Apr 6, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) dribbles past Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Calderon (8) in the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Mavericks defeated the Kings 93-91. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Ironically, for years, many Kings fans have clamored at the idea of Rudy Gay playing for Sacramento though it seemed to be nothing more than a pipe dream. But the Toronto Raptors losing ways (which eventually turned into winning ways after Gay departed) forced a trade of the former UConn star and there to make a deal were the Kings.
So how was Gay’s freshman campaign with the Kings? Check out his season grades below.
I was not a fan of Rudy’s before he came to Sacramento, and even though I thought the trade was a good one on value alone (trading four depth players for one certain starter), I didn’t think Rudy would fit with Cousins and Thomas. I was completely wrong—for most of the season, Rudy played with aggression and also had career highs in efficiency. There were a few games where the Toronto-Rudy showed up, and his defense is still nothing special, but here’s hoping this efficient Rudy sticks around for another shot with this team.
Talk about different reactions to a trade. While Raptors fans celebrated in the streets, Sacramento supporters nearly did the same. After years of excruciating small forward play, a player with legitimate talent was coming, and the Kings gave up nothing more than reserve talent to get him.
Gay quickly proved that Toronto just wasn’t the right fit for him. As a Raptor, Gay took it upon himself to carry the load and the results were poor. In Sacramento, Gay was a consummate pro, happily sharing the load with two capable scorers in DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas.
On the floor, Gay was an outstanding offensive player. Rudy gave the Kings something they hadn’t had for a while — a player who could be trusted to score inside or out when given the ball in clutch situations. Gay came through countless times with the game on the line, yet he rarely overshot or dominated the offense. His passing and court vision was above average. Defensively, Gay floated a lot but was formidable when he locked in. Overall, his smooth, fluid game was a joy to watch, and initially it helped the Kings in the win-loss column.
Gay’s professionalism also deserves special mention. When you’re building around a young roster, you need vets who provide great work ethic, a positive attitude and show the youngsters the right way to prepare. Gay was all of that and became a fan favorite because of it.
His return is up in the air — my gut says that if he opts out of his $19 million option for next year, he’s gone. But it’d be great to retain the scorer for the right price. He proved to be a positive piece to the Kings puzzle.
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked by the acquisition of Gay for a variety of reasons. I was excited to bring in a player of Gay’s caliber to to remove dead weight salary, though, that’s not to say Gay didn’t come without some warts that concerned me.
By no stretch was Gay nor will Gay ever be a number one player on a good team, but in Sacramento he doesn’t have to be and he formed quite the trio with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. I was also impressed with his defense, though, he seemed to be more interested in gearing up for one-on-one matches in crunch time than actually playing overall solid team defense throughout the contest. Regardless, Gay’s stint in Sacramento was highly productive and I liked what I saw from him. He does have a tendency to go into hero mode at times which can be irritating, but most good players do.
In a perfect world the Kings would be able to bring him back at a much more affordable contract than what he’s anticipated to receive, but Gay’s going to cash-in whenever he does become a free agent so that’s just a scenario where you seemingly have to bite the bullet or sign a free agent to replace him.
Regardless, a very good season with Sacramento.