May 17, 2012 Pick ‘n’ Pop: Should the Wizards Trade for Rudy Gay?
By: Willis, Colenda, and Bohlin
With all the talk yesterday (within the Wizards realm) of the possibility of moving Rashard Lewis, I overheard a very, very interesting proposition over the Twittersphere mentioned in passing by someone I cannot even recall. The question was this: if the Wizards fall to the #5 pick in the draft, would Ernie entertain the idea of trading Rashard and that pick for Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay? As soon as I read it, I almost wanted to direct message the guy who wrote it telling him to keep those thoughts away from Ernie Grunfeld, please. If Ernie caught wind of a deal like this, he’d immediately pull the trigger on it without looking back. But maybe I’m the one in the wrong here; perhaps this Ernie-like trade should go down. I mean, Rudy Gay is a borderline All-Star who also happens to be a native of the area, right? It couldn’t hurt to entertain the idea. Well, luckily, my viewpoint isn’t the only one available, which brings us to this edition of Pick’N'Pop:
1.) If the Wizards drop to the #5 pick in the draft, should they try and trade Rashard + the pick for Rudy Gay?
Colenda: In short, absolutely. With the trade for Nene, the Wizards have shown that they’re ready to exit the rebuilding stage and make the necessary moves to become relevant again in the East. We’re certainly not in a win-now mode like, say, the Celtics, but the franchise needs to see improvement (especially with the looming free agency of a certain former number 1 pick). This is why a Gay deal makes sense. Instead of riding out a final year of Lewis’ contract, opening up some cap space in 2014, and developing a talented but raw rookie, the Wizards would be trading for a player that can help them win right away. He would be able to come in and fill the gaping need for a go-to-scorer, and help provide some additional veteran experience with a winning mentality. His coming from a successful franchise cannot be understated; the Wizards desperately need players who know what it takes to be winners in the NBA. A core group of Wall, Gay, Seraphin, Nene, and Vesely would be intriguing to build around, and it would most certainly not be a team that finishes near dead last in the league. If we could find a Bruce Bowen-type shooting guard (a defensive specialist that’s deadly from 3), then that group has the potential for true success.
Willis: This is where I have a hard time making a definitive statement on the subject. The Wizards have been notoriously bad about trading away their draft picks for talented players in an attempt to simply skip the rebuilding process (*cough* Ricky Rubio for Randy Foye and Mike Miller). The reality is, however, that great teams simply aren’t created that way. Look at the Big Three teams who have had any measure of success: San Antonio’s players were all home grown, Boston already had resident star Paul Pierce, Miami already had D-Wade before LBJ and Bosh, Oklahoma City drafted Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, and even Los Angeles drafted Kobe and Bynum before adding Pau. The reality is that great teams become great through the draft and then free agency. One can’t come before the other, lest the development of players is rushed.
Bohlin: In any trade it takes two to tango, but were the Curse of Les Boulez to cause this scenario to play out the Wizards should absolutely make the phone call to Chris Wallace & Co. Falling to the fifth pick, the worst spot the Wizards could land in the lottery, would more than likely leave us on the outside looking in for the top guard/small forward prospects who have declared. In this situation it really would come down to who you like more, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes or attempting to make a move to bring Rudy back home to the DMV. Memphis is going into the offseason over the cap and after a disappointing first round exit by the hands of those guys from Lob City they may be looking to dump salary and Rudy just inked a big deal with the Grizzlies last summer.
2.) What do you think of Rudy Gay as a player? (strength’s)
Colenda: Gay has always been an extremely gifted athlete (check out some H.S. highlights from his time at Spalding in Maryland, he may have been a late star on the AAU scene but the kid could always fly). Over the last few years he has developed himself into being a very capable scorer on the NBA level. Defensively, you could expect a player with his combination of size, length and athleticism to be an elite defender, but he is nothing more than serviceable on that end of the floor. He has been bit by the injury bug the last few seasons, and it’s debatable whether or not he fits the dreaded “injury-prone” label. When healthy, his offensive versatility allows for him to fit well in either a half-court or up-tempo offense. Gay can function off the ball, attack off the dribble, or knock down 3’s in a catch and shoot. Overall, Gay is an above-average NBA player and maybe even a border-line All-Star, but could never be mistaken as a franchise-guy on a championship contender.
Willis: I think Rudy Gay is one of the best small forwards in the game, and appears to have turned a corner in terms of his dedication to team play. Having watched a lot of Rudy Gay throughout his career, his forte is the pull up jumper from midrange off the dribble and using the triple threat in the corners to get ahead of the defender before, again, pulling up. He’s one of the better athletes at his position, easily ranking in the top 5 and capable of keeping up with anyone on the defensive end. He isn’t the best defender, but he has shown far more commitment this year than any previous times. The problem I have with him, is that in spite of what I see on the court (more hustle, defensive commitment, smarter basketball), he really hasn’t changed from when he came into the league. He’s the same steak, just marinated. I’m not sure he’s ever going to take the step to become an All-Star caliber small forward like people think he might. Rudy Gay is, simply put, very close to Caron Butler but not quite as good. And if the Wizards fell to 5, I’d rather just try our hand at the draft with someone like Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal.
Bohlin: In spite of my bias towards guys who played in the D.C. Metro area, Rudy Gay is one hell of a basketball player and represents what this team is lacking. Until he got to the NBA, Rudy has more or less been “The Guy” on any team he was a part of. He can jump out of the gym, as my colleague Jason Colenda knows, and he possesses as close to a complete offensive arsenal as anyone in the league. Gay can take his man to the basket off the dribble, put the ball on the floor to create space for a jump shot and stretch the floor by stepping out behind the arc to knock down three-pointers. There is currently not a soul on the Wizards roster who can claim to be able to do the same thing consistently.
3.) Would Rudy Gay mesh well with John Wall?
Colenda: If fit were the biggest concern with the deal, attempting such a trade would be a no-brainer. Gay would be a perfect fit to play alongside John Wall and the youthful Wiz. He would fill a HUGE position of need for the Wizards (SF/Elite Wing Athlete/Go-To Scorer), and be able to flourish alongside John Wall in the open floor. Thought Jan looked competent running the break with Jimmy at times this year? Gay would without a doubt team up with Wall for quite a few Sports Center highlights. His ability to function as a go-to-scorer would allow Wall to fit into his much more comfortable role as a creator and initiator of offense and the fast break. John would make Rudy’s life much easier offensively by getting him easy shots, and Gay would make Wall’s life much easier since he’s a competent pro to play alongside (Wall hasn’t played with many of those in his first two years). The pairing would really complement itself well and with Nene and Seraphin we could have the makings of a legitimate inside, outside threat.
Willis: Rudy is one of those guys who could fit into any offense with about 15-16 shots to spare. His isolation prowess doesn’t require a point guard to function correctly; rather, it requires minimal floor spacing. Fortunately for the Wizards, they have about 40 possessions they wouldn’t mind giving to Rudy Gay. While Gay is capable of running an up tempo style (I would presume, given his athleticism), he is more used to half court sets and a slower speed offense in Memphis. And heck, that would probably be a boon for Wall, given that in an up tempo offense his turnover rates skyrocket. Not even mentioning the fact that Rudy has playoff experience, a Gold Medal in the FIBA World Championships, and a winning mentality. His presence with Wall wouldn’t be bad at all, and the rest of the team would work out fine with him on board, as he fits seamlessly into most offenses.
Bohlin: He’d be the perfect match to play alongside Wall. Not only would Gay get out in transition as we all know that ability is what separates Wall from the rest of the point guards in the league. Gay would also finally give us the go-to scorer on the wing that we have desperately needed. Outside of his transition game or isolation plays Wall has yet to prove he can be relied upon to shoulder the offensive load with his jump shot. While this is something that I expect to improve over the summer and coming seasons it still is something that is outside of Wall’s comfort zone at this point in time. The addition of Gay to the lineup would take some of that burden off of Wall to be the focal point of the offense and in turn allow him to be the distributor in an up tempo setting which I believe is where he can truly thrive.
4.) What are the chances Memphis would actually do this trade?
Colenda: I’m not convinced the Grizzlies would turn their nose up at this deal. They would have the opportunity to dump a large salary (he signed a five-year $81.6 million extension in the summer of 2010), and replace him with an expiring contract and a young, cheap, and talented player. The draft is one of the deepest in recent memory, and with the 5th pick many talented players will still be on board. Obviously this is the big incentive for the trade. Additionally, many have argued that Memphis plays better without Gay in the lineup, citing their run to the Western Conference finals last year in his absence when leaning heavily on the inside combo of Z-Bo and Marc Gasol. If we could get GM Chris Wallace to start drinking that Kool-Aid, than we could get him to pull the trigger. He’s certainly done stranger things (see the trade for Gasol, Pau).
Willis: GM Chris Wallace is an idiot who pissed off the entire league by trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers, and Ernie Grunfeld is one of the best swindlers in the NBA. If ever there were a combination of GM’s to make something like this happen, it would be these two. The draft is deep, and Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal still might be available at the #5 pick. Memphis loves building through the draft and developing players, so this would be a coup in their eyes. With Z-Bo and Marc Gasol manning the helm, the Grizzlies made a strong push toward the Western Conference Finals. With Rudy in the mix and healthy? They were bounced in the first round by a weak Clippers team. The two aren’t necessarily causal, but their GM might believe otherwise. This could very well happen if the Wizards catch a bad break in the draft.
Bohlin: Currently, the Grizzlies have 9 players under contract for next season to the tune of $62,418,406, the projected cap is supposed to fall somewhere between 60-61 million dollars. The Grizzlies will be faced with some tough decisions this offseason as they will need to fill out a roster while potentially paying the luxury tax. Memphis isn’t exactly New York or Los Angeles so it isn’t a certainty that their owner will want to go far beyond that threshold, especially with the disappointing end to the season with this roster as is. Rudy Gay is owed roughly $53 million by Memphis through the 2014/2015 season. It is not crazy to think they would be interested in some salary cap relief while moving one of their larger, long term contracts out of town.
Could this trade actually happen under the current CBA? Of course it can! Why would we be writing this Pick and Pop otherwise people? To the Trade Machine! (DC Homecoming) As you can see, the Wizards could send Rashard Lewis and the hypothetical 5th overall pick (Couldn’t add picks yet so use your imagination) in the 2012 NBA Draft to Memphis for a package of Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham and Josh Selby and it would work under the salary cap. This move would alleviate the Grizzlies of their long term salary cap constraints allowing them to continue to build around Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and the Wizards would get their go-to-guy on the wing that they haven’t had since the days of Caron Butler. I’m not saying it would definitely happen but I think this would be one of those rare deals where both teams would ultimately benefit.
So this begs the question Wizards fans, Barnes or Gay…Who ya got?