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NBA Trade Rumors: Rudy Gay Good as Gone from Grizzlies

dfavale January 7, 2013 Dan Favale No Comments

From hereon out, every game Rudy Gay plays with the Memphis Grizzlies could be his last.

We’ve talked about it since the Grizzlies went on that impressive playoff run in 2011 without him, but now, it’s never seemed more real.

With a boatload of money committed to Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Gay himself, Memphis needs to cut some payroll or risk paying an arm, leg and millions more in luxury tax.

At present, the Grizzles have over $74 million in committed salary and more than $72 million next season. Thus, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did with James Harden, Memphis will need to part ways with one of its big names to prevent itself from being killed by taxes.

And according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via NBC Sports’ Chris Mannix Show), that someone is going to be Gay.

Now, as the Grizzlies’ leading scorer at 18 points per game, plenty of us are liable to deem Memphis crazy; out of its mind insane. And yet, its not. The Grizzlies are just a team, in a small market, hell-bent on staying out of the luxury tax.

But why Gay? Why trade your leading scorer? Why move arguably your most talented player?

Well, he’s expendable. Or rather, he’s as expendable as you can be for a team like this.

In Gasol and Randolph, Memphis has two talented passing bigs who the offense can be run through. Their back to the basket sets are superior, yet they possess the vision and precision necessary to dish out of double-teams and even thread the needle when needed.

Surrounding them with shooters and a point guard (Conley) who can penetrate is the genuinely indispensable blueprint for this team. As such, dealing Gay for a few expiring contracts and/or more affordable shooters makes sense—in a situation like this.

Will the Grizzlies be better for it?

We can’t say for sure. The numbers would actually suggest no. But the important thing to remember here is this isn’t just about the statistics—it’s about finances. And right now, Memphis is more than $15 million over the salary cap, a reality that isn’t conducive with the market they play in.

Just ask Oklahoma City. Or James Harden. Or the Cleveland Cavaliers, who couldn’t compile enough scratch or appeal to land the players that would have kept LeBron James in Ohio.

Yes, Gay is a superstar, one of the most underrated in the game, in fact. He can score, defend and even assume a point forward-type role in a pinch. Yet for the Grizzlies, that isn’t what matters.

Gay’s 18 points per game don’t matter. His 1.5 steals per game don’t mean a thing. And the case for him as a superstar means little to nothing either. Not in Memphis, anyway.

What matters is he’s owed more than $53 million over the next three years. What matters is that the absence of his salary stands to save the Grizzlies tens of millions.

What matters is he’s the highest paid player on a super team that can’t afford to be “super.”

Not in the era of a CBA that preaches parity above all.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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