We’ve been enduring the doldrums of the basketball calendar for weeks. Media Day finally gave us some respite as we heard developments from coaches and players, leading to the (not-so) glorious display of basketball that is preseason. As most would agree, it’s too long, dull and only delaying the meaningful games that await at the end of October.
But, even through this mundane phase, continued discussion of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook relationship and the NBA rumor mill have kept churning to give us some more things to talk about.
Besides murmurs of LaMarcus Aldridge possibly being moved this season increasing almost over night (LMA has since shut those down), a rumored trade between the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings has created another opportunity for some speculative head scratching.
Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto has reported who the supposed trade would involve:
The Sacramento Kings and Miami Heat have discussed a trade of Rudy Gay and Darren Collison for Goran Dragic, league sources told Basketball Insiders. “Sacramento has to trade Gay,” an Eastern Conference executive told Basketball Insiders. “He’s already informed them he doesn’t like it there. They can’t let him walk for nothing.”
At first glance, from a Kings perspective, it’s not remotely surprising that we have another rumor involving a clearly disgruntled Rudy Gay leaving Sacramento. We can all understand the frustration he’s expressed with the dysfunction of the team and the baffling (lack of) direction they’re heading in after this summer, in which they collected a horde of countless centers to oppose the logical development of the NBA.
So trading Gay now makes a lot of sense for the Kings. He’s already informed the Kings that he’ll opt out of his contract in 2017, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, and it’d make sense to deal him and his $13.33 million salary instead of losing him for nothing.
Before these Heat rumors, they were already “seriously engaged” in conversations to move him to Oklahoma City for sophomore point guard Cameron Payne, right up until Payne broke his foot (again, according to Wojnarowski).
Yet, with no deals working out, Gay is left in Sacramento, expressing that, “I have no choice but to work for the Sacramento Kings,” this week, per ESPN.
His eagerness to leave couldn’t be much clearer. So, they should let that happen.
Plus, with the offense revolving around DeMarcus Cousins and whoever is around him, a wing like Gay — who needs the ball in isolation to get most of his points, isn’t a dangerous threat from three, isn’t terrific on defense and has less favorable minutes to play at power forward in this crowded frontcourt — isn’t going to be ideal long term, anyway, blatant personal and financial issues aside.
The rumored target of Goran Dragic is appropriate for Sacramento. Gay’s value is low now that everyone knows how badly the Kings would like to move him, so it’s Darren Collison that’s bringing reasonable value on Sacramento’s side of the trade as well. He’s one of the more overlooked, yet still talented, lower-tier point guards in the league, and he could easily start for a few teams in need or be an impactful backup for others once he’s done serving his eight-game suspension for domestic violence.
Dragic, meanwhile, would help the Kings immensely. Combining with DeMarcus Cousins, Dragic could be a great fit to operate in pick-and-rolls or drive to the basket when space opens up and defenders focus on Cousins. Unlike former King Rajon Rondo, Dragic can shoot, with a 35.5 percent mark from three for his career (only on 2.9 attempts per game, but he knows how to pick his shots). He also made an impressive 45.9 percent of his jumpers from at least 16 feet out last season.
Dragic would be an instant upgrade over Rondo defensively, too. Seeing as, unlike Rondo, Dragic actually defends and doesn’t just grab steals now and then.
Dragic ranked fifth in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage (40.3) last season, ranked eighth among all point guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (0.7) and is a persistent defender against pick-and-roll ball handlers, whether he’s trapping them outside or fighting through screens to contest on drives.
It’s not that long since Dragic had his Most Improved Player season in 2013-14, with per-game averages of 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and a 21.4 PER, all of which are still career-highs. He’s still quick at 30, and he has an obvious understanding of how to probe defenses when he’s looping under the basket, surveying whether to pass or finish.
Dragic wasn’t at his best or most comfortable in Miami last season, though, slipping to 14.1 points per game and being reduced to more off-ball play in Dwyane Wade’s offense. But now that Wade has stunned everyone by heading to Chicago, Dragic can be in his element more of the time with the ball in his hands to fully showcase his slashing and passing abilities.
At the same time, though, the Heat would miss out on this by trading Dragic (under contract for at least three years) for what could be just one year of Gay and Collison.
Or, they could do Gay a massive favor and save him from the murky, purple depths of Sacramento. After losing Wade, Joe Johnson and now, most importantly and most unfortunately, Chris Bosh, the Heat adding a player with Gay’s talent has some positives.
At the very least, there’s some room to help out on Waiters Island:
Heat not pursuing trade with Gay/Dragic at this time, but might pursue Gay in 2017 free agency as secondary option. https://t.co/D7Jt1bTqX0
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) October 20, 2016
Gay can still create his own shot, and he averaged 17.2 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting last season. His percentages of 34.4 from three and 47.1 percent between 10-15 feet are far from great, but they aren’t terrible.
Then again, if the Heat want Gay as anything more than a rental, they need to note that limited three-point shooters are always going to be somewhat restricted in today’s NBA. And just after Wade left to give Dragic the ball, Gay is going to need to take it right back to score. Although, after a measly ranking in the 36th percentile on isolation baskets last season, Gay isn’t overly enticing if the sacrifice to land him is high.
Gay would likely be a rental for financial reasons, and sending away roster continuity and a talent like Dragic, who could be primed for a real turnaround season more reminiscent of 2013-14, seems questionable when you consider the fact that Miami can’t guarantee it’ll be able to bring in the max players it wants in free agency.
If the Heat miss the mark next summer on franchise-altering stars like Blake Griffin (perhaps the way Wade’s free agency was handled could make players slightly less eager to fall for Pat Riley’s pitching), this trade could easily seem far less worthwhile in a year’s time.
Gay (30) simply isn’t a long-term solution or upgrade over Dragic if they want to keep him.
For Miami, this rumored trade is far less certain. Ultimately, it comes down to whether they want to just ditch Dragic, Gay and Collison (a combined $34.43 million in salary this season) next summer and enter complete rebuild mode to receive a surge of cap space.
So, is this pursuit of a superstar reset in 2017 worth it for the Heat?
At this point, it’s a hesitant maybe at best. On one hand, they could accept that they aren’t a notable playoff team this season and could reload the future of the franchise with a major signing or two next summer. That’s far easier to do if they have more money.
On the other hand, they could miss the mark in free agency and trade one of their crucial pieces in Dragic for a pair of inferior rentals.
Gay isn’t worth that risk. Instead, as good as this trade idea could be for Sacramento, it’s far better for Miami to see what it has in a Dragic-Hassan Whiteside-Justise Winslow era and move forward.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN.com