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Rudy Gay is exactly what the Jazz needed

The early returns on the Rudy Gay signing are incredible. How much of that is sustainable?

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Rudy Gay has played seven games for the Utah Jazz. In those seven games, he’s put up 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. His shooting has been prolific, especially from three, where he’s hitting 53% on 4.6 attempts per game. He’s done all of this in under 19 minutes per game.

In short, he’s been one of the most efficient scorers in basketball over his first two weeks of playing for the Jazz. His 69.9% true shooting would rank third in the NBA if he’d played enough minutes to qualify.

Now, for a mandatory disclaimer, this is a very small sample size. We shouldn’t expect all of this to continue indefinitely. I can almost guarantee that Gay won’t continue to make over 50% of his threes all season long. For a true analysis of his stats, we’ll need a bigger sample size. So for now, let’s pay attention to trends while keeping in mind that much of this could, and likely will, change.

Shooting

Rudy Gay came into this league as a scorer, and in his 16th season, that’s still his primary role. His scoring takes a different role now though. Early in his career, he lived in the midrange. He created a lot of his shots for himself. He was a primary creator and scorer. As the years have gone by, he has had to do what many aging stars have done. He’s had to evolve into a valuable role player. So far this season, Gay has a career-low Usage percentage of 19.9%. He’s also averaging his most three-point attempts per game since his second season in the league. He’s taking fewer possessions as a creator, and more as a finisher.

Gay’s impact on offense is noticeable. The Utah Jazz over the last few seasons have loved to employ shooters at the power forward position. This helps provide the necessary spacing for Quin Snyder’s offense. Gay has fully accepted that role. He is shooting 11.9 three-point attempts per 100 possessions, third-most among rotation players on the team behind only Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell.

Gay is an incredibly willing and eager shooter. The Jazz have a wide variety of players when it comes to their willingness to shoot, but Quin Snyder has preached to each one of them that they have a green light. Gay has been using that green light so far to shoot threes of all kinds. He isn’t worried about a hand in his face. With his length and height, he can shoot over contests easily. He is unafraid to shoot when he’s a few feet beyond the arc. He lets it fly both off the dribble and off a jab step. His willingness to shoot without hesitation in all of these situations gives him gravity, and that opens up the court for his teammates.

Impact

When the Jazz signed Rudy Gay, a lot of the talk around the move was about his versatility, and how the Jazz can utilize him in different ways. So far, he hasn’t had to venture far from the role of bench scorer. That will likely be how he spends most of his time. He’s slotted right into the role left by Georges Niang, and he’s played it perfectly so far. Quin Snyder has found over the last few years that he can punish opposing benches by staggering his starting lineup with his second unit. He has built his rotation so that there are a significant number of minutes each game in which Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert join Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and another bench player. This lineup has dominated the opposition’s second units. Rudy Gay has slid seamlessly into this lineup and elevated it. The Conley, Clarkson, Ingles, Gay, Gobert lineup is +24.5 points per 100 possessions so far, by far the best lineup that Utah has regularly used this season.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Utah Jazz lineups featuring Rudy Gay are +22.6 points per 100 possessions. Gay is second on the team in true shooting, behind only the league leader, Gobert.

Again, this is only a small sample. He will cool off, and these numbers will not look quite so gaudy given more time. But what we’ve seen so far has been very promising. Even with the expected dropoff in shooting percentages, it’s easy to see how good of a fit Gay is on this team. As time goes on, he’ll learn the system better as well, and likely be more impactful on defense.

Utah’s biggest offseason move was signing Rudy Gay, and so far, it looks like a home run.