Hawks Free Agency Preview: Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay is the scoring wing the Atlanta Hawks have been missing for years. 

After all these years, after all the trade rumors, and after all the potential fan debate; it’s finally happened. Rudy Gay is available for the Atlanta Hawks. The small forward has had his named swirled around the Atlanta franchise for years. Gay has been a good player who was never too good to potentially be acquired, hence the Hawks interest.

Now the time for the Hawks to acquire their star-crossed small forward has finally come. But is he still a good fit? The team has changed quite a bit since the rumors were at max volume, as Paul Millsap and some bench players are the only players remaining from that era. Ignoring the impending Millsap free agency decision and the salary cap tricks Atlanta will have to employ, lets see how Rudy would fit with the roster as is.

Pros

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The first and most obvious benefit to Rudy Gay’s game is his offense. He has averaged 18.4 points per game over his career. He’s also averaged over 20 points per contest in three different NBA seasons, proving that he could “carry” an NBA offense. Guys with the ability to score 20 points per game in this league are usually considered stars, which the Hawks only have one of in Paul Millsap, for now. Another number supporting his cause is his 16.7 career PER (Player Efficiency Rating), and his even higher 17.9 PER this past season, both above league average.

Now when looking at the fit on this squad at a glance, Gay would be a puzzle piece the Hawks have always wanted. The biggest knock on the Hawks the last couple of years is something fans are all aware of: they don’t have a go-to scorer. Tim Hardaway Jr has attempted to fill that role, but his disappearance in this year’s playoffs only magnified the issue. Rudy Gay would become the leading career scorer on the Hawks as soon as he joined. That’s a good thing for a team that was a net negative due to their offense.

Cons

At first glance Rudy Gay seems like a good fit for Atlanta, but when you dive deeper it gets more murky. First off, can he fit into the motion offensive that the Hawks run? His career average of 2.3 assists per game and only 20% of his shot attempts coming from three say no. Rudy Gay has always played an old style offensive game. His one saving grace is his decent career 3 point percentage of 34.5%, but plenty of big men in the league are shooting better than that.

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The numbers don’t help Gay’s case and the team direction only hurts it further. The Hawks, as a small market team, will never blow up their middling product. They are building with youth, and Gay’s addition will take away touches and learning experiences from those players. Dennis Schroder is entering his second season as the starting point guard, coming off of an impressive playoff series. DeAndre Bembry is waiting on the bench, a great college player and good IQ guy. However, when concerning Gay’s small forward position, the incumbent Taurean Prince is the most important. The Hawks essentially traded Jeff Teague for him. He also really came into his own at the end of the year.  Hurting his development is something the Hawks don’t want to do.

Yet another negative factor that comes with signing Gay is his storied injury history. Rudy Gay has eight seasons in which he played less than 70 games, which isn’t ideal. His list of injuries includes: concussions, two achilles injuries, and strains & sprains in his back, hip, and knee. Signing Rudy Gay could lead to an even more stagnant offense, slowed development of the roster, and a rise in health insurance premiums.

Verdict

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The newly revamped front office brings a flavor of the Golden State Warriors, a franchise which was thinking forward before anyone. That means no one will be fantasizing about the lightning in the bottle 60-win season of years past, but rather keeping an eye on the future. So the Hawks won’t choose enhanced mediocrity over potentially developing several stars in the coming years.

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