Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rudy Gay: Is He a SG, SF or PF

Marc Iavaroni has a new talk show on WHBQ 56 AM radio. In his inaugural show he made some comments about Rudy Gay and whether he is better served as a wing player or an interior player. Memphis Slim pointed out a particular section of the show about Rudy Gay.

You need to listen to the entire interview because it is not common that NBA coaches actually take the time to do this for their fans. It goes to the whole 'reconnecting with the fans' attitude that we have seen from the Grizzlies this season and is greatly appreciated.

Back to Rudy, Iavaroni made the following comments yesterday.

Rudy is a 4th quarter player right now...He has a lot of skills, a lot of heart and he wants to be a great player.
That has to be music to everyone's ears. Marc discussed the difficulty a 20 yr old kid has in taking charge in the 4th quarter and how he has to develop and grow into that role. Iavaroni also mentioned how he is going to encourage him to be that player. With Gasol and Miller question marks in that role it is good to know that someone is being developed to be the 4th quarter go-to guy.

Iavaroni also discussed how Rudy could be a "Phoenix 4" type of player, comparing him to Shawn Marion.
Basically the Phoenix 4 is, for the fans out there, basically having Shawn Marion at the number 4 spot and having the ability to outrun fours and outspace fours so they have to go out on the floor and guard him where he can knock down jumpers or a three or just drive by them. And just mitigate the difference in size with quickness and jumping ability. Most important is rebounding. The reason it works in Phoenix is because Shawn Marion is an undersized, 6-7 four who can rebound like a big four.
The Key to this working is not losing rebounding and rebounding is a subject for a different blog altogether. However we have seen Rudy's ability to rebound actually improve when he plays the four instead of the two or the three. Why is this?

I think the answer to why Rudy's rebounding appears to improve against the opponents' 4 has to do with the spacing issue Iavaroni brought up. It is far more difficult for a slower big man to get into position for rebounds when playing outside of the paint than it is being closer to the basket. The difficulty Rudy is having at the three has to do with his ball handling, something that was pointed out in before he entered the draft. By putting him at the power forward position his ball handling skills are less exposed against slower and bigger defenders.

Defensively Rudy's speed and leaping ability can offset his lack of bulk providing more than enough defensive pressure to most 4's in the league. In fact against the more perimeter oriented 4s like Dirk Nowiiski, Andrea Bargnani and Antwaan Jamison Rudy may be the better option than Stro, Darko or Pau.

Does this mean Rudy can't be effective as the 3? Absolutely not. Rudy can be a very formidable 3. Rudy's most effective in an open court game and that is true whether he plays the 2, 3 or 4 position. What it does mean that when the Grizzlies want to go 'small' (and remember that Rudy is the same height as Stro) that he can really put additional pressure on teams to match up with him.

Does this mean Rudy can't be effective as the 2? Partially. I believe Rudy can guard most of the 2's in the league and those he can't are generally the types of 2 guards who can't be contained by anyone (Kobe, DWade, etc). However his lack of ball handling skills make it difficult for him to be effective against these players and most 2 guards can find interior support if Rudy tries to post them up. So he wouldn't be effective driving against most 2 guards nor posting them up leaving him to take contested long range shots which is not his forte.

I see Rudy as the combo forward many people thought Hakim could become coming out of college. Hakim failed in this role but Rudy may succeed. Whether or not he reaches the level of Shawn Marion is a debate best saved for a few years down the road. He definitely is no Shawn Marion yet.

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