This weekend the best and brightest young stars and superstars around the NBA all gathered together in Las Vegas to run a quick game of 5's. The coaches of the USA's national team got all these guys together for a minicamp to better determine their skills and attitudes. Kevin Durant was the starting small forward for the "White Team," and is expected to be a lock for the World Championships in Turkey. A little more unexpected, however, was Rudy Gay, starting small forward for the "Blue Team," torching his friend to the tune of 27 points in just 27 minutes of play.
Can we really get much information from this performance? Probably not, but it's the summer, so here's some analysis of Rudy and history after the jump. Oh and O.J. Mayo played well too, and scored 13 points in pretty limited minutes, though I'm struggling to find a box score or video of the game.
Let me note that there is no true box score of this game, and nothing even close to video. I'm going off a bunch of different sources to construct the story I've got. Keep in mind that there were two games played at the camp, one shorter, seemingly less competitive game on Friday and the big game on Saturday. There is solid coverage of Friday's scrimmage here.
For the most part we're interested in the Saturday game though, where Gay shot 11-12 from the field to score 27 points. He was so strong that he warranted an ESPN feature solely on his own play, but it's Insider only so I can't link it up for you. Know that he also gathered 4 rebounds and 3 steals, and was 3-4 from 3 point range as well. Coaches and his friends at the camp, notably Durant and Igoudala, raved about Rudy's performance.
"He's a great offensive player, no question about that, and the reputation he has is that of a great finisher late in games, and you want a guy like that with the ball," Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said. "I was hoping it would get a little closer to see if that would happen, but he had a great start. He's a really offensively talented guy."
Glad to hear that Jerry Colangelo seems to have a lot of faith in Gay. Also I couldn't find anyone talking poorly about him even though the White Team was blown out. Some sources even say that he played great defense on Durant to hold him to 20 points, since Durant was a man on a mission and undoubtedly the best player at the minicamp.
Could this be a harbringer of a breakout season? Last season Gay was expected to explode in the fashion of, say, Danny Granger, but failed to really grow his game in the Grizzlies system. He looked a bit better, but seemed to struggle when O.J. dominated the ball since he had limited passing skills to redistribute the rock back to the other wings. With O.J. working on his passing and handles he could be a much more capable facilitator for Rudy's considerable spot-up shooting ability.
Let's check what history tells us about players similar to Rudy having a sort of "second break out" in their 4th year in the NBA. All the dominant small forwards like LeBron, Pierce, and Carmelo basically became the player they are today in their third season. Still just last season Danny Granger, as I mentioned earlier, had a huge breakout in his fourth season, and he's three years older than Gay. Richard Jefferson also had his first great season, and his best season, in his fourth year in the NBA. Rashard Lewis really hit his stride at 24, though he had been in the NBA since 18. So the main narrative is that All-Star caliber forwards tend to have their first great season in their third or fourth year in the NBA.
Again, lets not put too much stock in this one exceptional performance, though it certainly was an incredible job and does seem to validate that Rudy Gay is among the young elite, not just shouldering the scoring load because he's on a bad team.