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“Jaws of Doom” In Defense of Rudy Gay

Following the season’s first blockbuster, fantasy Nostradamus’s across the internet raced to their keyboards and published irrational overreactions galore– right on cue. Hey, at least we’re dependable  (looking at you Lance Stephenson). Mike’s from Toronto, so I completely get his beef with Rudy Gay (see: anything I’ve written about Jameer Nelson). Aside from that, however, I don’t really understand Rudy’s apparently widespread unpopularity.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about Rudy Gay is that he’s a straight up beast. Are their holes in his game? Yes. Could he take better shots? Most definitely. But none of this negates the fact that Gay is one of the best basketball players on earth. Suggestions to the contrary are, frankly, ridiculous. Nevertheless, Rudy’s endured a ton of criticism this week —  it’s time to set the record straight.

Modesty (noun): the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities.”

Here are Rudy’s averages so far this season, followed by some observations: 38%fg, 77%ft, 1.2 3ptm, 19.4pts, 7.4rbds, 2.2asts, 1.6stls, 1.3blks, 3.3to. 

  • Rudy is an elite defender — top 25 in both steals and blocks per game. Very few players are this productive in both defensive categories, and this fact alone makes him a worthy fantasy asset.  Other players in the 1/1 defense club include: Brow, Drummond, Boogie, Smoove, and Millsap — even guys Lebron and KD don’t make the cut.  Furthermore, Rudy is one of four eligible small forwards averaging better than 1 block per game. I’ve elaborated on the value of comparative advantage elsewhere, so I won’t do it here.
  • Bitching about Rudy’s shot selection has been fashionable this week. And rightfully so — he’s jacking up an unbelievable 18.6 shots per game while only sinking 38% of them. That’s painfully inefficient, and as a rule of thumb I dislike painful inefficiency. All this notwithstanding, however, Rudy’s a career 45% shooter. In 2011 he shot 47% on 16.1 attempts on his way to 19.8 points per game — Rudy sinks open shots when he gets them.
  • Coincidentally, Rudy was surrounded by other good players in 2011, including Mike Conley, ZBO, and Marc Gasol. This is relevant because — brace yourself — talented players are better at creating floor space and moving the ball. (Better basketball players are better at playing basketball, you heard it here first.)  Long story short, having better teammates improves your field goal percentage.  Oh and here’s another shocker, the Raptors suck. Rudy didn’t shoot well in Canada because his team was awful, not because he suddenly forgot the difference between good shots and bad shots.

Building on this topic, let’s look at how the Rudy Gay trade effected Memphis’s other players.

Mike Conley:

  • 2012 pre all-star game: 43%fg (11fga), 85%ft (3fta), 1.3 3ptm, 13.3pts, 5.9asts, 2.4rbds, 2.2stls, 0.3blks, 2.4to
  • 2012 post all-star game: 46%fg (13fga), 81%ft (4.3fta), 1.3 3ptm, 16.7pts, 6.3asts, 3.4rbds, 2.1stls, 0.4blks, 2.3to

Zach Randolph:

  • 2012 pre all-star game: 47%fg (13.7fga), 75%ft (3.5fta), 0 3ptm, 15.6pts, 11.5rbds, 1.4asts, 0.9stls, 0.5blks, 2.0to
  • 2012 post all-star game: 43%fg  (13.1fga), 75%ft (4.8 fta), 0 3ptm, 14.9pts, 10.7rbds, 1.4asts, 0.7stls, 0.3blks, 1.9to

Marc Gasol:

  • 2012 pre all-star game: 48%fg (10.7fga), 87%ft (4.0 fta), 0 3ptm, 13.8pts, 7.8rbds, 3.6asts, 1.0stls, 1.7blks, 2.0to
  • 2012 post all-star game: 52%fg (11.2fga), 80%ft (3.8 fta), 0 3ptm, 14.6pts, 7.7rbds, 4.6asts, 1.0stls, 1.9blks, 2.0to

Myth #1:  Rudy Gay hinders ball movement and stagnates offense —   Conley averaged 6.5 dimes in 2010 and 2011, and is averaging 6.3 this season.  If Rudy was limiting offensive flow and ball movement, nobody told Mike Conley.

Myth #2: Rudy Gay plays selfishly and will vulture shots from Boogie — Though Gasol took 0.5 more shots after Rudy left, Z-bo actually took 0.6 less — a net decrease of 0.1 in front court attempts. Gay’s departure had basically no affect here, and there’s really no reason to think his arrival will significantly effect Cousins’s opportunities.

Myth #3: Rudy Gay will help Boogie shoot more efficiently — Again, the numbers simply don’t support this claim. Gasol was a tad more efficient and Randolph was a tad less, ultimately the changes were negligible.  Cousins’s efficiency won’t fluctuate all that much.

The Kings, and fantasy owners, should be thrilled to have a swingman of Gay’s caliber; Sacto is unquestionably a better team with him on the roster.  I expect Rudy’s shooting to improve somewhat now that he’s rolling with studs like IT2 and the Boogie man. Simply put, good players make other good players better; it’s called synergy folks — use it to your advantage.

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