First of all, let me just clarify; I have no vendetta against Rudy Gay. I have several wonderful memories of his time with the Grizzlies. He hit his share of game winning shots, and one was one of the more reliable scorers around, at least until this year. What I can’t help but wonder, though, is whether or not Rudy’s true abilities had always been overstated during his time in Memphis as well as Toronto.
Right up until his trade went through this January, the idea persisted that he was the Grizzlies best player, or at least their second best. And when the deal was finalized everyone other than Charles Barkley expected the team to essentially disappear from relevancy without Rudy’s contributions. As now know, the opposite has proven to be the case; the grizzlies have played their basketball of the season in the aftermath of the Gay trade.
So, was Rudy always a little overrated. For the last few years, at least, I would have to say yes. The reality of the situation was, when Rudy Gay was traded, he was probably the fourth best player on the Grizzlies roster, after Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. The thing was, after six years in Memphis, he had become the “face” of the franchise. he was their most consistent presence, and people began to associate the team with Gay more than anyone else. This lead to people assuming he was the leader of the team, even though the contributions of Randolph and Gasol were more valuable.
The reality is, while Rudy had his moments in a Grizzlies uniform, he never a great player. There’s a reason why Z-Bo and Marc made All-Star teams, (and Tony Allen earned first-team All-Defense last year), while Rudy never did; he just wasn’t a transcendant player. The highest PER he’s ever achieved was a 17.8, which is certainly impressive, and well-above the league average of 15.0, but nothing terribly mind-blowing. Perhaps more damning, his career win shares per 48 minutes is a mere .079, significantly below the league aver age of .100. Rudy is a good scorer, and he can make impressive plays from time to time, but really, he was never more than a slightly above average player.
His value was inflated for two reasons; the first being the already-discussed idea that he was the most recognizable player in the organization. The other factor was the all-too-common mistake of confusing potential for actual ability. We saw Rudy’s thunderous slam dunks, marveled at his athleticism, and thought he could evolve into an elite small forward. It never happened; Rudy misses too many jump shots to ever be a player on the level of Carmelo Anthony or Paul Pierce. When January rolled around, that was all-too-obvious, but we desperately tried to convince ourselves Rudy was something special. Looking at how well the grizzlies have done without him, and how many shots he’s still missing in Toronto, it’s very clear that is simply not the case.
Rudy isn’t a bad player, and if his offensive production reverts back to its usual level next season, eh could actually be quite valuable for the Raptors. Still, he was never the All-Star so many thought he could be. The last time he was the Grizzlies best player 2008-09,, the last year before Z-Bo arrived, and the last year of rotting in the cellar before the Grizzlies became respectable team. Can Rudy be a useful contributor on a good team? Absolutely. Will he ever be a true first option on a title contender? Almost certainly not.