It would be a colossal understatement to say the Phoenix Suns are struggling in a way they have not for decades.
After tonight’s loss in Milwaukee, the team has dropped nine of 10 games and they are not far removed from a separate seven-game losing streak. Goran Dragic is the Suns’ best player, which is to say they lack a franchise cornerstone, and it sure seems like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
That being said, now is not the time to panic, and that’s exactly what making a move for Rudy Gay would be: a panic trade.
Rudy Gay is an excellent basketball player. He would be the Suns’ star, and it wouldn’t be particularly close. He would be that go-to guy the team has lacked for years now, and he probably would put a few more butts in seats in US Airways Center.
The biggest problem with such a move before considering what it would take to acquire a talent like Gay is that it would only serve to perpetuate the mediocrity of the past few years while putting the Suns no closer to returning to title contention.
At this point, the Suns aren’t even close to sniffing the playoffs so an addition like Gay would only serve to make their draft pick that much worse in the interim. But looking long term, is Gay the kind of player who will make you a championship team? I think Memphis’ willingness to deal him is answer enough, and if it’s not I’d like to direct you to his 40.8 percent shooting percentage this season.
Next look at the opportunity cost of what the Suns wouldn’t be able to afford by adding Gay. His contract calls for $17.9 million next season and a $19.3 million player option the year after.
Memphis wants to remain competitive in any Gay deal, but a key impetus behind trading a player like him is to mitigate future expenses with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol already being paid premium prices and not much financial wiggle room to upgrade their perimeter play. With the Suns roughly $7 million under the salary cap, it seems a fair assumption to presume they would take on both present and future money in any such trade.
The problem with that is that not only should the Suns consider the tangible assets they would be trading, they should also think about the coveted salary cap space such a trade could eat into. Such a deal could mean the Suns would no longer be able to offer any free agents this summer a max contract and would otherwise cut into their flexibility as well.
As for the meat of the trade, Memphis reportedly desires the exact assets the Suns should be stockpiling in Jared Dudley and draft picks. Dudley is one of the Suns’ best players, and he’s playing on an undervalued contract that is very attractive to other teams. Furthermore, perhaps the best way the Suns can genuinely rebuild is through the draft, so handing over anything but severely protected first-rounders makes no sense, and obviously that won’t get a deal done.
The biggest issue with Rudy Gay is that such an acquisition would seem to signify valuing the present over the future — when Michael Jeffrey Jordan himself couldn’t save this team in the present — at the risk of damaging the future. It would seem to be a move aimed at winning a few more games now so that the front office and coaching staff members can save their jobs.
This season should be about laying the groundwork and foundation for future seasons in which the Suns could turn their cachet of assets into a stud like Gay. But without that foundation solidified, adding Gay would just lead to more mediocrity, and that’s the worst place for the Suns to be.
Sure, there could be a scenario where this makes sense for Phoenix short term and long term — like if Memphis takes back a bad contract like Michael Beasley or Channing Frye — but why would the Grizzlies do that? Rudy Gay is nice in theory, but not at the price such an acquisition likely would cost.
Like most rumors and rumblings, it’s more than likely that Sunday was Rudy Gay’s last visit to Phoenix this season.
However, if the interest is legitimate as multiple outlets have reported it is, it’s worrying that management might feel that Gay is that piece to push the Suns over the top. It’s equally concerning if they feel he is the kind of first banana that his contract says he is.
It’s painful for everybody involved with this organization to watch right now, but the Suns’ best course of action is to continue to be patient, continue to stockpile assets to build a foundation and make their big move when it can take them from good to great rather than terrible back to mediocre.
Tags: Rudy Gay