On the second day of free agency, the Utah Jazz brought in a player they’re hoping can add some versatility to the roster. Rudy Gay will wear a Jazz uniform after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Jazz on Tuesday.
What does the 15-year veteran bring to the table and what does the Jazz signing him mean for the rest of the team and the future?
Gay, who turns 35 on Aug. 17, definitely doesn’t make the roster any younger, but he is still durable, reliable and can do a lot of things that will make life easier for the Jazz.
Standing at 6-foot-8, Gay played the last four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and has proven to be capable at multiple positions, spending most of his time playing the stretch four. But, if the Jazz want to play with a small-ball five, Gay can fill that role easily as well as play some minutes at small forward.
With career averages of 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, Gay shot 38.1% from 3-point range last season with the Spurs, the third-best shooting season of his career.
Signing Gay was the writing on the wall for Georges Niang, who later on Tuesday agreed to a two-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. The positional versatility from Gay would have pushed Niang out of the rotation and Niang, who became a free agent after the 2020-21 season, was due for a bump in salary.
While Gay is certainly viewed as an upgrade at the forward position, he’s not a long term fix (considering his age and a short contract), and as soon as next season, the Jazz could be looking once again for answers at that position.
Gay, signed using the taxpayer mid-level exception, has seen some of his scoring production fall off in recent years, but he still remains a reliable and versatile defender, which is right in line with what the Jazz need.
Though he spent the last few years in San Antonio and Sacramento before that, Gay started his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies after being selected No. 8 overall in the 2006 draft by the Houston Rockets and then traded.
That means that when the Jazz start the 2021-22 season, Gay will be reunited with Mike Conley, whom he played with for more than five seasons at the beginning of both of their careers. If Gay and Conley can rekindle some of the chemistry they had on the court while they were in Memphis, that would definitely be a bonus for the Jazz.
Financially, this leaves the Jazz with few options to fill out the rest of the roster. They’ll be able to offer prospective free agents minimum contracts and might be able to make some deals through trades, but that’s it.