Editor’s note: Seventh in a series evaluating and grading every player that was on the Jazz’s final 2022-23 roster.

When evaluating an NBA player’s performance, expectations matter.

In the 2022 offseason, when looking back at the performance of the players on the Utah Jazz roster, I gave Rudy Gay a D for his contributions and said this:

“Rudy Gay was billed as the player that was going to solve a lot of the Jazz’s problems and then he turned out to not solve any of them.”

This season, Gay was neither expected to play well nor to contribute to winning, and that really changes the way that we should look at how he fared.

Rudy Gay — Grade: B+

Gay lost his spot in the rotation in 2022 and didn’t play at all during the Jazz’s playoff run. He was angry, and that anger didn’t help the already tense locker room.

And while there’s always multiple sides to every story — from Gay’s perspective he was brought into the fold and told that he would have a big role, that he would be playing and that he was needed — the fact is that Gay did not live up to expectations for the 2021-22 Jazz.

Coming into the 2022-23 season, with a different coach, a different roster of players and different overall expectations for the team, Gay was given an entirely different role.

He was going to play a little bit, not a lot, and the level of his on-court production was not necessarily important. His role in the locker room was the priority. He would need to take on the role of mentor and to guide the Jazz’s young players through a strange season and make sure that development was possible despite game results.

That’s not an easy transition for a basketball player to make. It’s not easy to accept that you aren’t the focal point of a roster, that Father Time has caught up.

The most impressive thing that Gay did this season was accept his place in the NBA, and he did it with grace. He admitted that it was a difficult thing to do, but he didn’t want people to remember him as a person who went out kicking and screaming and complaining.

“You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt,” he said. “If I was sitting here and being a sourpuss, that wouldn’t leave a good legacy for me. So I think the biggest thing was just to help the guys that I can.”

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If you want to look at the stats, and see a career-low 3-point percentage of 25.4% for Gay and judge his performance based on his on-court production, you’re welcome to. But also remember that he only played 15 minutes per game and rarely took more than five shots per game. He wasn’t taking valuable time away from other players and he was helping the younger players on the court when he was out there.

In talking with Walker Kessler, Ochai Agbaji and Collin Sexton as well as members of the Jazz coaching staff, it seems that this season, there was a shift in approach and attitude for Gay. The young players have nothing but good things to say about Gay and praised him for being a veteran they could go to with questions and concerns.

“They’re probably tired of me because I’m on their (expletive) every day about getting better and how they can be better,” Gay said. “They probably think, just like my kids, ‘Oh this old guy.’ But I really see a bright future for them. And at this point in my career, I wanted to show them and tell them everything I know.”

If Gay was expected, as he was last year, to do more and to be more on the court, we’d be having a different conversation. But when asked to take a step back and to foster the youth of the roster and help them to mature, Gay did so and he made a difference.