Rudy Gay was brought to Memphis in a draft day deal in June of 2006. This trade upset a lot of people since it meant giving up on Shane Battier, one of if not the most popular player ever to don a Grizzlies uniform either in Memphis or Vancouver.
That wasn't the roughest part of his first two seasons in Memphis.
Two coaches fired (and rumor of a 3rd possibly any day), a veteran bought out of his contract and a drop from the playoffs to the worst team in the league followed.
Rudy's rookie year was solid for a 20 yr old. 10.8 ppg, 42% shooting from the field, 4.5 rpg and nearly a block and a steal a game (0.9 each per game). People commented that he was no Shane Battier but he had some promise. After the 2nd season in the Rudy Gay era you don't hear too many complaints that he shouldn't have been traded for Shane.
Rudy exploded in his 2nd season. He averaged over 20 ppg becoming only the 3rd Grizzlies player to achieve this level. His rebounding, assists, steals and blocks were all improved from his rookie season. What was truly amazing was his shooting efficiency that improved dramatically. His FG% improved from 42.2% to 46.2%. His free throw shooting improved from 72.7% to 78.5% and while his 3 pt shooting declined slightly (36.4% to 34.2%) the overall effect was some of the most improved play of the year from any player.
More important than simply the total numbers were the 'clutch' numbers. Rudy's performance during the 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left and neither team ahead by more than 5 points (as defined by 82games.com) was all-star like. His per 48 minute production during these pressure filled points of the game equated to 33.7 ppg on 52.8% FG%!
Memphis may have finally found a player who doesn't just score 'plastic' points. And most of those points came without the assistance of a 2nd true threat. Gay's clutch numbers were assisted on a shockingly low 31% of his points. To put that in perspective his numbers to assists compare with the Kobe Bryants (23%) and LeBron Jame (23%) more than it does Carmello Anthony (58%) or Kevin Durant (61%) who's game are far more similar to Rudy's (more on this when I cover Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry by the way).
Rudy has improved dramatically from his rookie season to his sophomore season but still has a way to go to reach 'elite' status much less become a superstar. His ball-handling skills are below average which becomes a larger problem with the low level of assists he receives on his shot. His own assists are also low for a player wanting to be mentioned among the best in the league. Averaging around 2.5 apg puts him over an assist a game behind the average small forward in the league and way behind the leaders at his position. To be considered among the best in the league he needs to learn how to share the ball as much as score it.
Rudy needs to improve his defense and rebounding as well. It can't be expected that he can improve his shooting percentages by the amount he improved this season so for Rudy to move to the next level he will need to do more of the other things that players do in the NBA. Passing, rebounding and defending.
So what can we expect from a 22 yr old Rudy Gay next year? Honestly I believe Rudy can become the all-time single season scoring average leader for the Grizzlies next season. Now granted that isn't saying a lot since he only needs to average 24 ppg to reach that level, but all the same that mark is within his reach in only his 3rd year in the league.
Throw in 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game and he will get some serious notice around the league. Not enough to be named to the all-star team but notice just the same.