This post is part-eulogy and part-education.
Several people have spoken out the past few weeks about who Rudy Gay was/is and what he might have said. We have run several articles about this issue (fairly, in my opinion) during that time. However, I’m not going to recap them or even refer to them in this article. If you want to read them, feel free to check these out:
Rather than deal with what might have been said, I want to focus on factual issues. Facts are clear, inarguable, and (best of all) verifiable.
Let’s look at a few statistics.
Player 1A: 36.7 mpg, 17.2 ppg (.408 FG%, .310 3PT%, .776 FT%, 1.05 PPS), 5.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.5 TOpg, PER: 14.2
Player 1B: 38.1 mpg, 20.2 ppg (.379 FG%, .275 3PT%, .846 FT%, 1.00 PPS), 6.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.4 TOpg, PER: 16.0
Player 2A: 32.4 mpg, 11.7 ppg (.444 FG%, .434 3PT%, .800 FT%, 1.09 PPS), 4.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.2 TOpg, PER: 12.8
Player 2B: 30.5 mpg, 9.6 ppg (.474 FG%, .375 3PT%, .333 FT%, 1.01 PPs), 2.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TOpg, PER: 11.8
Player 3: 44.1 mpg, 16.0 ppg (.489 FG%, .424 3PT%, .529 FT%, 1.14 PPS*), 5.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.8 TOpg, PER: 13.7*
Based on those stats, my evaluation would be that Player 1 is likely better overall, even if Player 2 is more efficient and a much better shooter. However, what of Player 3? While he plays more minutes than either 1 or 2, he is more efficient than either, right?
Player 1 is Rudy Gay (A = with Memphis; B = with Toronto). Player 2 is Tayshaun Prince (A = with Detroit; B = with Memphis). As you can see, Gay is the superior overall player, and Prince is clearly more efficient given his higher shooting percentages and lower turnover numbers. I think everyone with the most basic knowledge of statistics should be able to agree upon that. It also confirms what most people believe based on the eye test, as well.
Then we get to Player 3. As I said earlier, he plays more minutes than Rudy or Tayshaun do, but also seems to be more efficient than either — at least in terms of their numbers in Memphis. So, who is this mysterious character? I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t just one guy.
Player 3 is a combination of Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. You recall Daye, right? The other guy who came over from Detroit in that trade that everyone termed a “throw-in”. Well, that throw-in has become the Grizzlies’ best shooter, hitting 43.8% of his three-point attempts and 62.5% of his two-point attempts.
Daye: 13.6 mpg, 6.4 ppg (.531 FG%, .438 3PT%, .667 FT%, 1.41 PPS), 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.4 spg, .14 bpg, 0.4 TOpg, PER: 18.8
As you can see, Daye is far from just being an end of the bench role player. That 18.8 PER is the highest on the team, ahead of Marc Gasol’s 18.7 rating in third place. Who is second, you ask? Why that would be Ed Davis at 18.8 as well. He has been remarkably efficient and came over in that same trade, if you remember.
Davis: 10.4 mpg, 4.4 ppg (.583 FG%), 2.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg, PER: 18.8
Just to recap, that is three talented and efficient players who came over in exchange for one talented, but inefficient player. I could go into the issues of spacing, ball movement, and offensive flow, but you don’t come here for lessons on basketball theory, so I’ll throw two more things at you: assists and scoring. Both are up markedly since the trade.
That handles the basketball-side of the argument on why the team is better off after the trade. What about another reason?
$11,292,529 + $14,525,720 = $25,818,249
$16,460,532 + $17,888,932 = $34,349,464
The first set of salaries is the combined contracts of Prince, Daye, and Davis for this season and next season. The second set is Rudy’s contract for that same period. That’s $9.5 million in savings, right off the top. So, it makes sense from a financial standpoint, too. However, it’s not the whole story.
What was the rationale behind the two trades this year? Getting below the luxury tax, right? Why is that so important?
Here’s why: http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q21
For those of you wanting the Reader’s Digest version, it boils down to the fact that paying the luxury tax once isn’t a huge deal, but paying it often becomes very pricey very quickly. Being a “tax repeater” means that (under the provisions of the new CBA) a team would pay anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00+ for every $1.00 that it is over the luxury tax. To put that in real money terms, if the Grizzlies were $5 million into luxury tax territory next season, they would have to pay a $1.75 rate on that, which equals $8.75 million in tax penalties for this year. However, if they were also $5 million over next year, then that number would become $13.75 million in tax penalties. As they say, a million dollars here, a million dollars there, and pretty soon, you’re talking about some real money.
The realities of being an NBA franchise in a small market like Memphis are well-known and have been discussed numerous times. This organization cannot afford to be a repeat luxury tax payer. That is an indisputable fact. (And it could not afford to do that, nor would it have been inclined to while Michael Heisley and his deep pockets were the primary owner either, so stow that argument for someone else who isn’t familiar with the particulars of the situation.) This is the reason, above all others, that trading Rudy Gay had become a necessity.
My personal feelings about Rudy Gay are irrelevant. It does not matter if I was a Rudy supporter or a Rudy hater. It also does not matter whether I believe that the team had a better chance of advancing in the playoffs this year with him or not. The statements that he may or may not have made regarding his departure from the city of Memphis likewise have no bearing on this transaction. All that matters is if this deal made sense from a basketball sense and/or a financial sense. I think the numbers show that it meets both of those criteria. So, as far as I’m concerned, it is time to close the book on this issue. Rudy is gone — fare thee well. The Grizzlies are still representing the city of Memphis with their Grit & Grind style of play and are headed towards the postseason for the third season in a row. Let’s support the team, have some faith in the front office, and stop worrying about guys who no longer wear Beale Street Blue.