3x3: Rudy Gay's Extension

by Corey Kollbocker, Jordan Lee & Spencer Suk

 standingosports.com

standingosports.com

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  Here is the first:

Too high, too low, or just right: Rudy Gay’s 3-year, $40 million extension

Corey Kollbocker: Just right.  For both Gay and Sacramento.

Could Rudy have gotten more money? Probably.  But after tumultuous stays in Memphis and Toronto, Gay seems to have finally found a home with the Kings.  He’s been playing the best basketball of his career, and, in concert with a blossoming Boogie Cousins, been producing wins in an exceedingly difficult Western Conference.  Granted, it’s early, but at 6-4 with a couple impressive wins under their belt, these revamped Kings look capable of competing for a playoff spot.  Darren Collison has been a fantastic success, Ben McLemore is still showing flashes of promise, and they’ve somehow squeezed some truly effective minutes out of Omri Casspi.

But the reality is that the success of this team is directly attributable to Cousins and Gay, who have been on an absolute rampage.  By signing this extension, the Kings are ensuring future flexibility while keeping their second star for the immediate future.  Besides the max money they owe Cousins, they have few financial obligations.  This gives them the opportunity to go out and sign the other star their roster surely needs.  Maybe Rajon Rondo, maybe Greg Monroe, we shall see.  But Sacramento, by shoring up Gay at a discount under the growing salary cap, has made themselves an attractive landing spot for free agents who want to play with elite talent.

And as I said, perhaps Gay could have gotten more money, but he knows the danger of signing an overlarge contract.  After becoming an albatross in Memphis, he’s been shunted around, the strongest player on weak teams, because despite his skill, his contract made him undesirable.  If Gay wants to win, and it is clear that he does, this contract is absolutely fair.  And if the situation turns sour, or Gay decides he wants more cash, his early termination option will allow him to break free just as the Salary Cap jumps in 2017.  Coincidence? I think not.

Jordan Lee: Too low.  

Let’s put this deal in perspective...  

Rashard Lewis opted out of the last two years of his 7-year, $70 million deal to sign an absurd 6-year, $116 million contract at age 28.  

Similarly, Joe Johnson followed up his 5-year, $70 million deal with a whopping 6-year, $123 million extension even though he was already 31.   

I feel like both Rashard and Joe felt underpaid for their careers, and looked for that last huge contract.   

Which is why the last thing the Kings should do is make Gay, who is 28 and entering the end of his prime, feel underpaid over the next three years.  Gay is making $19 million in the final year of a nice 5-year $80 million deal.  In today’s NBA, Rudy is worth at least $15 million per year, but the Kings should have overpaid him with a 3-year, $60 million deal so that Gay might sign for a discount in the future when the team actually might have a chance of contending.

The Kings currently don’t have enough cap space nor the pieces to bring a marquee free agent to Sacramento.  By the end of Rudy’s contract, the younger players like DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore will have fully developed, and the Kings might have enough talent to make Gay want to stay, even if it costs him a little on his next contract.  Sacramento has a lot of financial flexibility in 2016-17, leaving them with a ton of options.  It’s going to be interesting to see how they play things out.

But why do I think he’s worth so much?

Rudy has finally found a nice fit.  He’s on a young team that likes to run and shoot, the polar opposite of the slow-paced Memphis Grizzlies.  While Gay was in Memphis, Mike Conley was the heart of the offense, masterfully controlling the tempo.  They continually pounded the ball into the post with Z-Bo and Gasol, and it worked.  But Rudy only fit in with the gritty Grizzlies because of his dominant defense, never feeling comfortable offensively.

They didn’t want him there and decided to ship him to Toronto, where he’d only play 51 games. When the Kings acquired Gay,  I don’t know if they expected him to get comfortable so quickly, but he did.  Even though he arrived mid-season, he was able to shoot a career-high 48% for 55 games while also dishing out a career-high 3.1 assists.

This season, he’s gotten even better.  He’s averaging 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, also all career-highs.  And even though his field goal percentage is down to 45%, which is still very solid, he’s averaging a career-high 7.5 free throw attempts per game.  This has boosted his true shooting percentage up to 56.8%, another career best.  Statistics have never been Rudy Gay’s best friend, but even the numbers show Gay’s improved efficiency in his new role in Sacramento.

The Kings have solid young pieces like Collison, McLemore, and Stauskas, but it’s DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay that are carrying the team, as they actually look like playoff contenders. Considering how far the Kings have come since acquiring Gay, I feel that this deal shows that he’s a little bit underappreciated.

Rudy is a true two way player, and I’m afraid he signed this deal with the hope of proving himself once again.  Like I stated earlier, players are still looking for money in their 30s, and mediocre teams, like the Kings, prove over and over again that they are willing to take financial gambles on veteran players to take the next step.

He might be looking for his last lucrative deal worth around $16 million a year.  I can almost smell a Joe Johnson/Rashard Lewis-like contract coming and handcuffing the Kings.  But let’s hope that’s not the case, and that Rudy becomes the first player to ever take a pay cut in his last 8 years on a non-championship caliber team...

 squeezetheorange.com

squeezetheorange.com

Spencer Suk: Just right.

At first, I was inclined to say too low, especially when considering two other small forwards who just inked new contracts this past summer: Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons.

Hayward signed a max extension worth $63 million over 4 years, while the Rockets declined to match the Mavericks’ offer of $46 million over 3 years for Parsons.  That’s about $16 million annually for the former and $15 million for the latter.  Gay will make less than both, but why?  He is one of the better wings in the NBA and on the same level as the other two guys.

 Info from basketball-reference.com

Info from basketball-reference.com

Hayward and Parsons may be more well-rounded on the offensive end, as they are both strong playmakers for the wing position.  However, Gay is probably the best pure scorer out of the three, and is definitely the best defender thanks to his freakish athleticism.

The main reason I feel that this deal is just right, instead of too low, is Gay’s age.  While he is only 28-years old and in the middle of his prime, athletic wings tend to decline rapidly once they get over the hill.  Take Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng for example.  They are 30 and 29-years old respectively, but both have already fallen off quite a bit.  In their defense, Iguodala’s role has been dramatically reduced with all the talent around him, and Deng is closer to 33 in basketball years as he entered the draft as a 19-year old and was run into the ground by Coach Thibodeau in Chicago (he led the league in minutes per game in 2011-12 and 2012-13).  However, this is a bit of an ominous sign.

I don’t expect Gay’s play to decline like the other two; he has stayed healthy for most of his career and has a defined role on the Kings as their second option on offense.  But still, a lot can happen in three years.