We still don’t have a full picture of how the free agency market is going to be in 2017, but there things we know: Rudy Gay is going to opt out of his contract with the Sacramento Kings, and will be an interesting possibility for a lot of teams, including the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders wrote an interesting article about the prospect of Gay playing for these teams next season. Gay played only 30 games in 2016-2017 due to injury, averaging 18.7 points per game. His days as a key contributor in the lineup are over, but he is probably still going to be productive scorer, just in a much smaller role, unless he opts to go for money and play for an irrelevant team, just like he has since the Raptors traded him to the Kings.
Gay, who has a player option for $14.2 million next season, isn’t opting out because he thinks he’ll get more money, because he won’t. Teams have more cap space next season (around $102 million), but Gay, coming off an injury and turning 31 in August, isn’t one of those likely to capitalize on the influx of money headed into the NBA. He’s at the point in his career where teams expect him to give up on money he can make so he can try and be part of a contender.
The Celtics might have an edge over others when it comes to attracting someone like Gay, who is neither efficient or a good defender but is capable of playing both the ‘3’ and the ‘4’ (in small ball lineups) and scoring without a lot of help from someone else (although the injury could affect his ability to that). The Celtics will have around $40 million to spend under the cap.
The Thunder could be attractive to Gay because of Westbrook dominating the team, which should give Gay plenty of open looks and no need to work too hard for his shots, and the Thunder’s own need for players who can create for themselves, something they were sorely lacking in their disappointing series against the Houston Rockets.
The Los Angeles Clippers also lack players capable of creating for themselves, but they’re a less likely options: They don’t have the cap space to sign Gay (unless both Griffin and Paul leave, but that would make them less attractive to sign for), and there’s a lot of uncertainty revolving the team heading into the offseason, with Blake Griffin and J.J. Reddick being the biggest question marks. Hamilton mentions in his post that the Clippers could sign Gay to try and build a package for a trade with the New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony, but it’s hard to believe anyone thinking about contending for championships actually believes having Carmelo Anthony as a central player on the team is actually beneficial.