March 20, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) draws a charge against Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay (22) during the second quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Over the past few days, there have been a lot of rumors and stories about the prospects of the Celtics swinging a trade for Rudy Gay or DeMarcus Cousins from trustworthy news outlets. Celtics’ fans have been calling for a move for a majority of the season and it looks like they’re finally being heard. Yesterday the Celtics released Jarvis Varnado and Kris Joseph. That was because today was the deadline to cut players who you don’t want to guarantee a contract–but much speculation was made that they cut the two because they’re looking to make a roster move.
The cuts leave the Celtics with 11 players on their roster. It would make sense for them to try to make a move to bring in someone else. It doesn’t have to be a Gay or a Cousins, but just someone else.
Now getting back to the matter at hand, if these moves come into fruition what impact will it make on the team? Also, what will the Celtics have to give up for each player?
Well, first of all, with Gay you’re bringing in a huge contract–which will appear later in the post–and maybe giving up a package that will likely require Jared Sullinger or Avery Bradley and a pick or two. You likely have the leverage to not take in another bad contract and possibly even get some expiring contracts from the Girzzlies. Maybe a guy like Jerryd Bayless or Wayne Ellington could be included in this package as well.
With Gay having a subpar season the Celtics have plenty of leverage in this deal. I think that they would have to give too much up. The only problem with this is that the Celtics have already used their mid-level exception. That means that they aren’t allowed to have that $74.1 million mark this season when making a trade.
That could put some potential holds on a deal ever being done between these two teams. Gay’s contract is that of a max-level player and the Celtics aren’t looking to bring in that kind of contract. Gay is an option of desperation here.
When talking about Cousins, he’s still on his rookie salary. Its going to be easy to move him if the Kings actually choose to pull the trigger. He’s not being paid over $6 million annually and has max level talent. When that time comes, he’ll be paid like a max player even with his off-the-court issues.
With Cousins, the C’s would likely have to take in one or two bad contracts and give up one or both of their talented prospects in Sullinger and Bradley. Would the Celtics be willing to part ways with those guys? I don’t know. Cousins seems like a hit or miss guy at this point but the Celtics are reeling. I think they’d be willing to do whatever it takes. Even though the Kings say he’s not available, you have to believe that if a great deal comes about then they’ll take it. Things aren’t going in the right direction with this team so maybe its time to blow it up.
Now, on the floor, the battle is a different one. Cousins definitely would be a better fit with the Celtics than Gay, but Gay seems to be the more available player. Given the right jolt and put in the right spots, Gay may be able to prosper in green. But right now I don’t see it at all. We’ll take a look at the numbers.
Rudy Gay’s numbers are way under par. He’s shooting 41% from the field, only scoring 18.1 points per game. His rebounding numbers are below last season’s at 5.8 and he’s only averaging 2.5 assists to 2.4 turnovers. None of these numbers are good by any means. The real problem is that his usage rate is 25.9%, per basketball-reference.com That’s way too high for a player who isn’t being productive at all.
He’s crafted himself into one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA even with his offensive numbers being down. He allows opposing small forwards a 12.9 PER and makes the Grizzlies defense 3 points better when he’s on the floor. The Grizzlies defense allows opponents to score 102.2 points per possession with him off the court. When he’s on the court they only allow 99.8 points per possession. That’s nothing to scoff at, obviously. His defensive improvement has been great, but that being his only noticeable skill right now makes his contract so much less appealing.
A max player has to be an efficient player that can help contribute to both ends of the floor. Sure, sometimes they do one thing better than the other, but Gay’s offensive game hasn’t been productive in years. What he’s doing isn’t pegged down to a slump for me. Take a look at Gay’s shot percentages from 8-20 feet--where the Celtics take most of their shots from.
You can see that Rudy’s shooting percentages from that area have taken a steady regression with his shot percentage there while he’s taking around the same amounts of shots from their this season. Take a look at his shot charts from the last three seasons–where his field goal percentage has steadily dropped.
shot charts courtesy of vorped.com
You can see that there has been a steady regression on Gay’s part offensively. He struggles in the area where Boston gets most of their shots and is not a good enough of a slasher to live in the paint. Rondo setting him up may be a better look for Gay, but right now I don’t see where Gay would fit in with the Celtics plan other than making a move out of desperation.
Getting into Cousins, he would definitely be a better fit for the Celtics right now. They need a big who can dive into the paint and get easy points. That’s something that Cousins would be able to do. Rondo was easily able to get a 40 year old Shaquille O’Neal buckets. He could do the same with Cousins you’d have to imagine.
Cousins’ raw numbers are somewhat appealing, but still leave a lot to be desired. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game with 10.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 77% from the free throw line but he’s only shooting 42% from the floor, per basketball reference. That isn’t because Cousins isn’t a good finisher at the rim, its because he’s taking too many shots from the midrange area as opposed to in the paint where he belongs. According to vorped, 149 out of Cousins 437 shots have come from the midrange area. How many of those has he made? 46 of them. He’s shooting 31% from that area which is way below league average. He needs to take them at a lower concentration and finish more at the rim.
Take a look at his shot chart this season.
A higher concentration of shots at the rim is something that is definitely going to benefit the Celtics. Now, defensively Cousins leaves doesn’t leave too much on the floor. Opposing centers have a PER of 19.1 against him. Also, the Kings are a full point better defensively with Cousins off the floor as opposed to having him on the court. With him they allow 111.8 points per possession and without him they allow 110.5. They’re horrible either way, but him not making the Kings better at all on that end makes a difference.
Both of these guys have things that they bring to the table that Boston needs, but the Celtics need help on the inside more than anything else right now. Cousins would meet that need beautifully but the Kings aren’t willing to part ways with him unless the deal is a very lucrative one and beneficial for them. Gay, on the other hand, is a less than desirable piece right now for a team that’s looking for help in the paint and not on the perimeter.
We’ll see if a move is made in the coming days for these players then we’ll see how it goes down. Until then, lets hope that Boston can string together a few wins to get over .500 again.
Much credit goes to the people of vorped.com, basketball-reference.com and 82games.com for their wonderful statistics.