Zach Lowe of ESPN talked about the Thunder having interest in veteran wing Rudy Gay earlier today as he talked about what’s next for the Thunder (By the way if you haven’t read this article you definitely should).
In the article he discussed the possibility of OKC having enough to trade for Rudy Gay and like the rumors before, mentioned Cameron Payne being involved in the trade.
I will be the first to say that I like Rudy Gay. He has spent the last few years in arguably the worst NBA basketball spot in the universe in Sacramento. Playing their would likely frustrate even the best of players. Gay is averaging 21.3 points while knocking down 42.4% of his 3 point shots. Both of those averages should trend downward a bit, but that doesn’t mean Gay wouldn’t be a more than solid fit for this Thunder team. Let’s face it, Russ needs some help.
I don’t however like the fact that Rudy Gay will likely opt out after this season to pursue one last big contract. This trade puts OKC in a strange position. If they trade Cameron Payne away for Gay, they could risk losing both Payne and Gay for nothing. The Thunder could easily re-sign Gay but if last year’s free agency tells us anything you could be looking at $16 million plus per season for Gay, which is a steep price to pay for a guy who already 30.
I am cautious about trading for what could amount to a rental. I am even more cautious about bringing Gay back on a big contract if the Thunder basketball team isn’t able to compete at the highest levels (they still have to figure out a contract for Andre Roberson). Re-signing Roberson AND Gay put the Thunder in the luxury tax.
However a scenario could materialize that would allow for the Thunder to not only receive Gay in a trade from the Kings, but also give them the ability to upgrade at other positions as well. Here is a 3 team trade that would seemingly fit all teams involved and isn’t far fetched in my opinion.
Thunder Receive: PF Amir Johnson, PG Marcus Smart, SF Rudy Gay, and SG James Young
Kings Receive: PG Cameron Payne, PG Demetrius Jackson, and SF Kyle Singler, along with several draft picks (likely second round)
Celtics Receive: C Enes Kanter, SG Anthony Morrow, and SF Josh Huestis
Before we go any further, this trade is essentially Enes Kanter for Marcus Smart and Cameron Payne and Demetrius Jackson for Rudy Gay. The rest are just salary cap fillers (although in Amir Johnson, the Thunder get a player who can play some post defense and rebound a bit, whereas the Celtics get a 3 point sniper in Morrow who can’t seemingly stay on the court because of defensive issues.
Does This Trade Hurt or Help the Celtics?
The Celtics really aren’t in a situation that demands them keeping Smart as they have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Terry Rozier at point guard already. Smart is solid player, but he is kind of a luxury on this Celtics team. Where the Celtics are hurting is on the glass. They currently rank 26th in the NBA in rebounding. While Horford hasn’t yet quite been completely healthy, the truth remains that Kanter would infuse the Celtics second unit.
Does This Trade Hurt or Help the Kings?
The Kings are at a place where they must tear things down and start over. The are going to lose Rudy Gay after this season regardless, so why not get two players who could emerge as legitimate starting point guards in the NBA. Both Payne and Jackson have the potential to become above average NBA players. This would not be the biggest haul for Rudy Gay, but they could do much, much worse.
Does this Trade Hurt or Help the Thunder?
The Thunder would lose a large part of ints post scoring, and we would no longer have the stache brothers, but I can’t see how adding Smart and Gay to this team make the the Thunder worse. It would give them greater scoring and defensive flexibility, a huge upgrade on the wing, and a player in Smart who is just coming into his own. This would IMO be a really solid trade for the Thunder.
So Will It Happen?
We have no way of knowing for sure, but I don’t believe the Thunder won’t just add Gay and call it done. I believe we will see multiple players on the move before the trade deadline.