NBA / Mar 1, 2010 / 3:22 pm

The Franchise NBA Free Agent No One is Talking About

Rudy Gay, Dime #25

It wasn’t too long ago — just a couple of months, actually — that Rudy Gay was a lock to put Memphis in his rear view mirror as soon as possible. Forget 2010 free agency; there was some talk that Gay could be traded before the February deadline to a contender in need of a scorer while Memphis insured itself against losing a young All-Star caliber talent for nothing.

“This much I do know: When the time comes, Gay’s people will laugh at Memphis’ $4.4 million qualifying offer, and the cash-strapped Grizzlies won’t match any big-money offer he gets as a restricted free agent. I also know Gay has been losing 70% of his games playing in half-empty arenas for a team with zero mainstream appeal his entire pro career.”

I wrote that back in December, when I predicted (whether traded or not) Gay would sign with Miami this summer.

But since then, the Grizzlies have been winning, Rudy (20.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has decisively taken over as the go-to guy ahead of O.J. Mayo, and it doesn’t seem so crazy that he’d re-up with Memphis. Because all of a sudden, he’s got a pretty good situation down there. The Grizzlies are currently 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. If they finish strong and get that 8th seed or something close to it, would Rudy feel compelled to finish what he started knowing he’d be the centerpiece?

Maybe, if in fact the Grizzlies can afford him. Next year’s cap is projected to be around $53 million. Because Memphis employs perhaps the League’s most underpaid big man in Marc Gasol ($3.4M for 15 ppg and 9.5 rpg) and Zach Randolph ($17M) is the only real monster contract, they can conceivably keep Rudy and keep a strong core group. Assuming the Grizzlies have no interest in re-signing Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Williams, and if they can give away one or two of their three first-round picks, they’ll have about $5-7 million to spend on the first year of a back-loaded contract for Gay.

But Rudy hasn’t made up his mind. And he’s definitely not swept up in loyalty due to the Grizzlies’ recent success. Over the weekend he was asked by a New Jersey paper whether he’d consider playing for the Nets.

“The record doesn’t mean much when you’re dealing with a team,” Gay said. “You’re thinking about yourself and how you can contribute, and that’s what other teams think. Wherever you feel like you’re wanted the most, that’s where you’re going to be.”

The record doesn’t mean much. Good to hear if you’re the Nets, Clippers or Wolves and you’re interested in Rudy Gay, but it has to be troubling if you’re the Grizzlies.

It means that even though you’re finally winning and could offer Rudy a legit shot at being The Man for a playoff team, he’s not going for the hometown discount. For a 23-year-old still waiting for that first big NBA contract, an alluring talent in line for a big payday after the biggest free-agent chips fall (LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, etc.), it’ll be open season.

Where do you think Rudy Gay will end up?

Check out these other Memphis Grizzlies stories:

- The NBA’s Top 10 Frontcourts

- All-Star Weekend interview with O.J. Mayo

- Mayo, Gay named to Team USA

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  • Jayo

    If he doesn’t resign with Memphis I could easily see the Clippers or the Heat over-paying for him. I think he’ll be this year’s Igoudala. An athletic wing who signs a big contract that will be over-priced in 2 or 3 yrs. That being said. He’d be a perfect fit in LA next to Eric Gordon & Blake Griffin.

  • Detroit Dave

    He should play with Chris Paul.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Jayo – I see your point, but after seeing how Nate Robinson, David Lee, etc were treated last summer contract wise, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fewer big contracts this summer than are anticipated. Especially if the owners are in as much trouble financially as they’re claiming.

    …Then again, since there are X amount of teams clearing space and only Y “big name” free agents, there WILL be a couple of teams (maybe more if two big names team up) with a fair amount of change to blow.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    Gotta roll with Detroit Dave. Go on and be a Hornet.

    Wow could have had him instead of Shane…Houston, Houston, Houston.

    I like Shane and all but defense aint never really been the prob. as much as point production.

    Still now that Martin is there avoid Houston at all cost Rudy. Perhaps Miami when Wade leaves.

  • Jayo

    @ Dagwaller

    That’s my thinking. You get a couple teams desparate to appease their fanbase that strikeout on Bosh, Wade, or Bron. ie: Knicks, Chicago, LA. That means Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, and/or Boozer will get seriously overpaid.

  • robmo35

    Gay to New Orleans? Doesn’t George Shinn detest paying the players he has? How would Gay ever get paid Rudy Gay money in the Big Easy?

  • RC

    Hornets to give them a more polished small forward.

  • the cynic

    The Clips are going to make a strong push for Rudy in the offseason

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Sorry but Rudy is not a franchise player. If he signs a ridiculous contract this summer it will be one of those contracts that some team is trying to get out of in two or three seasons.

  • Prof. TX

    I hear Cleveland will be looking for a small forward that can score.

    Just kidding, couldn’t help it.

  • Mike Mihalow

    I’m sure he’ll be sought after, once the bigger free agents have been locked up.
    Manu is another free agent no one is talking about.

  • kudos

    If the second best player on memphis is talkin like this, somethings wrong. mayo will obvously pass him up in a few years. At least he can play some d if he puts his mind to it.

  • timmy D

    Grizzlies fan here and sorry Rudy is not a franchise player. They will make the exact same mistake they made with Pau if they give him a max deal. He is a 2nd fiddle just like Pau was, doesnt have the dog in him to be the legit “Franchise” player. OJ mayo and Marc Gasol are the key to the future of the franchise. You can find guys like Rudy all over the place. Look at the teams that have invested in similar players, Pacer with Granger and Philly with Iggy and both those teams suck

  • UncheckedAggression

    Why do people insist this guy is a franchise player?

    He’ll never be a contributor to a really good team and he’ll never be close to a franchise player. Being a Kings fan, I would be furious if we signed Rudy Gay. Yet another player that puts up some numbers but you can never trade him for equal value because he can’t change his game. No competitors would risk the chemistry shift.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    @ Jayo – good points. Consider, though:

    How many max level contracts have been given out over the last few years? Granted, not as many franchise guys have come up, and everyone’s saving for 2010. BUT, from what I recall (extremely scientific here haha), not as many guys are getting paid like they used to. Look at Josh Smith, for instance.

    Also, for argument’s sake, let’s say that there are 8 guys that we would traditionally call “max contract” guys, and that there are 10 teams that can afford such a player. Then there are 2 (or 3) teams left that didn’t get their guy. They have tons of money, yes. But at that point, they’re the only ones with a significant amount of money – giving the remaining few players that are short of “max contract” talent a smaller amount of leverage than they had to begin with.

  • Mike Honcho

    You can’t a team over-paying for Gay to overpaying for Iggy and especially not for overpaying for Granger. Granger is an all-start, when healthy, and has NOTHING around him and Iggy is just average at best.

    Put Gay next to another scorer….Rose, maybe??? Wade possibly??? and that team becomes a playoff team immediately.

    Gay should stay in Memphis or sign up as someone’s sidekick elsewhere

  • Mike Honcho

    my bad….Granger is an *all star

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    @ Mike Honcho – don’t Z-Bo and OJ Mayo count as “other scorers”? OJ is 17.7 a game, Rudy 20.2 and Randolph 20.6.

  • jzsmoove

    Gay is not a franchise player. Get off the valium if you think he’s one of those. but yeah he will get paid.

  • TKL

    All these people saying Rudy is not a franchise player….clearly hasnt seen a Grizzlies game cause they get no national television coverage.

  • sh!tfaced

    We all know Rudy GAY is going to end up in ‘Sota with Kevin LOVE.

  • Seven Duece

    I’m still laughing at the title. NO ONE should ever call Rudy Gay a Franchise NBA player. Not even his agent during negotiations.

  • hahns

    sh!tfaced, that joke came 2 seasons too late

  • sh!tfaced

    But not before Ramon SESSIONS became a Timberwolf, hahns. Think about it….

  • EN FUEGO

    HAHAHA. Gay-Love-Sessions sounds about new to me.

  • heavy d

    New York Knicks – they have to spend that cap room on someone.

  • UncheckedAggression

    TKL- Maybe you need to watch a few games yourself. And get the hell out of Grizzly Fantasy Land. Gay isn’t the best player on that team and anyone that thinks so needs to learn a little something about basketball. If he’s so good, how the hell does a hated player like Randolph make the all star team over a young, exciting player like Gay? Josh Smith got screwed, but people were pointing that out from the start. Why weren’t all those folks supporting the amazing franchise player named Rudy Gay?

  • JB

    Shoooooot I’m a Nets fan, we’ll take him, but not for a max contract… Just a nice signing bonus so Memphis won’t match. Picture this:

    Devin Harris
    Evan Turner
    Rudy Gay
    David Lee
    Brook Lopez

    we would have a decent bench, too. That’s a young team with a bright future.

  • Hucklebuck

    I think Rudy CAN be a franchise player. If you all agree with me, he seems to be sort of a Scottie Pippen type player.

    He is lean, long, quick, and at this point has a better offensive game than Pippen. Yes, he is not the defender Pippen was, but Pippen worked at it to be that lock-down defender and Rudy can do the same. What Pippen had to really work on was his shooting, and Rudy is a more natural shooter than Scottie.

    With that said, Pippen did play second-fiddle to MJ, BUT when MJ retired Pippen had an MVP-type season and nearly got them to the finals again. And he did a great job with Portland during their Jail Blazer era, and maybe had he played with them in his prime, he may have done a better job guarding Kobe (here comes the Kobe fans on me, whatever) and the Blazers may have changed the outcome that year.
    I’m just sayin.

  • http://hornetshype.com ticktock6

    Think he’d be a great fit in New Orleans beside Chris Paul. If he’s not a franchise player he’s definitely a #2 guy.