By Rob Mahoney
There comes a point in every winning team's construction in which certain luxuries are no longer deemed to be sensible. Such appears to be the case with Rudy Gay -- the high-scoring forward once paid to be the Grizzlies' franchise centerpiece, but now functionally replaced by the tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Grizz still have use for Gay, as evidenced by his substantial role in their offense and his still-impressive statistical marks. Yet Memphis' play has developed in so many other areas that Gay's particular skills and potential no longer fit the team's needs as precisely as they once did.
Zach Lowe of Grantland first made note of the fact that the Grizzlies were floating Gay's name in potential trade discussions, but the first case-specific rumor to surface comes courtesy of Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, who has reported that Memphis is engaged in talks with the Suns for a deal centered around Gay. Per Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies are primarily interested in acquiring Jared Dudley -- whose long-range shooting and perfectly complementary game would be a stellar fit in Memphis -- and draft picks. Gay's current contract will be the primary motivation behind any deal made involving him, and thus a salary dump deal for a fairly-compensated role player like Dudley would require some additional salary fodder to make the trade work by league rules.
As a result, we shouldn't expect the more fully formed iterations of this deal (or any deal involving Gay) to include a totally balanced swap of talent. This is the means the Grizzlies have available (among other avenues; they're by no means forced to trade away Gay) to alleviate the burdens of the luxury tax and some of their long-term salary issues in general, and thus they are actively looking to downgrade as a means of saving money, creating depth and capitalizing on a player who is precluded from maximizing his potential by way of their system. (The Point Forward's Ben Golliver suggested a similar move here.) Keeping Gay around would be nice, but having a quasi-star in a lineup that no longer demands his contributions makes little sense given the Grizzlies' more pressing needs across the board. Whether the Suns will be the party to complete such a transaction remains to be seen, but Phoenix is certainly a conceivable landing spot for Gay and the $37.1 million left on his contract over the next two seasons. It's hard to pin down precisely what the Suns are doing in the wake of Steve Nash's departure, which, if anything, makes it all the more believable that they may roll the dice on a costly acquisition like Gay. They've already committed to a number of win-now contributors in addition to a long-term piece in Goran Dragic, and acquiring Gay would fit the Suns' rather haphazard modus operandi of late. As good a player as Gay is, his contract is a miserable burden for a rebuilding team to bear. Yet if the Suns feel enough pressure to build a middling team now (as they may well, given their horrid performance this season), acquiring Gay at the cost of Dudley and a few draft picks might be the most asset-efficient move available. That doesn't make the thought process behind this potential move a wise one in cap terms, but the Suns could certainly do worse from a talent perspective.