15. Jazz Forward Rudy Gay
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just 15 days from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Coming in at number 15, Jazz forward Rudy Gay.
Jazz Forward Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay joins the Jazz entering his 15th season in the league and coming off a four-year stint in San Antonio where he made the transition from a starter and go-to scorer in the NBA to a leading option off the bench.
Now, with Sixth Man of the Year award winner in Jordan Clarkson and the Sixth Man runner-up in Joe Ingles, Gay will again transition from his role as the Spurs top option off the bench to the eighth man in the Jazz rotation.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) September 8, 2021
While Gay proved he had plenty left to offer to the Spurs after averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, it’s his leadership that coach Quin Snyder praised as a major asset during the offseason.
“He’s got a voice,” Snyder said. “I think as he’s here longer, I can see leadership ability because of his experience, because of his unselfishness.”
Gay will be the longest-tenured player on the Jazz as soon as he steps on the floor, having been drafted a year before veteran point guard Mike Conley. Gay and Conley shared the floor in Memphis for five and a half seasons, and the two players’ relationship was one of the key reasons for Gay choosing to sign with the Jazz.
“Rudy asked a lot of questions, tried to get a feel of how he would be used, the system, Utah as a whole, and our team,” Conley said of pitching his former teammate on the Jazz. “Obviously, he made the decision to come and play with us.”
Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside said they chose to sign with the @utahjazz over other contenders.
Meanwhile, Eric Paschall is looking forward to a fresh start in Utah.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) August 9, 2021
Now, it’s up to Snyder to figure out how to use him.
Gay will replace sharpshooter Georges Niang who proved to be a dangerous floor spacer last season. The veteran forward knocked down a healthy 38 percent of his 4.4 three-point attempts last season but fell short of Niang’s impressive42 percent completion rate.
However, statistical models give Gay a significant advantage on the defensive end over the less athletic Niang.
Rudy Gobert's defense in one graph.
He led the league in contested shots this season, AND he also allowed the lowest efficiency in the NBA among 160 players who were the closest defender on at least 500 shots this season. pic.twitter.com/vcxTYocdeq
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) June 15, 2021
When Gay will make his debut remains the final missing piece of the puzzle. The forward had surgery to remove bone spurs from his right heel during the offseason and won suit up for the Jazz during the preseason.
But, having played four different positions during his long NBA career, Gay should have no problem figuring out his role once he steps onto the floor.
“I’m a basketball player,” Gay said. “You put me on the court, I’m going to make do, I am going to make way.”
With 15 days left until opening, the impact of Rudy Gay on the Jazz roster is unquestionably one of the top remaining storylines left unanswered.
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