COMMENTARY | Bryan Colangelo made a flashy move back in January to bring Rudy Gay to Toronto. Sure, Gay hit a couple of game-winning shots and is getting paid $17.8 million next season, but is he truly an elite player in the NBA?
Gay grabbed attention by nearly doubling his scoring from his rookie season (10.8 points per game) to 20.1 points in his second season. However, he has yet to top the 20-point mark since. He has averaged an impressive 18.0 points per game during his career, yet he has only shot 45% from the field.
Last season, Gay shot only 41% from the field, good for 20th among small forwards. For comparison, LeBron James made 56.5% of his. Yeah, I know, comparing Gay to the best player on the planet may not be fair, but even Thaddeus Young (55.2%) shot better and Carmelo Anthony still managed to shoot at a respectable clip (44.9%).
The fact Gay has only shot 34% from beyond the arc during his career isn't impressive; the 31% he shot last season is even worse. Gay ranked 28th among small forwards, while Kyle Korver (45.7%) led the way and nine other small forwards shot better than 40% from beyond the arc.
Thirty-one players shot better than 40% from beyond the arc last season season, while the player Gay was traded for, Jose Calderon, led the league by shooting a sizzling 46% from downtown.
Generally, small forwards are seen as jacks-of-all-trades because they should be able to dish the rock, grab rebounds and score. NBA.com has a great feature where you can combine those three stats and see how much balance players have in their game .
Among forwards, James led the way (42.1) and was followed by Kevin Durant (40.7) and Anthony (38.1). Where was Gay? He ranked 15th among forwards and 37th in the NBA with a combined score of 27.1. This had him below a collection of players in Greivis Vasquez (27.2), Monta Ellis (29.1), Paul Pierce (29.7), David Lee (33.2) and Carlos Boozer (28.2) that fans will agree either were never elite players, or that age had prevented them from still being considered elite last season.
Late last season word leaked that Gay was wearing glasses during practices, but that he wasn't comfortable wearing them during games; turns out his vision was so bad if he had taken an eye test for his driver's license, he would have failed. This summer, Gay opted for eye surgery to correct his vision problem, but it remains to be seen if the procedure worked and if he can improve upon his shooting percentages from last season.
Beyond all the numbers, stats and talk of contracts, for a player to be elite in the NBA he needs to help his team win. Gay failed to lift Toronto to being a playoff team last season, and the Raptors aren't projected to make the playoffs with him. Meanwhile, his former team, Memphis, finished the season strong without him and went deep into the NBA playoffs before fading in the Western Conference Finals.
Gay may be the best player on the Toronto Raptors next season, but he still fails the eye test as to if he's truly an elite player in the NBA. As the old adage explains, the numbers never lie, and Gay's numbers dictate he isn't an elite player in the NBA.
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