Liston on NBA: Is Gay worth the price?

January 21, 2013, 11:00 AM

Rudy Gay is a good player. Whether you watch a lot of games or analyze the data, most will likely conclude so.

However, the rumoured asking price by the Memphis Grizzlies of a young wing player on a cheap deal and a draft pick (and possibly more) is much too high.


Rudy Gay is the 20th-highest-paid player in the league.

Yes he’s a good player, but the question should be: “Is he worth the money and what do you have to give up to acquire him?”

Let’s start by comparing his 20th-highest salary in the league versus his performance this year. So where does he rank analytically?

Sources: and

We were unable to find a top-50 ranking on any commonly (or even uncommonly) used metric.

But he creates space and makes his teammates better, no?

Thanks to a new site, we can get a partial look into this. It appears the Grizzlies shoot a bit better with Gay on the floor, but not materially so (they actually have both a higher percentage of assisted shots as well as higher 3pt% with him off the floor).

Source:, data includes games up to Jan. 19.

When you consider Gay largely plays with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (both top 25 in WS/48), it stands to reason they should have better metrics with him on the floor. Regularized adjusted plus-minus attempts to adjust for these impacts and, as noted above, Gay only ranks 142nd in the league.

As well, over at, we find the Grizzlies allow a higher eFG% for their opponents when Gay is on the floor. The team also has a lower defensive-rebounding percentage with him in the lineup.

There’s simply not enough compelling evidence to justify taking on this high salary and trade away key assets.

Or is there?

There is a large absence of quality wings in the NBA currently. Perhaps one could make a supply/demand argument in this environment overpaying for a quality young wing.

Thinking about the lack of quality wings led us to create a table of player efficiency rating by position. We looked at both the entire universe of NBA players as well as those playing over 20 minutes per game on average:


So couldn’t the Raptors use a young scoring wing such as Gay as a competitive advantage?

Sure. A lot of teams could use a 6’7″/6’8″ wing that plays 37 minutes, takes 15-16 shots from the field, gets to the line four-five times, gets five-six rebounds, and scores 18 points a game. One that’s young is even better.

And that profile fits in Toronto already… in DeMar DeRozan. As well as Gay. Their contribution is remarkably similar.

So you can trade away great assets to obtain a wing that has similar contribution to a player you have — but with a 65 per cent higher salary who is three years older.

While some of the other advanced statistics show a bit wider gap between Gay and DeRozan, it is clear that the price the Raptors would pay in both assets and salary is not worth the incremental upgrade.

On Memphis’ side, why they would want to mess up a fourth-ranked team in mid-season is beyond me. Waiting until the off-season is worth the wait. Paying the tax for a young team that could have a few great years is worth it.

What is for certain: teams should not overpay for Gay.


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