“Hello... Is it me you're looking for? Cause I wonder where you are and I wonder what you do. Are you somewhere feeling lonely? Or is someone loving you? Tell me how to win your heart, for I haven't got a clue.”
The soothing words of Lionel Richie, and seemingly suitable to the trade talk of the Oklahoma City Thunder in recent times. Or perhaps, it suits the target of their affections, Sacramento forward Rudy Gay. Picture the Kings number 8 in this video, as he desperately seeks a new home away from the Golden 1 Center.
It is no secret that the former Grizzlies and Raptors forward longs for another new home, with the cesspool of the Kings organization hardly a positive environment to be around. Few survive, and Gay has made it clear during the summer that his future is not with the team:
“Forward Rudy Gay has informed Sacramento Kings management that he plans to use his 2017 player option to become an unrestricted free agent and considers himself unlikely to negotiate a new deal to return to the franchise, league sources told The Vertical.”
This was not a huge surprise, considering he welcomed George Karl to Sacramento with the now famed phrase “welcome to basketball hell” in February 2015.
"I wake up every day and get ready to play the next game," Gay told reporters in October. "I'm with the Sacramento Kings. I prepare as if I'm going to be with the Sacramento Kings. I have no choice but to work for the Sacramento Kings. All the speculation is B.S. Really, it's out of my control. I'll come here and be with my teammates and act as if I'll be here all year.
As a result, the Kings are taking their forward shopping on the trade market. Per Welcome To Loud City sources, both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Kings are motivated to negotiatie a deal, but have been unable to come to an agreement simply because the Thunder do not have the assets.
Had Cameron Payne not broken his foot, Gay would likely already be in Oklahoma City. The Thunder’s threadbare assets though mean they haven’t been able to add the scoring punch needed.
That’s a shame too, because Gay has performed this season as a man motivated to move to a new team, and a man motivated to get paid during the salary cap boom during his contract year. This is likely his last big pay day, and the combo forward looks like he knows it.
He’s averaging 19.4ppg, 6.5rpg, 3.1apg and 1.4spg this season, on 46 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from the perimeter. Those marks are his best since 2010-11 when he was 24-years-old.
His true shooting percentage is a career high at .562, and his rate of getting to the free throw line (.329) is the second highest of his career. When factoring in a three point rate of .238, which is the best mark since his second year in the league, Gay is finding the right blend of shots to take to remain an efficient scorer —which has been a knock on his game throughout his NBA tenure.
For the Thunder, they quite simply need scoring. When Russell Westbrook isn’t on the floor or gasses, the offense falls to pieces. The Thunder’s offense posts 106.9 points per 100 possessions, but drops to a horrendous 92.7 points per 100 when Westbrook sits. To a man, everyone knew Westbrook would need the extra help.
Steven Adams is the man who holds the defense together, Domantas Sabonis is a rookie finding his way in a new role as an outside player, Andre Roberson is a lockdown defender whose offense is sporadic at best, whilst Victor Oladipo is not ready to become an outright number two scorer —but has been an impressive spot up shooter, particularly from the corners.
The Thunder has a top-ten defense, and the offense has worked its way to 15th in the league since Anthony Morrow has emerged and provided the second unit with an imperative offensive boost. The 31-year-old’s new found ability to slash, drive, and score has been a welcome addition to his well-known perimeter talents.
Gay would be another level of scorer for the team to add, however. His statlines of 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal are only matched by the following forwards:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Kevin Durant
- Paul George
- Jimmy Butler
- Blake Griffin
- LeBron James
No matter what you think of Rudy Gay or his game, that’s impressive company. Comparing his output to that of other upper-shelf forwards makes it all the more impressive.
The Thunder may not have the pieces to get Rudy Gay, but a lot can change between now and the February trade deadline. Barring success —which means Sam Presti does not want to disturb a clicking roster— it would be a surprise if the roster is the same when the deadline passes.
No trade comes without a catch though, and fans should be aware of such; covering one flaw with one trade, may reveal another elsewhere. Sam Presti and Billy Donovan’s roster is very thinly held together, and an injury (such as Steven Adams ankle complaint) could derail it and expose fatal flaws.
Rudy Gay might not be what all fans want, but he has the potential to be what Oklahoma City needs if they can find a deal for the forward. Over to you, Sam.