When the Utah Jazz signed Rudy Gay to a 3 year, 18 million dollar contract this past off-season, I was thoroughly excited. For years, the Jazz needed a long, athletic, and switchable defender to come off their bench. Gay, although on the tail end of his career, proved in his time with the San Antonio Spurs that he could find ways to have a positive impact on the court.
This season with Utah, however, the results are mixed.
On the season, Gay is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assist on 39.5% shooting from the field and 33.5% from three. His offensive and defensive ratings are about league average at 112.0 and 106.6, respectfully. When looking at advanced statistics, his impact continues to be neutral:
Using FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR statistic, we can see that Gay’s impact on offense and defense are both relatively negligible. For reference, this was Rudy Gay’s impact at San Antonio last season:
While his impact on offense was identical, his defensive RAPTOR was significantly higher. This was the reason why many expected Gay to come in and make a difference for Utah on that end. Instead, Gay is currently averaging a near career low in Win’s Above Replacement (WAR) at 1.4. Again, for reference, Gay’s WAR was 3.8 in the 2020-21 campaign.
This isn’t completely fair to Gay, however. Over the summer, Gay undertook surgery on his right heel to take care of pain that he had been dealing with for over five years. On top of learning a new system and adjusting to a new environment, Gay’s recovery ended up eating into the start of the season and forced him into a late debut. His short time in Utah hasn’t been strictly smooth sailing.
Nonetheless, with the playoffs less than a month away, the Utah Jazz need Gay to have a stronger impact on the court. He’s still Utah’s best and most versatile option at the four spot off the bench and is definitely a better rebounder, shooter, and defender than the likes of Eric Paschall. Although I think Paschall’s energy is fantastic, his advanced defensive statistics are pretty poor (-2.8 defensive RAPTOR, -1.50 D-LEBRON) and I’d still rather trust Gay with those minutes, especially in games that matter.
The Utah Jazz only have 14 games left this year. If there was ever a time for Rudy Gay to get into his groove, it would be right now. As he said himself, “The real season’s coming. This is all trying to get in a rhythm so we can be our best by then.”