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Should the Wizards Trade for Rudy Gay?


The Wizards have been in the headlines the past few days with rumors they've made a "good" offer to Memphis for SF Rudy Gay. The details remain fuzzy, but one report suggests Washington have offered rookie Bradley Beal. Others suggest a deal would involve swapping Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, as well as possible draft picks.

Here's my view: The Wizards should not trade for Rudy Gay. He's an average player who is grossly overpaid for his level of production. The Wizards shouldn't sacrifice ANY potential long-term asset for Gay, including Beal, draft picks or future cap space.

Beal, as I've chronicled several times so far this season, is having struggles common to teen-aged rookie guards. His performance in college, as well as the fact that he's been playing an unusually high proportion of his minutes against starters, suggests he'll be a good pro if he works hard. And, his history suggests that he'll do just that.

As regular readers know, I hated the trade for Okafor and Ariza from the start. These two have been among the team's more productive players, but that's faint praise indeed. Why wouldn't I trade them for Gay? Both Okafor and Ariza have contracts that expire after next season. Gay's contract extends for an extra year -- at $19 million.

But hey, some have argued, Gay might be overpaid, but he's a borderline All-Star. He'd definitely be an upgrade over what the Wizards currently have on the roster. Except, only in the bizzaro world of NBA evaluation is a guy like Gay a "borderline All-Star.

In reality, Gay is a pretty average NBA player -- below average at rebounding and assists, a bit above average in blocking shots and stealing the ball. His scoring rate is higher than average, but that's because he shoots significantly more often than the average player. Unfortunately, he's below average shooting the ball from two-point and three-point range.

It's not that Gay is a bad player -- he's not. But, he's also not a good player. On balance, he's...well...average. Paying top dollar for an average producer is a sucker's bet. It's a poor way to build a team. And so, I fully expect the Wizards to trade Okafor, Ariza, Beal AND a 1st round pick for Gay. (I'm half joking here.)

To the numbers. Below is a table showing Player Production Average -- a stat of my own devising, which credits players for doing things that help teams win games and debits them for things that hurt the effort to win games. Average = 100; higher is better, and replacement level = 45.

This week, I'm introducing a column called STA%. This is an estimate, created by Mike Goodman at APBRmetrics, of the proportion of starters each player faced during their minutes on the floor. I'm also using this estimate of "minutes against starters" to make a kind of "degree of difficulty" adjustment to the overall rating. As Goodman has shown, it's easier to "get stats" while playing against reserves. Players with a higher "starter%" are facing tougher competition when they're on the floor.

Nene Hilario 21  23.9  64%  139  136 
Emeka Okafor 34  23.9  82%  113  123 
Jordan Crawford 31  29.8  64%  100  99 
Trevor Ariza 17  24.2  75%  94  97 
A.J. Price 19  27.1  77%  84  94 
Martell Webster 33  27.1  69%  84 87 
Trevor Booker 10  22.5  74%  82 86 
Bradley Beal 32  31.5  77%  65 69 
Shelvin Mack 20.1  58%  70 68 
Cartier Martin 23  17.6  45%  69 62 
Garrett Temple 29.2  71%  45 43 
Shaun Livingston 17  18.8  56%  38 36 
John Wall 21.0  48%  -- 32 
Chris Singleton 28  17.2  57%  33 32 
Kevin Seraphin 33  25.5  58%  27 24 
Earl Barron 11  11.1  46%  11 10 
Jan Vesely 27  12.9  49%  13
Jannero Pargo 14.6  43%  -63 -56 

There's some minor fluctuation because of the new starter percentage adjustment. The adjustment doesn't significantly alter anyone's rating, however. Guys who weren't good producers still aren't good producers. Guys who were doing okay, are still doing okay.

Biggest improver this week was Okafor. If the Wizards are interested in winning games, they would be smart to increase Okafor's playing time and decrease minutes for poor producers like Seraphin, Singleton and Vesely.

Assuming that Wall will at minimum return to his pre-injury performance levels (a PPA around 100), the numbers suggest a rotation of:

  • PG -- Wall and Price
  • SG -- Crawford and Beal
  • SF -- Ariza and Webster
  • PF -- Nene and Booker
  • C -- Okafor and Nene

That's IF the Wizards want to win more games. If they've decided to tank, they should continue playing Vesely, Singleton and Seraphin, and they should look to trade vets for future assets. No, Gay is not a future asset.