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Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm  |  91 responses

Top 50: Rudy Gay, no. 26

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

One of the hardest things for an athlete to come to terms with is that a team can win without him. Last season, Rudy Gay learned just that while watching his Memphis Grizzlies upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the Playoffs.

Nobody is saying that the Grizzlies are a better team without Gay, but as Memphis looks to build on its historic season, it will be Gay’s job to fit in and keep the good times rolling.

Fresh off signing a five-year, $82 million contract with the Grizzlies in July, Rudy Gay looked like a strong return on investment last season, averaging career highs in every major statistical category except points per game. But an injury to the shoulder on Gay’s non-shooting arm cut his season short in February.

What seemed like a blow to any Playoff chances Memphis had turned out to be anything but. As Gay watched from the sidelines, Sam Young and Shane Battier filled in admirably and Memphis went 15-10 to finish the regular season with its young star out of the lineup.

Gay, who will be fully healthy to start next season, now must hope he doesn’t disrupt the team’s chemistry from last season’s Playoff run when he returns. If his comeback goes smoothly, Memphis should be able to take another step forward as it will be adding an All-Star-caliber player to the team that upset San Antonio.

Since taking off in his second season in the NBA, Gay has been a model of consistency. Over the last four seasons he’s averaged between 18.9 and 20.1 ppg each season and between 5.6 and 6.2 rpg.

Gay’s first return to game action since suffering his injury came on Sept. 21, when he tallied 17 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in an Impact Basketball game.

On October 1, he played in Chris Paul’s exhibition charity game. While the defense leaves something to be desired in these games, it was still a promising sign that Gay finished with 38 points.

Slotting in a healthy Gay to the lineup could make Memphis a legitimate contender for the Western Conference title next season. While the team is deep with Battier, Young, O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen to play the wing positions, Gay’s offensive potential is much higher than any of the other four.

While Gay’s numbers are strong, the consensus around the League is that he has barely scraped his potential. He is still just 25 years old, and one of the highest-ranked players on this list never to have made an All-Star game.

Everything points to this year being the one where he makes the team. This is the best supporting cast that Gay has ever had. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will take the attention off Gay, and Mike Conley Jr’s progression will only help Gay increase his scoring.

While Gay missed out on last season’s run, he can be the reason the team goes further in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. An exciting and young team, the Grizzlies are poised for success, and Gay, the longest-tenured of the starting five, can appreciate it the most after many years of meaningless basketball.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Good work. I hope he reaches his potential.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    OK, now I really hope Danny Granger isn’t making this list cause I’d take Rudy Gay, and many other players on this list, over DG any day.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    “Gay gas” sorry had to.. Good Write up. I like this cat. I have to admit I was surprised that Memphis played so well with out him.

  • MUBWAR

    Ok enigmatic stop it. DG is better scorer than gay. should I remind you he got 2 season of 25ppg under his belt. That’s all star numbers. He averages about the same rebounds and assists. They both average about a block and a steal. Don’t forget DG was playing like an all star before he decided to take last season off

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Danny Granger is not better than Rudy Gay, and arguing otherwise is ludicrous. Sorry, but that had to be said.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    Rudy Gay just had a monster season. Really sucks that injury had to end it early. Man, I’ve been a big fan of Rudy since he was balling at Connecticut. Around that time I wanted to Raptors to shoot for a Slasher/Dunker like Rudy Gay. Sadly, they took Bargnani instead =.=

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I’m Pretty sure Rudy Gay would have (1) 25PPG season as well if he was on a team where he could shoot 19 shots a game. Plus Gay is a much better individual defender then Granger. Gay is also better at creating his own shot & he shoots a higher % from the field. I still think DG makes this list, but I don’t think he’s better then Gay.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    I can’t believe DG is yet to come. I’d have him on the ouskirts of the Top 50. I’d take the last 8 players listed and a handfull of others before i’d take DG. He’s good don’t get me wrong, but he should not be as high as he is about to be.

  • MUBWAR

    They both average 16.1 shot attempts so that reasoning is out the window nbk

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    You said (2) 25PPG seasons under his belt. When really he only has (1). And when he got that (1) he shot 19 shots a game. So your ability to reason is what’s out.

  • Overtime

    Im hoping Granger shows up next. Out of interest, where do guys have Love appearing.
    (Yes, Rudy Gay still makes me think of Kevin Love)

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Overtime, I like Love more than most on this site. Personally I have him top 20. MUBWAR, you don’t know much about basketball dood.

  • MUBWAR

    im guessing .5 makes a difference. ok for people like nbk DG averaged 25.1 in 2009 and 24.5 in 2010. On the other hand Gay never averaged above 20.1 and Love should crack the top 20

  • 44

    I think it’s funny how it’s been mentioned that the Grizzlies should trade Gay for cap reasons since Memphis took OKC to game seven without him. In reality, Mayo was their only outside scorer in that series and if they would’ve had Rudy Gay you could make a strong argument saying Memphis would’ve advanced past OKC. Who knows what would’ve happened without him getting injured…

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Do you really doubt that Rudy Gay could average 25 a game if he wanted to?
    I mean, I thought that was obvious from watching him hoop. He’s better than Granger. He’s got a better handle, better shot of the bounce, is a more creative scorer, better defender and just has a very good feel for the game. His one problem prior to last year was inconsistency. He had a bad mindset about that, but his stint with USA Basketball, where he also killed while Granger slummed, got Gay’s mind right and now I expect big things from him.
    And I’m guessing that O.J. Mayo must not make the list this year, which I find a little surprising.

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    24.1 actually.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Where Granger is better is at the free throw line. In his big scoring season he was at the 7 attempts per game mark, which made up for lackluster shooting.
    This past season his attempts dropped, but they were still higher than Gay’s, and that allowed his PPG average to stay close to Gay’s despite Granger shooting 42 percent from the field compared to Gay’s 47 percent.
    Granger is pretty much a shooter, but he’s not as good a shooter as Gay, and he doesn’t have a more well rounded game. His point totals are partially due to his position on that team.

  • Overtime

    That is weird that Mayo isn’t on the list, surely hes more valuable than Lopez?
    David Lee had better not be on here btw

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    I strongly doubt Mayo made the list after last season…

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Hmm…stop what, MUBWAR?
    Stop being a reasonable fan of basketball who’s able to see beyond stats?
    Nah thanks, I’m good.
    Anyways, I think Mayo’s coming off the bench last season may have hurt him as far as making this list, but it’s unfortunate because I really like the kid.
    I’d love it if the Bulls could swing a deal for dude.

  • jarrett

    not only is danny granger not better than Rudy Gay, hes not better than Tyreke evans eaith

  • 44

    Mayo had some personal issues affect his season…but he’s definitely a top 50 talent right now. I have no idea why the Bulls didn’t make a move for him before the deadline.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Mayo would be the perfect pick up for the Bulls.
    It will never happen. Lol.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Are y’all really asking why a player that started only 17gms and avg. a measly 11/2/2 on 40% shooting didn’t make the list. Unless your name is Ginobili or Odom, no backup deserves to make this list.

  • 44

    I agree with you JTaylor…this list is based off last year and that’s why he’s not on it. But Mayo would be a starter on a lot of teams. It worked better for him to come off the bench with the Grizz during the season…but he was starting during the OKC series with Gay out and he was Memphis’ only hope when OKC packed the paint to stop Randolph and Gasol. It’s too bad Gay wasn’t healthy.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Why do you people focus only on stats? Mayo is underrated, and was injured last year. I expect him to do work this year, kind of like Harden.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    A guy can dream, Allen! :)

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Agree with Allen. I’m a big Mayo fan. Kid is a 20PPG scorer when need be. I’d take Mayo over Kevin Martin. I think he is Equal to Ray Allen this next season. Way better than David West. As good or better than Young Money Jennings.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Who’s focusing only on stats? Didn’t you watch the 2nd round vs OKC. One of the reasons why Memphis lost despite having a significant advantaged down low was the lack of perimeter shooting to space the floor and give their bigs room to work. If Mayo’s the guy you claim he is, why couldn’t he fill that role for them? Instead Memphis had to rely on TAllen and Battier (two players that struggled on offense).
    If anything, Mayo is overrated. The guy was the 3rd pick on the 08 Draft and was talked about being the next phenom, yet what did he do in USC and now in Memphis to warrant such high praise.

  • 44

    I hope Mayo is back to form this year too. Memphis tried to trade him to Indiana last year…then he was their best outside scorer in the postseason. I hope they find a bigger role for him in the offense once Gay is back…but it’s hard because Randolph and Gay both need a decent amount of shot attempts.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    This list is not based on last year, this list is based on what the SLAM staff think will be a projection of next year.
    Going by that model, Mayo deserves to be on here cause he should have a bounce-back season and, as Allen said, will do work.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    If Granger gets left off the top 50 then idk what was even going down in the voting process. He isn’t better then Gay, I think that should be pretty clear if you actually watch their games, but he is definitely, without a doubt on earth better then everyone that is not a center from 42 up to 50.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    @Enigmatic, sorry if I say something wrong but, isn’t Mayo’s skill set somewhere similar to Ben Gordon?

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    CoSign nbk…. wth.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    I mean, when they had Ben Gordon, but then again, I realize they didn’t keep him cause they didn’t want to overpay him. Which turned out for the best still.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    Actually, I felt Mayo was the difference maker when in the game, just like Harden.
    Unfortunately, he isn’t the defender Tony Allen is, and Hollins wanted to get run for Tony Allen.
    When Mayo was in, he DID stretch the floor and make the game easier for the bigs, I don’t know what series you were watching.
    Hollins relied on Battier and Allen because he LOVES defense, not because Mayo wasn’t getting it done. Mayo was doing work for real.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    So that must mean that he starts in the place of TAllen? You know the same guy that’s one of the best perimeter defender in the entire L, I doubt it. It’s even more unlikely now that RGay is healthy. OJ Mayo is stuck coming off the bench and sharing mins with Allen for the foreseeable future unless CHI finds a way to trade for him (not happening).

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop Allenp

    I suggest you go to Basketball Reference and pull the Game Logs for the playoffs for Mayo.
    Granted, he could shoot better, but he still did a good job for them despite looking over his shoulder, in my opinion.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Mayo’s skillset IMO (if I may try and answer a question that is not directed at me) (i apologize, kinda) more closely resembles Jason Terry then Ben Gordon. He is more of a PG then he gets credit for. But he is a better defender then both guys

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Just because he was allegedly “doing work” doesn’t mean that he deserves to be on this list. The man couldn’t beat out one of the worst offensive players in the L for the 2 spot, on a team that was in dire need of perimeter shooting during the playoffs.
    Talk about lowering the bar for a guy that went 3rd in the 08 Draft and was chosen before Westbrook, Love and Gordon.

  • 44

    Mayo actually started games 6 and 7 over Battier…Memphis neede Tony Allen to guard Durant with Gay out. Allenp is right about Mayo making a difference in that series. Memphis only made it to game 7 because of his scoring ability once OKC crowded the paint. He also hit some clutch shots to extend that triple OT game…but he fouled out and they eventually lost. If Gay would’ve been healthy he could’ve guarded Durant, allowing Battier and Allen to share time on Westbrook. Memphis was worn out by game 7, some rest would’ve helped tremendously.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    OJ Mayo played more minutes in the playoffs then Tony Allen.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    niQ – Mayo is miles ahead of Gordon defensively.
    Granted, Mayo probably wouldn’t be as clutch or put up the same scoring numbers as BG did with the Bulls, but that’s really not needed now with Rose anyways.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    A whopping .9 mins more per game?
    I forgot that he started over Battier in Gm 6/7. It still doesn’t warrant him being on this list.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    still more minutes. hardly warrants “The man couldn’t beat out one of the worst offensive players in the L for the 2 spot, on a team that was in dire need of perimeter shooting during the playoffs.” – they depended on Mayo in creating space & good shots for them from the perimeter. Now I’m not saying he necessarily deserves a spot on the list, but he was the only thing that gave Memphis a chance late in that series. (Other then Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol)

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    Enigmatic. Yea, I forgot to mention that part about defense. I do think Mayo is better than Gordon at defense though. Anyways, top 25 up next. Who’s going to be #25? I’m thinking Pierce, Zach Randolph or maybe Blake…

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I bet Zach Randolph is top 15. I have seen him ranked as high as 9 on top 100/50 lists this summer. There are a few commenters here who will try and argue him as the 2nd best 4 in the league.

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    Actually you might be right nbk, considering how the list has been offensively composed so far. And as for best 4, I think he will be behind Pau, Amare, Love, Aldridge, and Dirk….no particular order..

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I think I had him like 16 or 17 w/ Amare in my top 21. I think Aldridge Pau & Dirk are clearly better players. And a solid argument can be made for KLove.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    The man played .9 more mins than TAllen, you’re making it sound like he was out there for 35mins each game. It still means that he couldn’t beat out a terrible offensive player for sole possession of the 2 spot.
    Why is that so hard for you to understand? This is not rocket science.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    in the 2 games Memphis won against Oklahoma City, OJ Mayo played 39 and 41 minutes. He only played over 30 minutes in 2 other games, game 4 (triple overtime), and game 7. Even if it is Rocket Science to figure out what “position” he was getting beat out at. (Tony Allen was guarding the opposing teams 1 or 3 at ALL times, and offensively is as much of a shooting guard as Eric Snow) He was still clearly the best perimeter player on the Grizzlies on both sides of the court in the playoffs.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Well, to be fair, that terrible offensive player is also a brilliant defensive player.
    He was my personal choice for DPOY.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    What are you trying to prove here Taylor?

  • ctkennedy

    Rudy skillset u can argue is better than Kevin Durant …hes missin something i just dont know what it is

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I couldn’t argue that. Or know any way too.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    That Mayo is overrated and shouldn’t be anywhere near this list.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    ctkennedy… get outta here with that. Durantula is a top tier Elite player. Gay imo never will be in that top tier elite superstar level. Not that he doesn’t have a chance, but Durant is already there. And Durant is younger I believe. Gay has a real good shot. Durant has an Elite shot. Gay is a good rebounder. Durant is slightly better. Neither are special passers. At this point though Kevin is the one that has shown to be elite. Taylor, common, you honestly would take all these players listed in the top 50 over OJ Mayo? You sleeping.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    ctkennedy, you are seriously sleeping on KD, since you seem to think both Tyreke Evans and Rudy Gay are/will be better/as good as him.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Yes, expect for BJennings. I would even take Boooooozer over him and everyone knows how I feel about him.
    Remember this list is about next season’s expectations not what they did last year or two seasons back. The expectations for Mayo is that he has to battle 2 other players for one spot and most likely will not be the starter on opening day.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    He is not on the list Taylor. He may be overrated by some people, but I don’t see what your problem is.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    I don’t have a problem with OJ, I was just replying when someone questioned why Mayo’s not on the list.
    What I do have a problem with is lowering the standard for a former Top-3 pick and acting like he had a successful season after failing to beat out Tony Allen for a starting spot.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Well his role got switched on him. idk if you watch summer league, but they were (before they extended Conley) contemplating making OJ a PG, but they weren’t sure if he could run the position from a creating off the dribble standpoint (and there were supposedly some concerns about whether or not he could guard the position). That and Gay came out so red hot that it seemed like Memphis would be better served with scoring off the bench because their 2nd unit was among the weakest in the league. They didn’t switch OJ to a reserve role because he was the worse player or anything like that.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    The thing is we all know James Harden is a better player than Thabo Sefelloshaahh. But we all understand why he starts also. Now Harden has become so good that he is going to shove him outta the starting spot most likely. I think OJ will bump TA (the best perimeter defender in the L) outta the starting spot also. Because he is wayyy better than TA when factoring in both sides of the floor. I don’t think OJ ahould be anywhere higher than 45. But I would have liked to have seen him in the Top 50 because from my perspective he is a top 50 Player in the L.

  • ctkennedy

    i dont think Gay got it n him to be great…but he damn sho got the skills n he a better athlete than KD …i think KD love the game more n has more the will to be great…Gay has always been missin the drive to me back to his UCONN days

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Durant doesn’t need crazy athleticism. He has a 7’5″ wingspan or something rediculous like that. And he has Elite scoring skills. Why do you think that scrawny kid scores so much on everybody. He is the MMA equivilent of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. He’s just to long.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Pause.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    @ nbk: What exactly makes Danny Granger better than Kevin Martin?

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    JHarden despite being the #3 pick, has never been a starter. On the other hand, Mayo was the starting 2 for the first two seasons of his career (avg. 38mpg), so for him to all of a sudden lose his spot to TA points to more than Memphis wanting to shore up its bench.
    Anyone with a keen eye knows he digressed last season (from mid-range, 3pt line and FT line). Now, could he regain his rookie and sophomore form? Sure but I’m going off last season.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    I was trying to figure out how to word that one Enig and just decided to go with it. And then you gotta go and call me out on it! Common! You better than that! (Mark Jackson voice)

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    And i’m going off next season Taylor.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Nah, there’s really no way to word it without it instigating a sophomoric “pause” from a bored, nothing better to do worker like me. Ha ha my bad.

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    Defense Teddy. Although you could make an argument for him. I could also see a logical argument for Luol Deng. But IMO DG is the better player

  • AirForceONE

    How is Rudy Gay any better than Loul Deng? Loul Deng is a defensive stopper and is very duriable. Rudy Gay isnt the best defender, has injuries, and is very hot and cold with his jumper. In my opinion, Rudy Gay should be ranked in the 41-38 range. I wouldnt trade Loul Deng, Eric Gordon, or Josh Smith straight up for Rudy Gay. Gay has only averaged more than 20.0 points per game in one (20.2 ppg) of his five NBA seasons. This guy has some sick highlights but he doesn’t create for teammates (1.9 assist per game for his career) and in my opinion he is overrated.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    @AirForceONE – I’m a huge Deng fan, but I’d put Rudy Gay ahead of him.
    For one, you really can’t knock Gay for being injured last year and call Deng “durable” when he only played in 182 regular season games out of a possible 246 in the three seasons prior to last season.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Lake, so you could see the future now? If that’s the case, why not tell me whether the stock market rebounds this week, what are the likelihood of me having a threesome with Palin and her daughter and when the world’s going to end?

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    JTaylor, just come chill up here with me in Wasilla, and make sure you bring a Glen Rice Michigan jersey with you.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Well…that and some black face paint.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    I need to know which daughter…. Details man. DETAILS!

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Also, maybe some blow smuggled in a 55 pound drum to get the party started.
    Lake, the one with boulders between her shoulders.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    If Chicago called Memphis and said they wanted to trade Deng for Gay straight up, Memphis would hang up instantly. If the reverse call was made Passing would cream his pants.
    That is what makes Rudy Gay a better player.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Passing?

  • BuzzerBeater

    Regarding OJ Mayo being on the bench, it’s not because he was beat out by anyone for the starting lineup – it’s that the coach left him there as the main scoring option coming off the bench, much like Ben Gordon did.

  • http://Slamonline.coM nbk

    Echo

  • http://360special.blogspot.com/ dev0

    will be much higher next season. would have been much higher this season if not for the injury

  • sam

    OJ Mayo has a lot of potential, he is going to bounce back and have a breakout season. To me he is every bit as good as any young sg.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Max

    I love Gay!
    He’s a beast on 2K also

  • RetrOhh

    Reeeeeal off topic .. But my boy Jamal Crawford aint making the list :(
    Damn … That dudes the hottest thing comin off a bench yo ! ha BookThat

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Paxson. autocorrect.

  • http://Www.fiba.com Darksaber

    I actually preferred ‘passing’, Allen.
    Amusing.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Passing has been known to cream his pants every now and then…

  • http://slamonline 3kings

    good player. Really improved his game and may take it to an all star level

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