In an effort to wrangle their pennies, the Memphis Grizzlies are flirting with the prospect of dealing Rudy Gay. Despite being a part of the NBA’s best five-player combos―sitting at the top of the heap alongside Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley on a cush plus-138 throne―the Grizzlies need to shrink their salary costs. At $74.3 million, they are just about four big ones over the 2012-13 $70.3 million luxury tax level. Dealing Gay’s $16.4 million dollar salary, as well as the remainder of his $82.3 million contract, would work wonders for the Grizz.
There’s also the glaring concern that Memphis isn’t as prime to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy this season as first thought. Although Gay is the team’s leading scorer, he tends to be a high-volume shooter with matador defense and a self-defeating streak. Add to it that the Grizzlies put together an impressive 2011 playoff run without him, and Gay’s value drops more.
Like with all trades, however, a changing of the guards at Memphis has its challenges and downsides.
The Phoenix Suns
Chatter has the struggling Suns as top contenders in the Rudy Gay courtship. Grizzlies management has approached several NBA teams with a potential swap, and word is that the Suns are an interested trade partner.
Memphis has expressed its desire for any deal to include Jared Dudley as well as future first-round picks. With Dudley, the Grizzlies would get a spot-up shooter which would complement Memphis’ frontcourt-centered offense much better than Gay’s isolation plays. Dudley’s 3-point percentage has been waning over the years, probably as a result of him trying to improve his game in other areas, but remains a 40.4% career 3-point shooter.
Phoenix has the cap space to absorb Gay’s bulky contract, and would get a nice boost in their offensive rating, where they rank 18th in the league. But their defense would likely drop some more, and they already rank at a disparaging 26th in that realm.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
Zach Lowe of Grantland sees a Timberwolves-Grizzlies trade as the most fitting scenario. And we at Sports Jerks, might have to agree. Without Gay on the perimeter, Memphis would have a gaping hole to fill at SF and Andrei Kirilenko, along with a crafty guard like J.J. Barea, could plug that up. Depending on the circumstances, the Grizzlies might have to include a low-cost player into the mix, but that would cater to their salary reduction anyway.
A Rubio/Shved/Love/Pekovic/Gay lineup seems irresistible but might not work on the court considering that Gay and Love both love to dominate the ball. Not to mention that dealing for Gay might impede Minnesota from offering Pekovic a fair contract this summer.
The Sacramento Kings
The Kings might have more to worry about than picking up another hefty contract, with a city relocation underway and the DeMarcus cloud that rains on them more than Seattle will, but they seem to be in contention for a Gay pickup.
What they lack in a good hand, the Kings must make up for in bluffing prowess, since it seems that they really shouldn’t be in trade talks with Memphis. The King’s best offer would most likely consist of a Francisco Garcia and Tyreke Evans centerpiece, with neither player offering anything substantial to the Grizzlies formula. Evans is a poor and streaky shooter, and Garcia is only averaging 5.7 points per game at a worse field goal percentage than Gay (not to mention that the poor guy can’t handle his own against a medicine ball).