Why the Rudy Gay trade makes no sense for Grizzlies

By: Kels Dayton

The Rudy Gay trade makes no sense for the 29-15 Grizzlies. (Mark Halmos/Icon SMI)

The Rudy Gay trade makes no sense for the 29-15 Grizzlies. (Mark Halmos/Icon SMI)

It doesn’t make sense what the Grizzlies are doing right now. First, they unloaded backup big man Marreese Speights for cash considerations and a bag of low-fat chips (that’s what we’re calling Jon Leuer).

Then, they acted like they couldn’t wait to pawn off human double-double machine Zach Randolph. And now, in a final move of stupidity, they’ve shipped leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in exchange for Ed Davis, Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince (from Detroit). Not to quote Nancy Kerrigan here, but “WHYYY??!!!!”

Nothing against Ed Davis; in fact, he’s one of the candidates I’ve been keeping an eye on for the Most Improved Player Award in my weekly column for (I’m kind of an expert now). And Tayshaun Prince would be a huge get–if this were 2004.

Trading Gay, who was averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 boards per game, is downright idiotic when you’re 29-15 and in prime position to contend for the Western Conference title. It makes about as much sense as hocking your big-screen TV the day before the Super Bowl. Yes, Memphis has financial issues and wants to get under the luxury tax threshold for next season. And yes, Gay is set to make $37 million over the next two seasons.

But here’s what makes no sense:

It’s all right there for the Grizzlies right now. This is the best team in franchise history, one that has had a legitimate shot at reaching the NBA Finals. If owner Robert Pera isn’t going to pay his players now, when exactly is he going to do it? Why would he even own an NBA team if he was going to sell off your best players in the middle of a playoff race?

Maybe this move shouldn’t come as such a surprise. We probably should have seen it coming once Memphis made former ESPN stat geek John Hollinger their Vice President of Basketball Operations. Those stat guys always think they’re the smartest people in the room, and it almost seems like they make shocking moves just for the sake of making shocking moves. They’re like sports hipsters. If they could wear ironic t-shirts and sip Mocha frappuccinos in the front office, you know they’d do it.

Fellow statheads will claim that Gay was overrated; that he ranked 27th among small forwards in Player Efficiency Rating (whatever that is). But numbers can’t fully encapsulate the impact that Gay has on the Grizzlies’ offense. They can’t measure the amount of attention he takes away from Randolph and Marc Gasol inside, or how many clutch shots he has hit down the stretch when the Grizz really needed a basket. It’s tougher than you’d think to replace 17 points per game.

Besides, Zach Randolph has good PER numbers, and he was mentioned in nearly as many trade rumors as Gay. Sometimes, you can think yourself into a corner, lose yourself in the stats and forget about the human beings actually playing basketball. The guys behind all that tempo-free, per-36 poindexter crap.

Whether it was over-thinking, number-crunching or penny-pinching, getting rid of Gay made little sense for the Grizzlies. But they did it anyway.

Soon, they’re going to see this trade start to affect another important number.


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