The idea Rudy Gay will opt out this summer of the last year of his contract, one that pays him an amount ($19.3 million for 2014-15) most in the NBA would conclude is too much for what he provides, seemed reasonable enough for a little while. There have been several instances in NBA history where players trade in the chance for a massive one-year pay day in order to sign into a more secure, longer-term deal, and Gay’s image when he was dealt from the Toronto Raptors to the Sacramento Kings was at an all-time low. Rudy’s always been thought of as a good dude, but even the most hardened of anti-advanced statistics bloviators had come around on Gay as a low-efficiency scorer and little else.
The problem here is Rudy has been fantastic as a member of the Kings. His shots per game are down by three ticks, as compared with his lone month with the Raptors earlier this year, but he’s scoring two more points per contest. Over 20 points per game on 48 percent shooting, and just based on the eye test alone he seems like a more fluid offensive player who isn’t forcing things.
This means his stock is rising. Still, why would Gay want to opt out? NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper discussed his impending decision with Rudy recently:
“What does my gut tell me?” Gay says of the looming decision and possibly decisions, plural. “I don’t know. My gut tells me different things every day.”
Being 28 at the start of next training camp and being on a team that just finished at or very near the bottom of the Western Conference? “I’m not the age right now where I just have to be on a championship team,” he says. “Right now, I’m at the age where I can still make a good team great. Rebuilding, I possibly could do that too. Those are the things I have to weigh. Do I want to be on the rebuilding side? Do I want to make a good team great?”
Wanting to feel a connection where he works and lives? “These people have been so great to me. They’ve been really great to me, to my family. They’ve been great. The coaches have all welcomed with me with open arms. Everybody in the organization. Vivek (Ranadive), he’s a great owner. I think this team will be good in the future. I do think so. I’m not throwing out the notion that I will be here. They know that they have a chance of me being here.”
Rudy Gay went on to tell Howard-Cooper that he doesn’t play “for money,” and we believe him, and one shouldn’t slough off his comments about not minding a rebuilding situation as a cattier version of “I’ll go where the most money is, regardless of how crummy the team is.”
Context is important, because Rudy Gay is in the midst of a career year, and he won’t turn 28 until August. He truly does have time, even as he enters his ostensible prime (presuming the smart shot-taking continues) to join a terrible team and be part of the bottom-to-top process. Be it in Sacramento or somewhere else.
That age, though, is part of the reason why it still boggles as to why Rudy Gay would want to opt out this summer.
The sort of teams that would want to hand Rudy Gay his next big contract are still going to be there in the summer of 2015, with pen potentially going down on paper a full month before Rudy turns 29. Why not take that $19.3 million, paid off during what could be an improved consecutive career year for Gay, and then grab the security of another long term deal? It’s true the players’ market, in this relatively weak free-agent class, may be the best time to pounce, but again – the sort of general managers who would want to pay big money for Rudy Gay in 2014 will still be there in 2015. The league isn’t yet filled with Masai Ujiri clones.
This isn’t like Richard Jefferson, already declining and 30 years old, passing on his player option to re-up with the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. Rudy Gay’s situation is different, and he could be paid handsomely for as much.
Whether this is a good thing is still up for debate. The Kings’ defense is the reason the team will be spiraling into the lottery again, but rare is the squad with three 20-point scorers (Rudy, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins) that ranks 15th in offensive efficiency. A lack of depth behind those three is part of the problem, but one has to wonder if this is a workable setup in Sacramento. Rookie Ray McCallum has played well of late, and another lottery pick will help, but what’s going to be the addition to this squad (already set to near the luxury tax next year if Gay opts in) over the top?
As it’s seemed to consistently be for the last six years in Sacramento, decisions will be hard to come by.
It doesn’t seem nearly as clouded for Rudy Gay, though. Dude, it’s $19.3 million. Dude. Come on.
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