The San Antonio Spurs are one of the most enigmatic offenses in the league.
On the one hand, coach Gregg Popovich’s disdain for the three-pointer and the front office’s insistence on getting guys who can’t even shoot them—LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan—makes it all the more likely that their offense is going to happen entirely inside the arc like it’s 1975.
But there Rudy Gay is, hitting 45.2 percent of his three-point shots, and at one point earlier this season, he had led the league at over 50 percent.
What we’re asking of the 32-year-old Gay here is not “can he sustain this shooting accuracy?” That would be a ridiculous question, since Gay is a career 34.7 percent three-point shooter coming off a season where he hit just 31.4 percent of his shots from long range, so the 45.2 is guaranteed to regress.
No, this is a more basic question.
“Is Rudy Gay a legitimate starter even in 2019 and useful third banana behind Aldridge and DeRozan?”
The Counting Stats
Even more impressive than the three-point shooting might be Gay’s ability to find the basket on two-point shots, where he’s hitting 56 percent to pull his overall shooting percentage to 53.4, best in his career by a mile.
Likewise, his eFG% of .589 is fully 15 percent better than his previous .511 career best set in his second year in the league.
He’s averaging 19.6 points per 36 minutes, and his nine rebounds is a career-high.
He’s even turning the ball over less (just 2.0 per 36, his second-best mark of his tenure in the NBA.)
His steals are down (1.1 per 36 is a career low), but his assists are up even as his turnovers are down.
He’s showing a lot of offensive versatility.
The Advanced Stats
Speaking of efficiency, all that great shooting plus those rebounds and assists give Gay a PER of 19.4, his best mark since 2014-15 and the second-best in his life.
His .148 WS/48? Career-best. 2.6 BPM? Second-best, and he’s a plus defender.
And 2.6 VORP/82? Those are borderline All-Star numbers.
Throw in a .619 TS%, his first trip over .560, never mind .600, and what you’ve got is a 32-year-old having the best season of his life.
Which creates a contrast, as…
Is Rudy Gay, as ostensibly the third-best player on the Spurs, a championship-caliber third banana?
Absolutely he is!
But there’s just one little thing bugging me.
How in the world is a guy with this many miles on his NBA odometer playing this well? Sure, his shooting has pulled back some after a hot start, but all of his career numbers plus his age say there’s a rock-hard regression in the offing.
But that’s later. We’re asking the question on the winter solstice in 2018 whether Rudy Gay is good…and the answer, at least for now, is an emphatic “Confirmed.” Should be fun to see how long he can keep it up.
NEXT WEEK: Tim Hardaway Jr. Knicks fans, get ready to rage at the front office for that contract.