by Dave Spahn / @davespahn

Never one to outwardly boast about his accomplishments, Rudy Gay has quietly put up All-Star numbers year in and year out. He runs the floor like a guard, can defend almost any position on the court, and shows off an incredible amount of offensive versatility.

His 19 points and nearly 6.5 rebounds per game leads a Grizzlies team that faces the exact same problem Rudy faces: They both struggle to find a true identity.

Name a small forward with more potential, who’s more productive, and who you would rather throw into your starting lineup other than LeBron and Durant. Gay has every single tool you want out of a young player on the cusp of being a superstar. His length, athleticism and offensive skill set make him a coach’s dream and a defender’s nightmare.

But Rudy lacks a true identity on the basketball court. He falls in love with his jump shot too often and doesn’t always assert himself on the defensive side of the ball (then again, very few players actually assert themselves on defense for 48 minutes).

Rudy is the type of player who has all the potential to make the USA Olympic team, win an NBA Championship, or even place himself among the 15 best players in the NBA. There are very few things on the basketball court Rudy can’t do, and he takes pride in being a good teammate on and off the court.

The problem? He needs to be more aggressive and assertive on both sides of the ball. Too often you see Gay settling for a jumper three feet behind the three-point line when he could easily take his man off the bounce and slam down a ferocious dunk.

The bottom line hasn’t changed since Rudy entered into the NBA—his potential and long-term value shoot through the roof. He easily could wind up being a multi-year All-Star and a guy with multiple NBA rings. He also could easily be a guy who we talk about in 10 years as one of the “could’ve been” guys—could have been great but never reached his full potential.

Rudy was snubbed from USA Team (don’t care what anyone else thinks), and I hope he uses that to fuel his fire. Rudy has all the capabilities of becoming a perennial All-Star. But only he will decide if he ends up there.


Where should Rudy Gay rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Greg MonroePistonsC8
49Tyreke EvansKingsPG14
48Brandon JenningsBucksPG13
47Stephen CurryWarriorsPG12
46Ricky RubioTWolvesPG11
45Al JeffersonJazzPF14
44Anthony DavisHornetsPF13
43Serge IbakaThunderPF12
42Al HorfordHawksC7
41Ty LawsonNuggetsPG10
40Danny GrangerPacersSF6
39Tim DuncanSpursPF11
38John WallWizardsPG9
37Monta EllisBucksSG8
36Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF10
35Roy HibbertPacersC6
34Tyson ChandlerKnicksC5
33Eric GordonHornetsSG7
32Kevin GarnettCelticsPF9
31Manu GinobiliSpursSG6
30Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF8
29Marc GasolGrizzliesC4
28DeMarcus CousinsKingsC3
27Paul PierceCelticsSF5
26Andre IguodalaNuggetsSG5
25Rudy GayGrizzliesSF4

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.