Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…
RUDY GAY, Memphis Grizzlies
Follow the money. If you’re looking at the Grizzlies roster and seeing at least three, maybe four players who could rightfully claim the title “go-to guy,” all you have to do to solve the puzzle is figure out the financials.
When Rudy Gay signed a five-year $84 million contract to stay in Memphis this summer, it symbolized a few things. In handing Gay the most lucrative contract in franchise history, the infamously penny-pinching Grizzlies were effectively announcing that they’re ready for the big-time. After Gay put up 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season and led Memphis to its first 40-win campaign since the Pau Gasol era, the organization made sure its star will stay in town long-term. Some contracts are rewards. Some are half of a promissory note. Rudy Gay signed off on $84 million not because of anything he’s done so far, but because the Grizzlies are banking on him to be The Franchise from now on. Critics say he’s not wired to be a go-to guy, but Memphis is about to make him at least pretend like one.
As Rudy shared ball-control duties with Zach Randolph inside and O.J. Mayo outside (you could throw Allen Iverson in there for about a week if you want), he didn’t lead the team in scoring, assists, field-goal attempts, three-point attempts or free-throw attempts. He finished behind Z-Bo and O.J. in “clutch time” scoring (17.8 points per 48 minutes) while shooting a ghastly 23 percent from three and 50 percent from the stripe in the clutch.
Rudy did have his moments, though. There was the 33-point effort in Philadelphia where he scored 12 in the fourth quarter and nailed the dagger jump shot in the final 20 seconds. And the 14-point second half output in a comeback win at Minnesota (the same day he’d attended a family funeral in Baltimore). And the night in New Orleans where he sparked a big second-half comeback before trading crunch-time buckets with Chris Paul, including a game-tying triple with 11 seconds left. And, most memorably, a 41-point explosion in Miami where he looked every bit like the Scottie Pippen clone he’s been advertised as since he was at UConn.
Other times, you could just as easily have argued that O.J. or Zach or even Marc Gasol was really Memphis’ go-to guy. And on some nights, they were. Mike Conley even had his chances to shine in coach Lionel Hollins‘ democratic offense.
But the events of this offseason made it clear who is now No. 1 in Memphis. Gay was signed to a long-term, big-money contract while Randolph is still waiting for an extension that probably isn’t coming. Gay made the Team USA roster for the World Championship while Mayo got cut during Coach K‘s training camp.
And so Gay goes into his fifth pro season, finally, as The Man. Now he’s got to show us he’s money.
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22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)