The Los Angeles Clippers lost a heart-breaking game Wednesday night 111-107 to the Memphis Grizzlies. Mike Conley led all players in scoring with 30 points and Marc Gasol finished with 26 points & 6 rebounds, including the eventual game winning 3 followed by the Connor McGregor strut celebration. For the Clippers, JJ Redick finished with a season high 29 points and Blake Griffin finished with 25 points and 8 rebounds. The Clippers still own the league’s best record at 10-2 and are a 0.5 game ahead of the red hot Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Standings. Point God Chris Paul continues to lead the way with 18.3 points & 8.3 assists, DeAndre Jordan is averaging a double-double with 10.3 points & 12.5 rebounds, and Blake Griffin remains one of the league’s best scoring big man averaging 20.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Most impressively, as a unit, the Clippers are one of the league’s best defensive teams. They currently rank first in the league with a 94.6 DEF Efficiency Rating, holding teams to a league low 41.52 FG% and 93.75 points per game. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan remain All-NBA Defensive contenders with their ability to steal and block shots.
The great start for the Los Angeles Clippers is no surprise. Ever since Chris Paul joined Clipper-land, they have been one of the most exciting teams to watch and are capable of going through long winning streaks throughout the regular season. That was never the concern. The concern has always been how the team holds together come playoff time. Chris Paul has yet to lead the Clippers to a Western Conference Finals in his all-star career. The playoff disappointments range from losing a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets 2 seasons ago and being bounced out of the first round last year following injuries to both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Many fans and analysts wondered if the Clippers would keep this same nucleus of players heading into the 2016-2017 season. Chris Paul is 31 years of age, Blake Griffin is in the final year of his contract, and DeAndre Jordan’s free throw shooting continues to be a huge liability. Another concern has been the instability at the Small Forward position with Doc Rivers having to experiment different players each season. Veterans Jared Dudley, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, and Paul Pierce have all played at that position way past the primes of their NBA careers. Luc Mbah A Moute has started each game of the season, averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. It is clear that the Clippers need more production at the 3 spot, especially with the NBA’s other 3 elite teams having the 3 best small forwards (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard). Ideally, the Clippers wanted to add LeBron/Durant in free agency but that was wishful thinking, as was the case with every other NBA team. So if the Clippers were serious and did want to add a small forward to their already talented team, what name comes to mind? *****Drumroll***** RUDY GAY!
Rudy Gay needs a change of scenery and the Sacramento Kings need to let him go. Unfortunately they were unable to move the small forward for a point guard this past summer when names like Goran Dragic and Ricky Rubio were the main topics of trade rumours. The Kings are currently 4-8 and far out of a playoff spot. If they continue to play at this low level, it will be another disappointing season of missing the playoffs despite having one of the league’s best players [DeMarcus Cousins]. Rudy Gay signed a 3 year, $40 million extension back in 2014 with a player option for the 2017-2018 season. With the salary cap continuing to rise, Gay is expected to opt out and become a free agent following the conclusion of this season. It seems almost mandatory at this point for the Kings to unload Gay’s contract and give more opportunity for the younger players on the Kings roster. So the question for the Clippers is if it is worth taking the risk. Let us outline the potential reward and risk with acquiring the 30 year old forward:
Based on his pending free agency and clear unhappiness in Sacramento, the Clippers would not likely have to give up any key members of their rotation to acquire Rudy Gay. Since coming into the league back in 2006, Rudy Gay has been a scoring machine. He has the athleticism to finish emphatically at the rim, the ability to knock down long range shots, and is fully capable of creating his own shots. Gay is currently averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season and can take over games late down the stretch. If Gay joins the Clippers, he would instantly become a reliable offensive option for a line-up stacked with talent. This would give the team a greater scoring balance and take some of the pressure off Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Whether Doc Rivers chooses to insert Gay into the starting line-up or have him come off the bench to provide a spark alongside Jamaal Crawford, it would certainly give the Clippers more depth.
Rudy Gay has not been able to win consistently in his career. When the Grizzlies won their first playoff game/series in franchise history, Gay watched from the sidelines with an injury as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol grew into an all-star front court duo. When he was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2013, Memphis went on to make it the Western Conference Finals while the Raptors finished with a losing 34-48 record. After the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings, the Raptors went on to have 3 straight successful seasons while the Kings missed the playoffs in those 3 seasons with a losing record. Despite being a talented scorer, Gay often has questionable shot selections and is not great at utilizing his teammates. The risk for the Clippers would be ruining the ball movement and taking touches away from the rest of the line-up.
Whether the Clippers decide to take the gamble or not, it remains inevitable that changes will be made unless the Clippers can finally take the next step come Spring. Catch both Rudy Gay and the Clippers in action tonight, when they go head-to-head live at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.