There's a longstanding and for the most part right-headed beef between NBA statheads and Rudy Gay, and it may have just gone a little far. Gay has banned the team from having scoresheets in the locker room because—actually, what the hell is going on up there?
Here's how Gay put it to The Toronto Sun:
Gay sees the scoresheets as an unnecessary barrier to team unity or even a temptation to be more focussed on what is best for the individual as opposed to what is best for the team.
"We're not playing for stats," Gay said.
Gay said there was no incident or no moment that pushed him toward this decision but as a leader on this team, he felt it was just something that was best for the team.
"I wanted to just nip it in the butt before it became an issue," he said. "We come in here after losses, after wins and people are staring at those stat sheets, but that's not what we're about. We're a team and the stat that matters is the W."
Now, that's true, the same way it's true that your number one priority every day is to take oxygen into your body and use that to power your various muscles and organs. But it's hard to look at this and not see the guy who's been getting burned by stat guys for years lashing out at the box scores instead of what they comprise.
(The larger point Gay is making is that guys might be focusing on their own stats, trying to get paid. The Raptors do have nine players in the last year of their deals, or with team options for next year, but perhaps that point would be better taken from a player not making $17.88 million this year and $19.3 million next year.)
The thing is, the Rudy Gay vs. The Computers beef has always been talking past itself. The stats side is that Gay is an above average player who does some things well, has shot dreadfully for the past few years, and absolutely isn't worth his gigantic salary. The Gay side of the argument (which has been shrinking, grudgingly), maintains that he does things that stats can't quite capture. As basketball analytics have matured, that's become a tougher argument to stand behind. But Gay does provide a few things that actually are hard to account for.
Here he is talking to the NBA's Hangtime blog:
"It's tough," Gay said. "Obviously, according to analytics, some of my opponents wouldn't value me as much as they do. So, a computer can say what it wants, but as long as I get respect from my peers, that's all that matters."
That's actually true. Team defenses, even smart ones, tend to shade Gay the way you would a more elite wing. But it hasn't materialized in how effective the Raptors are without him on the floor. Here are his splits, per NBAWowy:
|Raptors Points/100 Possessions||Raptors TS%||Opponent Points/100 Possessions||Opponent TS%|
|Gay On Floor||103.5||50.1||103.7||53.5|
|Gay Off Floor||108.4||53.3||103||52|
This isn't exactly fair, since Gay's played 35.5 minutes per game on the season. (He's included in the top seven lineups with the most minutes on the team.) But over the 178 minutes Gay has been off the floor, the Raptors have gone from a pretty good offense to one of the best in the league.
So what exactly is Gay doing that's so bad? Some of his numbers aren't so far off his best seasons: His 16.81 PER sandwiches him between Boris Diaw and Tyler Hansbrough, and his estimated wins added slides him just above Goran Dragic. His 46.7 True Shooting Percentage—the weighted combination of your percentage on field goals, three pointers, and free throws—though, ties him for 260th in the league, along with Amar'e Stoudemire and Tony Wroten.
Gay, basically, is taking his act to an extreme. He's still getting his 20 a game (20.2 to be exact), but is doing so in just about the most garish way possible, by using every damn possession he can to shoot. His 29.2 Usage Rate puts him sixth in the league. He uses more possessions than LeBron, Steph Curry, or Kevin Durant.
That hasn't gone unnoticed. Earlier this month, LeBron joked that he'd score "60... 70" points—but "60 easy"—if he took the 37 shots Rudy needed to score just 29 a few days prior. Everyone's in on the joke—Rudy can't shoot. But why does Gay stink at shooting this year? (It's an especially pertinent question given the weird story this summer that Gay had been suffering from blurry vision for years, and would get corrective surgery to fix it.)
Turns out, it's not the shooting that's the problem. Per NBA.com, Rudy's hitting just 31 percent of his field goals off of drives. Among the top 25 for drives per game, only Russell Westbrook, recovering from knee surgery, is shooting a worse percentage than that. He isn't creating good opportunities for his team, either; the Raptors score just 104.5 points per 100 possessions on Gay drives—again, miserable compared to leaders among the 25 most frequent drivers. Evan Turner's drives create 136.6 points over 100 possessions, Ty Lawson's 129.6, and Jeremy Lin and Monta Ellis's 121.9.
This is probably because Gay's shooting percentage around the rim has plummeted this year; he's hitting just 40.95% of his shots from within 8 feet of the rim—he hit 50.44 last year, and historically, has been very good the closer he gets to the rim.
Gay doesn't seem to have lost the athleticism that allowed him to be effective on those shots, so it's something that can presumably be corrected, a simple matter of altering angles or shooting from slightly different spots on the floor. It can be fixed, that is, if he ever gets around to looking at the stat sheet.