I’m still processing the Rudy Gay injury from Wednesday night’s game, so apologies in advance if my thoughts are a bit scattered. I’ll do my best to be coherent, but man this is just a crushing blow. There’s a lot to deal with when a team suffers an injury like Rudy’s, so let’s unpack it all.
Rudy Gay the person
God what a crushing blow. No matter your opinions on his play, you’ll struggle to find anyone willing to speak ill of Rudy Gay as a person. You could hear it in the postgame interviews with teammates, Rudy is a respected and loved person in the locker room. He’s a family man. He’s a guy who’s been a punching bag many times in his career but always remained a consummate professional. To have an injury like this is devastating. Rudy was going to opt out of his contract at the end of the year (more on this later), and secure one last big pay day for his career. I hope I’m speaking for everyone when I say we want nothing but the best for Rudy and wish him a speedy recovery.
Rudy Gay the player
Losing Rudy’s on-court contributions is a massive loss for the team. Rudy currently leads the team in +/- and steals, and is second on the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. He’s without a doubt the team’s second best player, and the only player other than DeMarcus Cousins who is capable of carrying the offense with any level of consistency.
Rudy Gay the asset
Obviously this is less important than Rudy the person, but it’s a very real impact that we need to think about. Rudy Gay was expected to be traded in the next month. He was going to be opting out of his contract in the coming offseason, but could have still helped a contender. If you assume the Kings weren’t trading Boogie, Rudy Gay was the Kings best trade asset. That is out the window.
Rudy was going to opt out of his contract after this season, but now that is a huge question mark. If Rudy is able to recover quickly, he may still opt out. Wes Matthews got a $70 million contract just three months after tearing his ACL. It’s not impossible that Rudy still leaves for free agency. That said, it’s unlikely. Rudy has a luxury that Matthews didn’t have, in that he isn’t forced into free agency this summer. He can stay in his current contract, and earn $14.3 million next season.
What Rudy decides to do will have an impact on Sacramento’s offseason plans. The Kings expected to have a ton of cap room this summer. If Rudy stays, they are missing a big piece of cap space, and are spending it on a player who won’t be with the team for an extended period of time.
Simply put, the Kings season is over. The Kings cannot make the playoffs. The Kings needed Rudy Gay’s contributions, or the contributions of assets that Rudy fetched in a trade. The team should be in full tank mode from here on out.
Draft Pick Impact
This injury should all but guarantee that the Kings will keep their top-10 protected draft pick. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia 76ers are playing better and are just a game and a half back of the Kings in the standings. The Kings can tank to keep their pick, but have little incentive to bottom out too badly. The Sixers are set up to capitalize on their pick swap option, adding insult to injury.
Trade Deadline Strategy
The Kings should be sellers. This was true before the injury, but should be crystal clear now. The Kings need to turn veterans into assets. The Kings should be searching for young players with potential and any draft picks they can get their hands on. Players like Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Matt Barnes, and Ben McLemore should all be made available. The return on the trades is now less important than getting something, anything, to help the team rebuild.
I think Boogie put it best in his post-game interview: