Apr 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors small forward Rudy Gay (22) takes a foul shot against the Boston Celtics during the third quarter at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Celtics 114-90. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gay - In Focus

Let’s turn our spotlight on the man who wants it – Rudy Gay, the small forward with the big ticket. Rudy enters his first full season with the Toronto Raptors after seven-plus in Memphis. The Houston Rockets drafted him #8 in 2006 out of the University of Connecticut, 7 picks after Andrea Bargnani. He was then dealt to the Grizzlies, along with Stromile Swift, for Shane Battier. Rudy wasted little time establishing himself as a solid NBA player, averaging over 20 Points Per Game [PPG] in his second season. While that number remains his high-water mark, he has never had a poor season as a pro, which his career PPG of 20.0 bears out.

Apr 16, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Raptors small forward Rudy Gay (22) dunks the ball against Atlanta Hawks point guard Shelvin Mack (8) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy arrived in Toronto as Bryan Colangelo’s prize catch, for which he surrendered in trade Jose Calderon and Ed Davis. Colangelo evidently believed that Rudy could put the Raps on his back, and lug them into the playoffs. Rudy couldn’t do it, and many of us wish BC had left well enough alone. He didn’t, Rudy is here, and Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey have to figure out what to do with him this season.

Potentially he can do a lot. Rudy is a quick, even balletic, big small forward, who can score inside and out. While his career 3-point shooting percentage of 34.3 doesn’t cause the pulse to quicken, it’s acceptable, and mitigated by the fact Rudy can get his shot up almost any time he likes. And he likes a lot – he ranked #12 in shot attempts in ’12-’13. Rudy loves the ball in his hands, and defenders are happy to see it there; he averaged 2.64 turnovers PG, which is a ruinous number. I’m hoping his teammates will find him with passes so he can catch and shoot more, thereby dribbling less. In particular, Jonas Valanciunas will no doubt play a lot of two-man-game with Rudy, which should be reflected in both players’ points and assists.

Rudy is an underrated defender who ranked #35 in defensive boards PG at 4.8. While he’s not a banger, and even occasionally looks blase, I don’t think that’s the case. He strikes me as being one of those players who isn’t interested in showing what a tough guy he is, but wants to win and will do what he needs to, the opposite of a Metta World Peace or Lattrell Sprewell (shudder). Rudy is a sturdy player who plays long minutes, and is seldom hurt.

Rudy will be the focal point of the Raps’ offense this season. He will touch the ball more than any other player save his close friend Kyle Lowry, and will need to take advantage of his off-season eye surgery to push his field-goal percentage up closer to his early career levels. If Rudy shoots well, the effect on the rest of the Raps’ starters will be huge. DeMar DeRozan will enjoy more space than he’s ever had, and should be able to push his scoring average over the magic 20 PPG mark. If Rudy and DD score over 42 PPG between them, I’m willing to wager the Raps will have a winning record.

I can’t write an article like this and not mention Rudy’s gargantuan contract. He will receive almost $18M of the just over $70M the Raps are contracted to pay players this season, and has a player-option salary of over $19M for next. Whether any player not named LeBron is worth that amount of coin may be an interesting question, but it’s not one we’re taking up here. Is Rudy worth it? To me that’s easy – No, not at his current production level. He would have to be an All-Star before I’d change my mind, and I don’t think that’s likely to happen. But therein lies the trap Colangelo laid for himself, and all Raps fans….what do you do now? If the Raps are in playoff contention by early February, do you trade Rudy and quite possibly exit the playoff picture while you integrate your new players (presumably)? Are Toronto fans going to be satisfied being on the competitive periphery with Rudy, or rebuilding without him, for years to come?

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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Tags: Dwane Casey Masai Ujiri Raptors Rudy Gay Toronto Raptors

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