and Iguodala both play.
Gay’s definitely overpaid and he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential, but he’s a good player that will improve any team and Charlotte just needs talent period. I know that they want to rebuild, but when they decide to make a move and go for it? I think a Gay for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist helps both sides. Now we’ll see if Chris Wallace and Michael Jordan feel the same way.