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2021 Utah Jazz Player Profile: Rudy Gay

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What will Utah’s biggest free agent acquisition add to the team?

Phoenix Suns v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

After spending the last 4 years of his career in San Antonio, veteran forward Rudy Gay decided to sign with the Utah Jazz this offseason on a 3 year deal worth roughly $18 million total. Although Gay is far past the prime of his career, he’s shown over the past couple of years that he’s still an impactful player. Let’s take a look at what we can expect him to contribute to the Jazz next season.

2020-21 Stats:

  • 11.4 points
  • 4.8 rebounds
  • 1.4 assists
  • 0.7 steals
  • 0.6 blocks
  • 42/38.1/80.4% shooting splits
  • 53.2% true shooting

Strengths:

The first thing that stands out about Gay is his size and length for the forward position, as he’s listed at 6’8, 250 pounds, with a 7’3 wingspan. The main area where his size shows up is around the rim on defense, where Gay is still very effective at this stage of his career. Rudy combines his excellent length with a good understanding of defensive rotations, which allows him to be one of the better weak side rim protector’s in the league. One thing I especially like about Gay’s off-ball defense is that he has a high awareness of who he’s guarding. If he’s matched up on a high level shooter, he’s disciplined enough to stay tight to them and not give up open looks. But if he’s assigned a weak/non-threatening shooter, he’ll sag off a bunch and be ready to help out around the rim on any drives. Rudy’s length also helps him guard on the ball as well, where he’s fairly versatile and can at least survive on most players.

On the offensive end the main value Gay adds is as a floor spacer. He shot 39.5% on spot up 3’s last year, which should make him a seamless fit in the Jazz 3pt heavy attack. Gay can also shoot it from the mid-range as well, and while he isn’t super efficient from that spot on the floor (43% from mid-range over the last two seasons), just being able to have that skill in his arsenal helps keep defenses honest. He also is a pretty good passer and handler for his size, which will help keep Utah’s offense flowing and not kill advantages created by teammates. Overall his ability to shoot, attack closeouts, and make simple plays with the ball in his hands makes him perfect for Utah’s offense.

Weaknesses:

Although Rudy isn’t a liability in any one area there are a few weaknesses to his game. On the defensive end, he’s just average when guarding on-ball. His length and size let him reasonably guard most players, but there’s going to be certain matchups where his lack of quickness can be exploited. For example, in a February game against the Golden State Warriors last season Stephen Curry was repeatedly targeting Gay on switches and scoring on him without much trouble. While not being able to guard an MVP level point guard isn’t a glaring issue for a power forward, it just shows that he’s not a true switch defender that can guard 1-5 without issues. And while Gay’s off-ball defense is very good due to his length and IQ, he’s not much of a leaper at this point of his career which limits his ability to contest certain shots at the rim.

On the offensive end, a majority of Gay’s issues stem from his questionable shot selection. His TS last year of 53.2% was well below league average, and this was more so do to a lack of quality shot selection rather than deficiencies in his skill set. He often settled for low efficiency 2-pointers, taking nearly a quarter of his shots from the mid-range. While Gay can make these looks at a decent rate and the skill is good to have in his bag, no one should be taking that many mid-ranges in 2021 unless they’re a Chris Paul or Kevin Durant level shooter. It’s worth noting that some of these tough shots were due to his lack of quickness stopping him from creating good looks on his own, but hopefully on a Utah team that’s stacked offensively he won’t be creating for himself as much as he did last year anyway. Gay’s lack of vertical explosion around the rim also hinders him, as he struggles to finish over length and in traffic.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

What to expect from Gay this season:

With the departure of Georges Niang to Philadelphia this offseason it would make sense for Rudy to more or less replace his spot in the rotation as the primary backup 4. He should be able to do just about everything Niang did (although not as good of a spot up shooter), while also adding a couple of new elements the team previously lacked. He can play multiple roles on offense, and his ability to offer secondary rim protection outside of the Center position should help the defense a lot in non-Gobert minutes. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both the Rudy’s play together in high leverage situations either, as Utah’s best defensive lineup likely will feature both of them. Overall Gay figures to play a good sized role on next years team and will hopefully help fix some of last seasons issues.