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Rudy Gay is a game changer for the Utah Jazz

What did we learn from Rudy Gay’s debut?

Toronto Raptors v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

At 35 years old, fresh off of heel surgery, I had some reservations about how much of an impact Rudy Gay could have on the Utah Jazz. I was worried that, at his age, his ability to move around the court and make an impact on defense wouldn’t be so strong, his legs wouldn’t give him as much life on offense, and his career would begin experiencing some noticeable regression.

Well, last night, in his debut game for the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gay put most of those worries to bed. In 18 minutes, Gay posted 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, all while shooting 7/8 from the field. It’s about as impressive of a debut as you could ask for.

Obviously, Gay won’t shoot this well every time he suits up. Still, outside of that, Gay showed a lot of promising additions to the Jazz, many of which they’ve desperately needed.

For one, his size is going to be a huge asset for the Jazz moving forward. At around 6-8, 250lb, Gay fills in the role of the over-sized, versatile wing that the Jazz have been looking for these past few years. To make things even better, Gay boasts a 7-3 wingspan, making his ability to disrupt passing lanes and wreak havoc on defense even easier. The effects of that were clear last night, as when Gay was on the court, the Toronto Raptors were held to an offensive rating of 86.8. While this comes from a minuscule sample size, both the eye test and the numbers from last night showed that Gay can have a significant impact on defense for Utah. As he gets more comfortable with the system, I expect Quin Snyder take advantage of Gay’s versatility with some new defensive schemes.

On the other end, Gay’s three point shooting opened up a few new wrinkles in Utah’s offense. Take a look at this play, where Gay’s ability to stretch the floor left Chris Boucher in no man’s land, leading to a Gobert dunk:

When Gay is on the court, opponents are going to have to respect his ability to shoot the ball. This is going to spread defenses thin, opening Gobert’s dives to the basket and leading to easy points in the paint. While Gay was on the court, the Jazz had a blistering offensive rating of 127, more than 12 points higher than Utah’s average. Again, this will almost surly regress as he plays more games, but it’s a promising sign nonetheless.

If, for the rest of this season, Gay can prove he’s a knock down shooter, Utah’s bench will be dangerous. The roster now has a one of the best bench trios in the league with him, Jordan Clarkson, and Joe ingles. Gay’s versatility will open up a whole new set of lineups and schemes the Jazz have yet to have the luxury of playing with. When the playoff’s roll in, Gay’s ability to defend in space, stretch the floor, and play some small ball minutes should help counteract some of the matchup issues Utah’s faced in the past few years.