Monday, September 27th, 2010 at 1:00 pm  |  41 responses

Top 50: Rudy Gay, no. 28

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13

If you’ve already copped issue number 142 of SLAM, you know how I feel about Rudy Gay. In this year’s version of SLAMonline’s Top 50, Gay has climbed 16 spots, placing him near the middle of these rankings. And although his statistics didn’t increase at a substantial rate this year, they disRudy Gayplayed the consistency that the small forward has shown since his second year in the NBA.

Consistency is something that employers in every field of work yearn for, and Rudy proved that he could be a consistent force despite playing under unstable and inconsistent surroundings.

After spending time with him and writing the story for the mag on him, one thing that really opened my eyes was that the instability in Memphis would have caused other superstars around the League to throw a hissy fit, yet the situation that Rudy has been plagued with over his first five seasons was barely publicized (by Gay himself) and he took all of the tough days on and off the court in stride, something that other players have a tough time doing at such a young age.

Kobe Bryant won titles early in his career, for instance, and still wasn’t happy out in LA.

Carmelo has been to the playoffs every single year he’s been in the NBA, but he wants out of Denver.

Rudy, on the other hand, just signed a maximum deal to continue playing for the small-market Memphis Grizzlies even though they haven’t made the playoffs yet during his tenure with the team.

My point is this: Rudy is a humble guy who desperately wants to prove that the maximum contract that he just inked this summer is indicative of the type of player that he is on the court, and not just an extension that provides financial security. He wants to win in this League and show that his skills will translate into team success, something that he began to show this summer playing for the United States in the FIBA World Basketball Championships.

With his smooth mid-range game, strength going to the rim, understanding of what the team was trying to accomplish, awareness of his role, and the versatility that he brings to both ends of the basketball court, Gay proved to be a perfect compliment for Team USA off the bench. No, he didn’t dominate the games like Kevin Durant (who can), but he showed that he understood his role and that the most important thing is winning. His averages of 7 points, 3 assists and .8 assists in just over 13 minutes per game will hardly knock the socks off you, but the patience and understanding of the higher team goal showed that it was all about the team for Rudy.

With regards to his role in the NBA, however, things are going to be a little different than they were with Team USA. After inking that fresh $80 million contract, Rudy has officially become “The Man” for the Grizzlies. After a 40-42 season last year the long time bottom-dwelling Grizzlies have a young core that remains intact and has become a legitimate threat to make the playoffs. But the guy that has to get them over the hump and into that stage is the guy whom they just laid the money out on the table for.

Rudy Gay has all of the tools to deliver for the fledgling yet potentially upstart Memphis franchise. He knows that he has to figure out how to put them together, how he become the reliable force that Jerry West originally saw when he traded for him on Draft Day in ’06. In reference to what Jerry West originally saw in him, Rudy stated “I don’t know. I think that’s probably one of the problems. Once I realize that and am able to dominate, I’ll be exactly what he wants me to be.”

If Rudy Gay, one of the most athletic, versatile and skilled wings in the League puts it all together on both ends of the floor, he could ultimately move himself into the upper echelon of this list at some point in his career.

But potential is scary—there are athletic and versatile wings that don’t ever “figure it out.” And that is why Rudy is ranked No. 28 and not No. 8, for example, at this point in his career. He has proven that he has the upside to be a special player in the L, now he has to prove that he has what it takes to keep improving year after year while being the face of the franchise in Memphis.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 6 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 7 8
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3
Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 28 44 5 9

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • gomez831


  • ripslam

    Rudy Gay over KG? I don’t think so, at least not yet.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    Rudy can do it all, but only if oj and zach dont shoot so much

  • http://www.slamonline.com jumpman3224

    I love Rudy Gay, but this basically says he would be an all star in the East as he is ahead of 2010 NBA All Star Gerald Wallace. I’d take Wallace over Gay at this point.

  • Reflex

    Like him but he’ll always be a #2 imo, the Grizzlies over paid him by a fair bit

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I don’t agree with this ranking at all. There are too many cats that have already been ranked that I’d glady take over Gay.

  • Fat Lever

    So the Grizz essentially paid the 29th best player in the league $80M. Makes sense.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    come on now slam Manu Ginobli is far and away better then Rudy Gay. He was the best guard in the NBA for a stretch last season, Rudy Gay had a stretch where he wasn’t the best wing on his own team. Gay is a top 50 player but come one you just put him infront of two hall of famers who are still competing for titles

  • http://twitter.com/HarryByrdMan44 LA Huey

    I know projected output weigh heavily in these rankings but I think this ranking is a bit generous.

  • JTaylor21

    Manure has NEVER being the best guard at anytime in his overrated career. Also RGay would be putting up better numbers if he didn’t have to play with 2 other players that need the ball in their hands. I don’t know if he’s better than ZBo on his team but I can see why Slam choose him over KG. KG has been slowing down the last couple of years and evidenced by his finals showing will slow down even more this year.

  • john

    Rudy is not better than OJ Mayo. Just no, just no. quit telling lies, the truth will come out when Mayo decides to become a takeover this year.

  • SpaceJam

    Hey these are projected rankings. They expect him to put more of it together after time in the world championships. Potential is a scary thing.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    JTaylor to be 100% honest with you, your opinion means nothing to me. I feel that you have no knowledge whatsoever of what your trying to talk about. And I highly doubt you watch more then the games that are on national television, or against your hometown team. Especially if you said ZBo is the one being snubbed….can you spell defense

  • http://gregoden.com roybot

    If you cant see that Manu is one of the best guards of his generation and at a point WAS one of the best 2 or 3 guards in the NBA, then you are either not a big basketball fan, or you are oblivious to anything that happens outside of ESPN/TNT/ABC.

  • JTaylor21

    I try to watch every team because I don’t have a favorite team, so yes I’ve seen MEM play more than a dozen times. So you’re telling me that RGay’s a better player than ZBo, if so then you’re the one with the -15 IQ.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Statistically no i am not saying Rudy Gay is better then Zach Randolph but when your talking about basketball skills and all around game then yes he is and its not really debatable. Rudy Gay first of all is an above average defender, which seperates him from Zach Randolph right away and ends the debate. Both are above average offensive players, Randolph being more effective at his position, but against another top tier talent Rudy Gay is more useful. You have to hide zach randolph on defense, and he is totally useless in a fast break, fast pace situation. Rudy Gay is productive in every aspect of the game, he may shoot a little to much but he is on a lottery team more worried about improving then efficiency. Either way both players are relatively the same for their position, good players that aren’t going to lead a team to anything. Neither are better then Manu. Manu was 10th in MVP voting last year, rudy gay and zach randolph (are on the same team and ranked higher) didn’t even make the playoffs.

  • http://www.davidsparks.me David Sparks

    these jack wagons don’t seem to understand that this top 50 is projected for this coming, yet to be played season. Listing guys like Manu who are on the way out, G.Wallace being an all star last year when the east was somewhat weak at that spot + the bobcats getting a big boost from Brown, Sayin he’s not better than broken down Garnet and saying he’s not better than Mayo is ridiculous. I have grizzlies season tickets. I’ve seen him more than all you fools & he’s made moderate improvements in a category every year while remaining largely consistent. this is a solid spot for him and there’s nobody under this list i would say is better and more well rounded CURRENTLY.

    Rudy did not have a stretch were he wasn’t the best wing on the team. i know, i was at every game. this is not mayo’s year. mayo doesn’t have the dog in him. he’s a team guy who is undersized at the 2, can’t dribble at the 1 and defers to much by desire. he’s not a main guy. he’s a great role player. he will not surpass Rudy.
    too many people here are listing past exploits of great stars as justification for being ranked higher than Gay ignoring the fact that this is projected for the coming season. next year = Gay > garnet, mayo, wallace, zbo, manu

    in regards to zbo. he was an established player that had a redemption story and incredible season last year. he got a coaches nod. like i’ve said, this list is projected next year. this team will be both rudy and zbos but dont be surprised if you see Rudy and Zbo swap in the all star appearance category. especially after the USA stint, Melo probably going to the east and Al Jefferson playing with Dwill. the numbers game will probably see Rudy and Zbo swap the all star nod.

  • JTaylor21

    Come on SON, ZBo’s one of the BEST PFs and has been that way for the past 5yrs, people just don’t give him his just due because of the perception that he’s a bad apple. Don’t let the body type fool ya, dude is the BEST offensive rebounder in the league bar none, one of the best post scorers and possess a mean mid-range J. Of course RGay’s better talent wise (there are few players in the league who are) but ZBo’s the better player at this moment. If SNash can be crowned the best point by some media and fans without EVER playing D then ZBo’s better than Gay.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Except your not talking to some media outlet. Your talking to a fan who is over-involved in the comings and goings of every team in the league. I unlike most media outlets do not crown one sided players the best at anything. I am aware Randolph is “one of the best pf’s” you can’t be a top 50 player in the nba without being one of the best at your position. BUT defense matters (more then offense) and I judge players based on their All-Around ability. Which seems like SLAM top 50 is getting closer to doing, considering david west is not top 30 anymore, and Rudy Gay clocked in higher then Zach Randolph. I am 100% aware of how good Zach Randolph is and has been over his career, I am also 100% aware that Rudy Gay has one of the hardest jobs in the entire league. And there is a difference between talent and skill J, if we were judging this on Talent and not skill Rudy would be a top 15 player. But since this is about skill (all-around skill) then this spot makes decent sense. Until you take into account that he is infront of Manu, who is the most productive and efficient shooting guard in the NBA outside of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade (when healthy). which he is and has been since the last 2 months of last season, oh and he took this summer off which if i’m not mistaken is only the second time he has done that in his entire career.

  • Sbrubbles

    If Rudy Gay is the 5th best SF in the league, who’s left? In no particular order:

    Paul Pierce
    Ron Artest

    Hold up, somebody’s getting left out…

  • Sbrubbles

    Almost forgot about Melo!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    And comparing Steve Nash (who actually leads his team to win after win after win – HIS ENTIRE CAREER) to Zach (i get good stats for terrible teams) randolph is a joke right? You can’t see the inherent difference in 10 straight playoff berths to Zach Randolph who last helped a team win as the most improved player in the NBA for Portland in 2002-03. (Oh and if Zach Randolph were as good as your trying to make him sound at offense, as a big man who is one of the best post scorers in the NBA don’t you think he would shoot better then 47% for his career? i mean seriously if it was such a huge gap between him and rudy (45% for his career) on offense wouldn’t he atleast need to shoot a much better % from 10feet closer to the rim?)

  • JTaylor21

    NBK, it’s whatever bra everyone has their own preferences. I will choose ZBo over RGay at this very moment because how many games did the Grizz improve by in Bo’s first year. Anyways why do people continue to claim that Manure’s the third best SG over a guy like BRoy, who’s being the main guy on a playoff team unlike gino who’s NEVER being asked to do such. Do you really think that gino can stay healthy and be the main guy on a playoff team, HIGHLY unlikely, dude can’t even stay healthy when he’s minutes and workload are reduced. BRoy over Manu any day of the week.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I don’t have a problem with people putting Roy over Manu so idk what your trying to prove with that. Efficiency and productivity are different then skill and ability. Ofcourse Brandon won’t be as efficient as a guy like Manu, he is the focul point of Portlands offense and teams gameplan around how to defend him. Manu doesn’t have to worry abut that, which is why for the second half of last season he ran roughshot over the entire NBA and was the best SG for a good stretch of time. Some (who actually watch and know basketball) were even saying he had a 2 week stretch where he was arguably the best player in the League. (Him, Amar’e, LeBron absolutely tore up the league in February and March and were all being considered the best player just for that stretch of time)

  • AI TO MIAMI!!!

    man this is gay! everyone arguing about one dude and anotha. its goin nowhere so just leave at that. rudy gay is number 28!

  • vanillagorilla

    Man everyone is hating on his spot this year. I definitely think this is the right area for him. Rudy is THE integral piece for the Grizz and has proved his worth on many occasions. Gay is an efficient scorer with a newly developed consistent 3pt shot and continually evolving mid range/drive game with good court vision for a forward on top of being an above average defender. He is certainly no Durant, LBJ or even PPierce who can take over a game almost at will and inspire their team in troublesome situations but he is a consistent 1st option with a very high ceiling that few swingmen in the league can claim. Nobody wants to accept the decline of former superstars i.e. Garnett, Pierce, Ginobili etc.. but the truth is Gay is a much more valuable commodity. As he continues to learn how exactly to put all his strengths together and be that dominant focal point I can see Rudy becoming a top 15 or even top 10 player in the next couple years.

  • jakedouglasroberts

    I agree with my man David. As much as I love z-bo, and I do appreciate what he has brought to the team AND the community (buying fans tickets, paying people’s electricity bills at Christmas, etc.), in my opinion rudy and marc are the two most integral pieces on this team. So far oj has been more than.serviceable, and at times has shown flashes of absolute offensive brilliance, but game to game, rudy has been entirely more consistent. I think, as a fellow season ticket holder, these are the things you have to be a true fan of the team to really see. This is the FIRST time rudy has had ANY stability within the structure of this team. Same coach, same offensive and defensive schemes, same starting five, etc. I honestly think he will really shine in the upcoming season, hopefully averaging a couple more points and a couple more rebounds (adding to our stellar rebounding starting front line). Now that we have a more legitimate bench, I don’t think there should be much doubt that we could reach the 7th-8th seed in the west this season. Remember, for a decent stretch of time around the all-star break, we were hovering around the 5th spot before our starters lost steam. Finally, its a good time to be an optimistic grizz fan!

  • Ouse

    Terrible ranking. He hasn’t improved the past 3 years, making his 16 place jump ridiculous.

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    cosign nbk on his jtaylor criticisms. I refer mr. Taylor to my previous comments on manu’s ranking for an actual examination of players and not just a superficial statement like everything he says.

  • Future Man

    Top SF’s (4 spots left)

    1) LeBron
    2) Durant
    3) Melo
    4) Pearce

    So that means Granger, Iggy, & Artest don’t make the list?

    I can see no Artest and Iggy as a 2-guard, but no Granger? Could he be considered a power forward or is he just left out?

  • Overtime

    Also cosign NBK, I think JTaylor has Ginobili confused with someone else

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    Rudy Gay better than KG? Seriously? Who would you take on your team right now, for that one season? This list isn’t based on potential is it? Its based on who’ll be the best players this season

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Rudy Gay is a good player, but he will never be great. The Grizzles overpaid for a role player, but OJ Mayo is the face of the team to me. OJ Mayo to me plays like Kobe Bryant a poor man’s, but with practice I see OJ Mayo becoming a superstar. OJ Mayo is the face of the team and anybody saying OJ and Zbo jack up shots, have never seen Memphis play, because Rudy tries to be the hero every night if a game is close. I would take OJ over Rudy anyday. Its will be a shame if OJ is not up here, because he will have better numbers than Rudy and all Rudy is, is a scorer–thats it. I really hope OJ complains that he wants out or gets traded, because I feel he will waste away in Memphis and Rudy is very overrated, all he does is try to score, but I guess Slam people watched to much FIBA this summer and saw Rudy play against inferior teams and thought he must be close to top 25 in the league if he is on FIBA Team. NOOOOOOO!!! OJ Mayo is the now and future for the Grizzles and Rudy needs to be the compliment to him, not the other way around. BOOK IT!!!

  • French toast

    @ The Seed : +1
    Imo Rudy Gay is overpaid and not that good.
    He taks too many shot and i think he lacks of love for the game !
    80m come one !!!
    OJ should be the key player of this franchise !

  • paolo paolo

    Talented player with a great skill set, but not a franchise caliber player. The contract is a big one, but there are plenty of worse deals in the League.

    Gay and I am quite sure Iggy would be perfect 2nd options on the team. They do not possess mental toughness and desire to carry a team

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