What does the Rudy Gay trade mean for the Warriors? Not much. - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Rudy Gay is going to the Toronto Raptors! No, we don't care about them. The Grizzlies get a couple guys back too. That matters quite a bit.
If you don't know yet, John Hollinger's Memphis Grizzlies (kidding, but is it that much of a coincidence that his signing coincided with a flurry of moves?) finally traded Rudy Gay and created some salary cap relief. They gave up Gay to the Toronto Raptors and received Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye (from Detroit), and Ed Davis (Toronto). There was a Jose Calderon and a three-team trade in there but we don't care.
All we care about is what exactly does this mean for your Golden State Warriors?
Stay with me here, I think this trade makes the Grizzlies a better team—helping their offense flow while maintaining great defense—but on the same token, this presents a better matchup for the Warriors. In the end, however, this trade means little for the suddenly-potent Dubs. That made sense in my head, I promise.
In the last 16 meetings spanning almost four and a half seasons against the Grizzlies, the Warriors have won three games. That's on some San Antonio Spurs suckage level.
There's great analysis on whether the Grizz is better off without Rudy Gay here, here, and everywhere. In the Grizzlies case, I believe that they become a better team by starting Prince at starting forward, have Davis come off the bench, and Daye as a three-point specialist. Without Gay's high-usage (career-high 23.9, according to ESPN) ways, the ball can move around more with Marc Gasol, an excellent passer, and Zach Randolph getting more touches. Keep in mind that the Grizzlies were 18-6 to start the season only to stumble through a 11-10 stretch in their past 21 games. This all works well in the regular season as Memphis will probably finish fourth or fifth in the Western Conference.
Okay, so now that we've tentatively agreed that the Grizzlies will probably be better off without Gay, why would this bode well for the Warriors?
IF the Dubs can stay healthy, and the question isn't so much "IF" anymore as it is for how "long", their rotation matches up well with the Grizzlies'.
Looking at this from a pure addition-subtraction angle, Rudy Gay averages 21 points against the Warriors, the highest amongst all the teams he has played. He shoots 47.6 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from distance and attempts five free throws per game. His career numbers? 45.2 from the field and 34.4 from distance with only four attempts per game. And he's played 23 games against the Warriors in his career. That's over a quarter of a season.
According to NBA.com's advanced stats, the Warriors have shot worse in the restricted area and mid-range when Gay is on the court. The Warriors shoot much better than their team averages when Rudy Gay is off the court, most notably from three. Yeah, super small sample size this season and all of that. But Gay's five on the court has posted a higher net offensive rating against the Warriors the past two seasons. Simply put, he's a bad matchup for a Warriors team a bit devoid of truly athletic players. Ironically, some might compare Harrison Barnes to Gay and that's all they have in terms of sheer athleticism that can check Gay.
Holding health as a constant, we can safely say that the matchups are a bit more even than they were about a month ago. With Bogut able to man the center position down low against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, there's less stress for Lee to constantly box out—and more likely, get dominated. Prince is a solid shooting option—albiet the low shot attempts this season—but he isn't the same iso-threat Gay is on the low block. Trading Gay away opens up more shots to the low-post players but the addition of Bogut counteracts that to an extent.
So this is good for the Warriors?
Even if Gay were still on the team, I'd argue that the Warriors are their own toughest opponents at this point of the season. And that is the unspoken aspect of the shift in the Western Conference. The bottom tier teams in the West include the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and Los Angeles LOLakers. The mid-tier teams include Memphis, the Denver Nuggets, and now the Golden State Warriors. The Nuggets are somewhat maxed out with their talent in as far as they can go, unless JaVale McGee suddenly turns into a dominant low-post player, highly doubtful.
At this point in the season, the Warriors aren't looking to just make the playoffs with a healthy Bogut and Curry, they're looking to win a playoff series, and there's no reason they can't do so against a Memphis squad with or without Rudy Gay. The trade does many things for the Memphis Grizzlies, it frees them up for future moves and diversifies their offense, but from Bob Myers perspective, I don't think he cares. And if he does, it isn't that he's looking to pick up the phone more so than he has.
The Warriors with the spacing, passing, shooting, and newfound defense that they can trot out on any given game combined with the advantages of one of the best home-courts in the world, give them an edge all to themselves.
It's a bit of peculiar timing given the recent additions of both teams but if the Warriors somehow find a way to play the Grizzlies in the playoffs, they won't be as athletically outplayed the way they've been the past several years. And given the way the team is currently constructed, a trade of an underachieving small forward doesn't change much in the grand scheme of things for the Warriors.
For the first time in a long, long time, other teams should be scared of them, not the other way around.