Rudy Gay has officially informed the Sacramento Kings that he will probably not be with the team after this season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
Gay has a player option for the 2017-18 season worth $14.2 million that he has told Kings that he will decline following the conclusion of this year. The 30-year-old also said he is unlikely to re-sign with Sacramento, which will add pressure for them to trade him during the year. Wojnarowski added that Gay’s lack of faith in the ownership’s ability to create a sustainable, winning environment has influenced his decision-making process. Gay will make $13.3 million this season.
While trade rumors have swirled around Gay this entire offseason, Wojnarowski said that the Kings are determined to hold onto the six-foot-eight small forward as they consider him a vital piece of the team along with center DeMarcus Cousins. Sacramento plans on contending for a playoff spot this upcoming season.
One problem that the Kings could encounter in dealing Gay, especially with his declaration, is that they are reportedly seeking a substantial package in return. Rather than trading for him, teams could wait until he becomes an unrestricted free agent when they can bid for his rights without giving up any players. Gay is expected to command a contract substantially more than his player option on the open market.
— NBA (@NBA) September 15, 2016
So, can Sacramento really contend for a playoff spot this upcoming season?
The Kings finished 10th in the Western Conference in 2015-16 with a 33-49 record, which is the franchise’s best mark since the 2007-08 season. ESPN projects Sacramento to win 38 games this year under new coach Dave Joerger, although that would mean the Kings would still finish three games out of the final playoff spot.
Joerger is a very good coach, but his flaws cost him his job with the Memphis Grizzlies, per SBNation. Joerger posted a 147-99 record with the Griz and led them to three straight playoff appearances. Memphis went 42-40 last season and was swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
Sacramento was third in the NBA in scoring with 106.6 points a game, but the team ranked last in the league in points allowed at 109.1. The Kings went out this offseason and spent over $100 million on free agents and rookies, but not all of the money is fully guaranteed. The Kings brought in an excellent shooter in Arron Afflalo, as well as defensive-oriented players in Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple. Anthony Tolliver, who also signed with the team this offseason, is a good defender and adequate scorer.
Sacramento has a formidable starting lineup with Darren Collison at point, Afflalo at shooting guard, Gay at small forward, along with Willie Cauley-Stein and Cousins in the frontcourt.
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) September 16, 2016
The Kings’ reserves will likely determine the success of the team. Kosta Koufos, Omri Casspi, and Barnes are solid veterans and will get plenty of time on the court. Temple and Tolliver are spot duty type of players who have starting experience though their exact roles are undefined.
Guards Ty Lawson and Ben McLemore might be the keys on the bench.
Sacramento lacks depth at point guard, and Temple does not have the ability to create for himself or others. Yes, Lawson struggled mightily last year, but he is a quality distributor who excels in pick-n-roll situations. The 28-year-old possesses career averages of 13.1 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. Lawson has a non-guaranteed contract this year, so if he struggles during training camp or continues to have run-ins with the law, he will likely not make the squad out of training camp.
McLemore has fallen out of favor with the Kings as he has not lived up to the hype of being a lottery pick in 2013. He will get a new start with Joerger as the head coach, and he is a trade candidate if he does not step up his production. McLemore is an above-average shooter who had his best season in 2014-15, posting 12.1 points and 2.9 rebounds a game.
Rookies Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, and Georgios Papagiannis will likely start the season with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League. Labissiere, who had the best Summer League campaign of the three, is the most likely of the trio to see some playing time early.
If Lawson does not make the team, Lamar Patterson, Isaiah Cousins, Eric Moreland, and Jordan Farmar are the other players in line for team’s final roster spot. Cousins is likely ultimately destined for Reno regardless whether Lawson makes the team or not. That would leave Farmar and Patterson in the best situations to make the team as the Kings are more set in the frontcourt than the backcourt.
[Featured Image by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Images]