While the big news for Grizzlies fans this week is obviously Robert Pera becoming the team’s new owner, the question of whether or not Rudy Gay will be traded is still on the minds of many of us. Gay himself has claimed that he’s unhappy, and there’s a decent chance he’ll be shipped out of town in the coming weeks. While we’ve been talking about Gay trades for the past few weeks, one thing I’ve kept wondering is how many teams are better off at small forward than the Grizzlies currently are with Gay. Admittedly, there’s no guarantee he would be traded for another small forward, but it’s certainly an interesting thing to think about.
Which is why Gay was the perfect candidate to be the first subject of my new series, “(Grizzlies Player) Vs. the World,” in which I compare every Grizzlies starter to every other starter in the league who plays his position, seeing which players are definitely better, which are definitely worse, and where there could be some grey areas. So, without any further ado, let’s see where Rudy Gay ranks against the league’s other starting small forwards, starting with the rest of the Southwest division.
San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi Leonard
Leonard was one of the best rookies in the league this season, playing amazing defense, and making it very clear that he has a very bright future. He only averaged 9 points a game, but that was largely because the major scoring was still done by Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan. As of right now, I’d still rather have Rudy starting at the 3 spot, but that’s certainly subject to change.
The Verdict: Uncertain, but for now, not as good as Rudy.
Dallas Mavericks – Shawn Marion
Marion’s had a great career, and has a decent shot at becoming a Hall of Famer. With that said, he’s not the player he was in his prime, and his value will only continue to decrease in the coming year.
The Verdict: Much better than Rudy in his prime, nowhere near as good now.
Houston Rockets – Chandler Parsons
Another talented young dude, but not on the same level as Leonard. Parsons showed signs of potential greatness this season, but he has a long way to go. It’ll be interesting to see if Parsons makes a huge leap in his second season. As of right now, there’s no way of knowing if he has the potential to be a star on Gay’s level.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy, or Kawhi Leonard for that matter, but he could definitely improve.
New Orleans Hornets – Trevor Ariza
Showed flashes of brilliance on the 08-09 Lakers, has been rather underwhelming since. Ariza is largely a situational sort of player – he can mean a lot to a good team, but he can’t make a team good. The arrival of Anthony Davis may give him a chance to thrive in the role-player-on-a-good-team spot once again. Or, they could take Kidd-Gilchrist, and Ariza would be in some serious trouble.
The Verdict: Definitely not as good as Rudy.
Los Angeles Lakers – Metta World Peace
As he demonstrated later in the season, World Peace still has some value, but he’s not the guy he used to be. If you’re stacked with offensive players, and you just need a guy to play tight D, he’s a fine option. But you certainly don’t want him in a leading role.
The verdict: Not even close to Rudy, but probably a bit better in his prime.
Los Angeles Clippers – Caron Butler
Butler looked good at times during the past season, but it was also clear that he was past his prime. While he can heat up at any given moment, and is a solid three-point shooter, he’s not a particularly explosive guy at this point, and he can’t be a significant contributor on a regular basis. If only Rudy had been able to do a bit more against him (or Randy Foye, or Nick Young) in the playoffs. Oh well.
The Verdict: Once again, not as good as Rudy.
Phoenix Suns – Jared Dudley
One of the more underrated players in the league, Dudley has quietly gotten a bit better each year. While he’s not the elite player the Suns would’ve needed to push themselves into playoff contention, he’s obviously valuable, and on the right team, could make some huge contributions.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy, but better than most people think.
Golden State Warriors – Dorell Wright
Another quietly efficient guy. His per game averages took a bit of a dip this season, but his win shares per 48 minutes actually went up slightly. Unfortunately, much like Dudley, he’s on a team that doesn’t have enough to contend, and he can only help them so much. His destiny is to be a clutch shooter on the second unit of a title contender. Hopefully, that will happen someday.
The verdict: Clearly not as good as Rudy.
Sacramento Kings – Tyreke Evans/John Salmons
This situation is a bit confusing. The team’s been trying to turn Evans into a small forward, but he hasn’t been able to match the success of his rookie year. Meanwhile, Salmons isn’t even close to being the player he was in 2010. A Gay-for-Evans trade could be interesting, but it would probably give the Grizzlies the same problem of not knowing what to do with Evans, unless he adapted to playing the three in the Grizzlies offense very quickly.
The verdict: Plenty of potential, but at this moment, I’d still prefer Rudy.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant
Yeah, no reason to waste a lot of time on this. KD is the player we’re still hoping in vain for Rudy to turn into, and it’s getting less likely with each passing year. It often seems unfair to me that we blame him for not being able to produce on the level of the absolute best, but when you’re making the money that Rudy Gay is, that’s the price you have to pay.
The verdict: Considerably better than Rudy.
Denver Nuggets – Danilo Gallinari
A fun player to watch, and at times, one of the more frightening shooters in the league. Considering the Grizzlies glaring need for offense in the Clippers series, I can’t help but wonder if he’d be a good fit for Memphis. A Gallo-for-Rudy trade could be mutually beneficial – it would give the Nuggets the leader they need, and it would give the Grizzlies a solid offensive player who isn’t as hung up on needing the ball all the time as Gay often is.
The verdict: Rudy is probably a slightly better player, but Gallinari might make more sense for the Grizzlies.
Utah Jazz – Gordon Hayward
Took a big leap forward this past season, going from a potential bust, to a reasonably valuable player. Hayward was often able to hit shots in key situations/. Whether or not he can make another leap forward this year will determine if he’s destined to hang out in the Jared Dudley/Dorell Wright group, or if he can become a legitimate star.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy, but check back in a year.
Portland Trailblazers – Nicolas Batum/J.J. Hickson
Another team with a bit confusion at this position. Batum is ridiculously underrated, and always seems to provide more value than anyone notices. Meanwhile, Hickson thrived while playing 4, but he’s certainly a legitimate option at the 3 as well. It was encouraging to see him finally live up to his potential after the Kings traded him to Portland. Since the team already has an elite power forward to Lamarcus Aldridge, the Blazers may be forced to deal with the problem of two legitimate small forwards. A problem I’m sure most teams would be fine with.
The verdict: Neither are as good as Rudy, but in the right situation, both could be extremely valuable.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Wesley Johnson
Easily the worst small forward in the league, and a bust if there ever was one. I’m guessing Johnson will be struggling to get minutes next season, as either Derrick Williams or Michael Beasley are much better options at the 3 spot.
The verdict: It’s almost hard to complain about Rudy Gay when you remember than some poor fanbase had to watch Wesley Johnson start 64 games last season.
Boston Celtics – Paul Pierce
One of the best players of all-time, and he was still great this season. Somehow, age hasn’t caught up to Pierce yet, as he is still putting up almost 20 a game, and sinking key shots. You’d rather have Gay in the long run, but for a team looking for a temporary solution, Pierce could be quite intriguing. Considering Pierce almost went to the Nets, a trade isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Could the Grizzlies be involved? It’ll be fun to find out.
The verdict: Much better than Rudy historically, and probably still a bit better now.
New York Knicks – Carmelo Anthony
It was a rough start for Melo this year, but once he got into shape, he looked as good as ever. Much like Gay, Melo demands the ball and many of his teams’ possessions tend to be isolation plays that revolve around him. Unlike Gay, he’s a bit better at justifying it, even if it can still be detrimental at times.
The verdict: clearly better than Rudy, even when he was out of shape.
Philadelphia 76ers – Andre Iguodala
Ah, now here’s a fun one! One the best defensive small forwards in the game, and he’s capable of contributing on offense, too. basically, as much of a well-rounded player as you can ask for, even if you may not want him as the centerpiece of your franchise. A Gay-for-Iguodala trade might be interesting, but I’d be mildly concerned since this team struggled with offense already. Replacing Gay with a forward who typically scores less could backfire, although it would certainly strengthen their defensive-minded identity.
The verdict: Probably about even, it all depends on what you’re looking for. Maybe a slight edge to Iguodala since he was an all-star this year.
Toronto Raptors – James Johnson
Johnson’s numbers are pretty underwhelming. I’m tempted to give him a pass because he's young, but really, does anyone expect this guy to turn into anything special in the future. He’s not horrible, but he doesn’t do much, and he illustrates the lack of depth that keeps Toronto from contention.
The verdict: Obviously not even close to Rudy.
Brooklyn Nets – Gerald Wallace
Since Wallace is a free agent, we can’t say for sure if he’ll even stick around, but if he does, he’ll be one of the Nets best players. A solid player on offense and defense, and, for what it’s worth, the best Charlotte Bobcat of all-time. I do wonder if Wallace would be a good fit for the Grizzlies. He’s a solid all-around player who can thrive as a leader or a follower. Would the Nets be interested in a sign-and trade for Rudy?
The verdict: Maybe slightly worse than Rudy, even more so do to age, but in the right system, he can be very valuable.
Chicago Bulls – Luol Deng
I sort of feel like I could just copy and paste what I said about Iguodala. I mean, they have pretty similar skill sets. Deng is the type of player who can be a leader in the locker room, without needing to have everything on the court to revolve around him. He’d be interesting on the Grizzlies, although I don’t if he’d able to match Gay’s offensive output.
The verdict: As with Iggy, it’s about even. All depends on what you’re looking for.
Indiana Pacers – Danny Granger
Ummm…well…he’s pretty much Gay’s doppelgänger, isn’t he. I mean they’re both solid scorers who lack the ability to be the absolute leaders their fanbases might want them to be. A Rudy-for-Granger trade would shake things up, but I doubt it would actually change the fortunes of either team all that much.
The verdict: About a dead heat.
Milwaukee Bucks – Carlos Delfino
Obviously not the centerpiece of any offense, but his solid D makes him reasonably valuable. Like many players on the lower end on this list, I feel like his destiny is to be a role player on a contender. Unfortunately, unless Monta Ellis suddenly becomes efficient, or Brandon Jennings makes a giant leap, that won’t be happening in Milwaukee.
The verdict: Not even close to Rudy.
Detroit Pistons – Tayshaun Prince
If only it was still 2005. Yes, Prince is in the downswing of his career, but at least he has a ring and some very solid seasons to show for it. Perhaps he should follow the lead of former teammate Richard Hamilton, and join a team that’s already built to win a title, and just needs one more legitimate scorer. He’d be good off the bench for the Grizzlies, but there’s no way you give up Rudy for him, unless you’re getting something else of value as well.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy at this point, but in his prime, it was close.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Omri Casspi
A capable contributor, but certainly nothing special. Casspi’s biggest problem is that he’s been trapped on bad teams, so his mediocrity stands out more. Like so many mediocre small forwards – especially in the East, he’s the type of player who would work as a role player, but becomes a starter simply because his team isn’t very deep.
The verdict: Vastly inferior to Rudy.
Miami Heat – Lebron James
Not much to say here, I mean it’s Lebron we’re talking about, he might be the best small forward EVER. Even if Durant beats him these finals, he still probably has more raw talent. Yeah, I wish we’d won the ’03 lottery, too.
The verdict: Better than Rudy, better than everyone.
Atlanta Hawks – Marvin Williams
It’s unfair how much of a bad rap this guy gets. Sure, the Hawks screwed up when they took Williams over Chris Paul, but that’s not his fault. A legitimate contributor who’s been starting on a playoff team for 5 straight years now. Even if he’s not what the Hawks might have wanted him to be, he’s still pretty solid.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy, but better than you think.
Washington Wizards – Trevor Booker
A likeable guy who quietly played very well on one of the league’s worst teams last year. Has the potential to evolve into a star, or at the very least, to become an extremely valuable role player. If the Wizards become a decent team soon, he’ll likely be one of the bigger reasons why.
The verdict: Not as good as Rudy, but give him time.
Orlando Magic – Hedo Turkoglu
A few years ago, he was extremely valuable, but his play fell of rather quickly, and still hasn’t recovered. A solid three point-threat, but at this point, Hedo is only useful as a role player. I’m guessing if the magic could redo things, they wouldn’t have traded to get him back, especially since they gave up Marcin Gortat, who has turned into an elite center.
The verdict: Not even close to Rudy.
Charlotte Bobcats – Corey Maggette/Tyrus Thomas
Eh, well, just about this whole team was horrible, but there was definitely a black hole at the 3 spot, with Maggette beyond washed up, and Thomas once again being nowhere near his potential. At least these guys are probably gonna get Kidd-Gilchrist.
The verdict: Not even close to Rudy, and frankly, just thinking about this team makes me feel good about being a Grizzlies fan.
So, there you go. Rudy Gay is one of the better small forwards int he game, and probably the second best in the Western Conference. Players like Deng and Iguodala are relatively close to him, but only the absolute best in the league (Lebron, Durant, Melo, Pierce) can truly surpass him. Could trading him still be a good idea? Sure, but only if the Grizzlies can get a truly valuable player, or players, in return.
Coming up next: Zach Randolph Vs. the World!