According to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, the Suns are expected to have serious interest in Rudy Gay if he decides to opt out of his $19.3 million player option with the Sacramento Kings when free agency rolls around in July. That being said, I took the liberty of doing some background research on Rudy Gay to see what he would bring to Phoenix if McDonough decides to sign him during the offseason.
Note that this FanPost is purely focused on scoring.
During recent years, Rudy Gay has developed a reputation among basketball fans as a "chucker" or someone who wastes possessions by throwing up a high volume of inefficient shots. You might ask yourself: What's an inefficient shot? Basically, an inefficient shot is any shot that is out of a player's comfort zone that has a much less chance of going in the basket. By using shot selection and shot performance charts provided by NBA.com, I was able to analyze Rudy Gay's shot selection and shot performance for the 2011-2012 & 2012-2013 seasons in addition to the current season to observe certain areas in Rudy Gay's game for the purpose of seeing where his strengths and weaknesses are as a scorer.
2011-2012 Shot Distribution
Long 2's: 21.65%
Near Basket: 62.14% (At the rim: 40.02%)
Three-Pointers: 16.21% (Corner 3's: 2.62%)
2012-2013 Shot Distribution
Long 2's: 18.21%
Near Basket: 61.11% (At the rim: 35.94%)
Three-Pointers: 20.69% (Corner 3's: 3.12%)
2013-2014 Shot Distribution (As of 02/10/14)
Long 2's: 18.69%
Near Basket: 64.53% (At the rim: 42.97%)
Three-Pointers: 16.79% (Corner 3's: 3.55%)
2011-2012 Shot Performance
Long 2's: 35.93 FG%
Near Basket: 54.98 FG% (At the rim: 57.85 FG%)
Three-Pointers: 31.21 FG% (Corner 3's: 28.57 FG%)
2012-2013 Shot Performance
Long 2's: 32.89 FG%
Near Basket: 47.32 FG% (At the rim: 61.56 FG%)
Three-Pointers: 32.43 FG% (Corner 3's: 25.64 FG%)
2013-2014 Shot Performance (As of 02/10/14)
Long 2's: 33.58 FG%
Near Basket: 51.80 FG% (At the rim: 53.33 FG%)
Three-Pointers: 35.78 FG% (Corner 3's: 26.92 FG%)
If you aren't much of a numbers person, that's okay. It's my job to explain to you what these numbers mean so that you don't have to do it yourself. To start off, most people would agree that long 2's (shots just inside the three-point line) are the most inefficient shots taken in basketball. When Rudy Gay was in Memphis, he was taking a fairly high volume of these shots at a low percentage and was killing many of the Grizzlies' possessions where they would have rather dumped it down to their big guys and let them go to work. In addition, his scoring numbers were steadily declining. As a result, he ended up being traded to Toronto on a belief that him no longer being on the team would be "addition by subtraction."
While in Toronto, Rudy Gay had continued to decline and his shooting percentage slumped all the way down to a career-worst 38.8%. His time with the Raptors was brief due to Toronto's management going in a different direction and wanting to offload long-term contracts to clear cap space for new free agents. Gay was traded to Sacramento, and since that trade, he has been averaging 20.3 points per game while shooting 51.5% from the field. That is very impressive, and to put it in perspective, Gay's best scoring season prior to this one was way back in 2007-2008 where he averaged 20.1 points per game while shooting 46.1% from the field.
Everybody knows that Rudy Gay's role on every team that he has been on is to be an elite scoring presence on the wing. In the past, he developed a reputation as an inefficient scorer and while he still has room for improvement on his shot selection, he is converting his shots at a very good rate. There is no denying that. He is currently scoring at a career-best 20.3 points per game while shooting 51.5% from the field. However, the most important stat of all is the fact that he is taking less shots while doing so! Besides his rookie season, Rudy Gay is averaging less shots per game than he ever has in his entire career. With some continued improvement in efficiency and success on a winning team, Rudy Gay could become an All-Star in the near future.
By looking at Rudy Gay's shot charts over the past three seasons, he still takes too many inefficient long two-pointers in my opinion. Out of all the shots he has taken over the course of this season, 18.69% of them have been from that range. Although this is an improvement from where he was in 2011-2012 (21.65% of his shots were long two-pointers), I would still like to see the volume of these such shots decrease considering that he only makes them at a 34.13% rate.
In addition to improving his shot selection, Gay also needs continue to improve his three-point shooting, specifically his corner 3's. Since the 2011-2012 season, Rudy Gay has steadily increased his three-point shooting percentage each season, but the rate at which he makes corner 3's has been pretty low for NBA standards.
What does this mean for the Suns?
Let's just say that Rudy Gay decides to opt out of his contract, which he might actually do since he is entering the prime of his career and surely does not want to waste it on a team that is still having trouble making the playoffs. The Suns have had some breakthroughs with players like Markieff Morris and Gerald Green, but Phoenix is in need of an elite scorer who can get the job done consistently. Although it remains to be seen if Rudy Gay can thrive in off-ball/catch-and-shoot situations while Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe are executing the offense, if Rudy Gay can be had without giving him a max deal, I would say that the Suns should definitely consider it only if they believe that he can keep up his production and continue to show signs of improvement.