Although the NBA season has not even ended yet, rumors are already flying about which Grizzlies will be on the trading block. While an O.J. Mayo trade seems inevitable to most Grizzlies fans, there has also been talk about trading Rudy Gay. While Rudy may be on the trading block soon, I believe he deserves another year in Memphis.
Gay deserves one more year because he has not yet had a chance to work with a fully functioning Grizzlies team. Although Randolph and Gasol were both healthy along with Gay in the 09-10’ season, Connelly was not the point guard he is today, and the team did not have Tony Allen’s reliable defense. The 10-11’ season was marred by Gay’s shoulder injury, and the Grizzlies went without Randolph for most of this season. I believe that if Rudy is allowed one more season with a fully functioning Grizzlies team, the Grizzlies can create the kind of atmosphere seen in Oklahoma City. For this to happen however, Gay must become the superstar and leader that Kevin Durant is.
Oklahoma City thrives off its use of three superstars: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. These three, along with a strong cast of efficient role-players, give OKC consistent scoring and defense. The team’s offense works best when Harden, Westbrook, and Durant are all clicking.
For Memphis, Gasol, Randolph and Gay are the superstars. The problem for the team, however, has been getting all three going at the same time. Take this year playoff series against the Clippers:
Game 1- Gasol: 14-4-6, Gay: 19-7-0, Randolph: 6-8-1
Game 2- Gasol: 8-7-3, Gay: 21-5-0, Randolph: 15-8-0
Game 3- Gasol: 11-10-2, Gay: 24-7-2, Randolph: 17-6-2
Game 4- Gasol: 8-5-2, Gay: 23-7-4, Randolph: 12-9-1
Game 5- Gasol: 23-7-4, Gay: 14-5-0, Randolph: 19-10-1
Game 6- Gasol: 23-9-3, Gay: 13-6-3, Randolph: 18-16-1
Game 7- Gasol: 19-5-2, Gay: 19-9-1, Randolph: 9-12-0
Excluding game 5, a game that the Grizzlies won by 12, each game saw one star have an off-night. While players are going to have off-nights every once in a while, I think the key to ensuring that Gasol, Gay, and Randolph have good games starts with Gay. If Gay made two improvements to his game, he could be the Shooting forward that Kevin Durant is and that Memphis fans want him to be.
The first key is for Gay to handle the ball better. Durant does this for OKC, and it really opens the floor. Harden, Westbrook, and Durant all have the ability to cut to the basket and shoot the three. When defense are forced to covers these three players, holes are left throughout the paint. If Gay were able to join Conley, who is already terrific at handling the point and slashing to the basket, and open up the court to the three-point line, holes would open up for both Gasol and Randolph. While Gay is patrolling the key with his better ball handling skills, he can further open up the paint by putting an emphasis on improving his three-point shot. Currently, only O.J. Mayo and Conley can shoot the three with any sort of consistency. If Gay were to become more of a consistent three-point shooter, defenses would have to cover him more outside of the lane. This respect for Gay’s three-point prowess would once again open up Randolph and Gasol under the basket.
With the Grizzlies current line-up, a deep postseason run is certainly possible. The key is for Gay to become the super-star marquee played that he has the talent and drive to become.
This is the first blog from a new writer at 3 Shades of Blue, Andrew Berry is a journalism student at SMU (Go Ponies!) and has been an avid reader of the blog for a while now. While home on vacation we will be helping his future career along giving him assignments such as covering the draft workouts and summer league activity. Please welcome him to the blog and feel free to comment on his perspectives.