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A Look at Life Without #22
I know we have to make a trade; there is no point arguing that it is the one thing looming in the back of everybody’s mind. On every talk show, on every fan board, it is the one thing that is constantly being brought up and it is the one thing that everyone wants to talk about. When it will happen, who will be involved, trust me, I do not pretend to know, and while it’s an intriguing point of discussion for fans and "experts" alike, no one really knows what is going to happen except the powers that be in the Grizzlies’ front office.
That being said, however, all the signs seem to be screaming that there is a strong possibility that Rudy Gay will not be a part of this team for much longer. For example: Rudy’s opt out clause would enable him to be traded only to a team he wanted to be traded to if the Grizzlies were to wait and deal after the year.
Also, while it can be argued that the deal with Cleveland enables The Grizz to keep their core together, the blaring fact of the matter is that it left our bench handicapped, even if Johnson and Wroten produce above expectations. By not signing anyone else in the deal, the front office leaves the door wide open for the possibility of a Rudy trade where they don’t have to dump salary space and can make a deal which can improve the team in desired areas while slightly lowering the payroll.
As a fan it is hard to keep these things in mind, especially when Rudy has been playing like, well, crap as of late. We all knew he was over paid in the first place, etc. etc. but as I’m writing this, Rudy is in the worst slump we have seen in a while, and even though he had a good scoring night against the Sixers, he is coming off a 12 point performance against the Nets where everybody and their brother was scoring and a 3-17 shooting night in a loss against the powerhouse Hornets/Pelicans.
It is easy to scream "trade" when considering these things, but the man is our leading scorer as of right now, and there is no doubt that when he is on, he can do incredible things on the offensive end.
Without going into trade specifics, and reasoning from the point where Rudy is playing his best basketball (which I know is hard for some people to remember and fathom) here are some glaring holes which I see a Rudy trade will leave in the Grizzlies roster. Holes which will most certainly need to be filled by the return we get if we ship him off.
1.) Rudy can create his own shot.
I find it hard to argue that anybody else on the Grizz squad can create something out of nothing better than Rudy. Sure, we have all seen Z-Bo work his miraculous baseline wonders, but one thing Rudy has that Zach does not is athleticism and length. As bad as it seems sometimes, Rudy can knock down the three, and he is also an effective slasher . His pull-up jumper is very hard to contest given his height, and he has a decent post game. In late game situations, like it or not Rudy is the go to guy because of his ability to do all of these things. Solution? Besides the easy answer of trading for a guy who can do the same things, I would like to point you to one Jerryd Bayless. Not the timid point guard Bayless, but the aggressive, assertive Bayless who drives and dishes and pulls up for 18-20 foot jumpers and is a reasonably effective 3 pt. shooter. Is he as dynamic of a scorer as Rudy? Probably not. But over the past couple of weeks Jerryd has proven he can create his own scoring opportunities when called upon.
2.) Rudy is our leading scorer
I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, I promise. But if Rudy leaves, we are going to have to replace his scoring. Some, though, may see this as a blessing in disguise. I’ve heard it argued that with Rudy not there taking his shots, the emphasis of our offense will be place on our bigs, allowing us to run our sets through Marc and Zach. However, let us not forget that in order to do this, we will need effective 3 pt. shooters to stretch the court so that teams don’t simply load the paint and tell us to fire away. Conley has upped his long range game, and the Chris Johnson acquisition is looking promising, and perhaps even a healthy Quincy Pondexter can help out in this area, but an established three point weapon would pay large dividends to what we try to do in the paint. Also, while I don’t doubt their ability to do so, Marc and Zach are going to have to be ready to accept the load on offense. That means they are going to be working harder, which in turn means Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi need to be ready to come in and play big minutes while the two All-Stars catch their wind.
3.) Rudy is part of the "core"
This may not even be a valid argument to some out there, but the truth of the matter is that Rudy has been an integral part of the building and the development of this team. I am not saying this from an emotionally connected standpoint, but rather from the view that there is no way of telling what consequences there may be of trading a member of the core of the Grizzlies roster. The results could very well be positive, but the opposite could be true as well. One could dismiss this by pointing out the playoff run two seasons ago, I am aware, but permanently losing Rudy might have negative side-effects on the team which could not have been predicted. I know these guys are professional athletes and understand the nature of the game, but it’s just something to be considered.
All this being said, there is no way to tell for certain what will happen with 22’s future. Maybe he stays till the end of his contract, and maybe he stays longer and management decides to make other moves. I just wanted to take the popular line of thinking right now and run with it.
Until something happens, though, we can be in agreement on one thing: when Rudy is out there in a Memphis jersey, he needs to produce like the player we know he can be. While I know it’s likely he will eventually be involved in some kind of deal, let us not be so hasty to jump on the trade-Rudy bandwagon because of a couple of bad games, or for emotional reasons. He has done a lot for this team, and while he is member of the Grizzlies he will still be expected to play a large role in our success.