Rudy Gay has been an alluring trade target for the Sacramento fan base for years, mainly because he’s a small forward and played competent basketball. On a purely talent basis, I was never a fan of Gay’s style—in the last few seasons, he’s become an exceptionally inefficient scorer. Given his price tag, I worry about putting a guy who is taking 18.6 shots a game into the Kings roster, especially when he’ll absolutely need to take a back-seat to DeMarcus Cousins.
That said, this is an excellent deal for the Kings, and much like the Derrick Williams trade: the Kings trade spare parts in exchange for a player who can become a bigger piece of the puzzle and carries little long-term risk if he doesn’t work out.The only King of value the team lost was Greivis Vasquez, and honestly, I’m not too choked up about it. Vasquez was a breath of fresh air as a passer, and his team-first attitude and general “likes-to-be-here” approach was fantastic. But his defense was absolutely abysmal, and I think that proved to the Kings front office that he wasn’t a long-term piece. This allows Isaiah Thomas a chance to prove himself as the starter, so the Kings can find out if he really IS a long term starting option (fingers crossed here).
None of the rest of the departing Kings – Salmons, Hayes or Patterson – needed to remain here. Salmons’ departure allows the Kings fans to exorcise that particular demon and finally find out what it’s like to play with a real small forward (I’m not a fan of this Marc J. Spears tweet about the Kings trying Gay as a stretch power forward, but I also trust Coach Malone’s judgement far more than my own). If Gay opts out next summer and doesn’t re-sign with the team, the Kings gave up little of value for the experiment. If Malone is able to reign his shot selection in and gets him to play sharp defense, the Kings won massively in terms of talent. Sacramento needs to take home run shots with this low-talent roster, and this was as big a swing as they could take.