Dec. 12, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay (22) against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 82-80. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Rumors: Rudy Gay to Washington? Kevin Lipe Q&A

About two days ago, CSN Bay Area’s NBA Insider Ric Bucher, made a report stating that the Washington Wizards have made an offer to the Memphis Grizzlies for Rudy Gay. The Wizards have had some very intriguing trade speculations this season, so I had to seek out a person who undoubtedly knows more about the situation.

Kevin Lipe from SB Nation’s Memphis Grizzlies blog, Straight Outta Vancouver , was gracious enough to answer some of our questions regarding Rudy Gay and a possible trade that would send him to Washington. Wiz of Awes’ own, William Stokes and I helped comprise the questions.

Wiz of Awes: Rudy Gay is set to make over 16 million dollars per year over the next few years. Is this the reason the Grizzlies are shopping him, or is he simply not performing well on the court?

Kevin Lipe: Simply put, yes. If Rudy Gay made even $4mil less than he does right now, this conversation isn’t happening. The fact of the matter is that the Grizzlies have $58mil committed to four guys next year: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Rudy Gay. That’s a lot of money to four guys for a small-market team that can’t afford to pay the luxury tax.

Of course, there’s always the question of whether Gay has lived up to his max contract. He’s an inefficient scorer, and sometimes his defense is awesome and sometimes it’s nonexistent. He’s never attacked the rim as often as he probably should, and his very low number of FT’s this season attests to that. He’s paid like a superstar but he’s a borderline All Star.

That said, he does things that help this Grizzlies team, and it’s always nice to have a super-athletic wing player who can penetrate and who can create his own shot. But Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay make the same amount of money, and one of those guys is irreplaceable, and the sad news for Rudy Gay is that it’s not him.

WoA: If the Grizzlies do end up trading Gay, what type of player would they be looking for in return?

KL: The Grizzlies need two things: they desperately need a legitimate outside shooting threat — a shooting guard who can consistently hit the 3. Quincy Pondexter is the best 3-point shooter on the team this year, but he’s more of a Shane Battier type defensive forward than a true shooting guard. Without a perimeter shooting threat — which isn’t Gay, by the way, who is not a very good 3-point shooter at all — opponents can pack the paint and shut down the Grizzlies’ two elite post players, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

The other thing the Grizzlies need is a forward who can play defense and, sort of like Rudy Gay, create his own shot if the need arises.  The Grizzlies’ roster is pretty thin at the small forward spot, especially since Pondexter went down with an MCL sprain a couple weeks ago. While he’s out, coach Lionel Hollins has at times played a super-big lineup with Darrell Arthur — historically a 4 or 5 guy — at the 3 spot.

So, you Wizards fans aren’t going to like this, but I would hope Bradley Beal’s name is involved in any trade talks for Rudy Gay. From a salary standpoint, Beal and Ariza would get the Grizzlies under the salary cap, Beal could be a great scorer in the future, and Ariza could soak up minutes at the SF spot. Something like this, with Singleton making the salaries work.

WoA: According to several reports, the Wizards have made a ‘good offer’ in order to acquire Gay. There are also other teams including the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns which may have been inquiring about his availability. Who do you think the current front runners are to get Rudy Gay? Are the Wizards among them?

KL: Without knowing what the Wizards actually offered for Gay, it’s hard to say. The Toronto Raptors seem to be very interested, but they lack the assets to make the Grizzlies instantly better, from what I’ve seen. The Suns offered Jared Dudley and first round picks, but the Grizzlies reject that. There’s also speculation that the Grizzlies may have asked the Timberwolves about Kevin Love (!), which the Wolves rejected. They’re aiming high with Rudy.

The Grizzlies are currently 24-11 and in fourth place in a brutal Western Conference. It seems like if they’re not able to get assets to immediately improve the team, they’re likely to just stand pat until the offseason. This summer, if Rudy Gay is still in Memphis, all bets are off.

WoA: Who would be involved in a trade between the Wizards and Grizzlies? Is there any asset (player,draft pick, etc.) that you’re particularly interested in?

KL: Who isn’t interested in Bradley Beal?

THIS seems like it would work well for both teams, if the Wizards are willing to part with Beal:

If they’re not offering Beal as part of the trade, I don’t think it happens without a third team being involved. The Grizzlies desperately need an elite-level shooting guard. Or at least somebody who can shoot 3’s at a consistent pace.

WoA: What is your overall assessment of Rudy Gay, and what are the chances he remains in a Grizzlies uniform?

KL: I like Rudy Gay. I think he’s a really good player who gets paid like a great player. He’s a humble guy, and an enigma. You never really know what he’s thinking. I think he has deficiencies in his game that he may never be able to improve on — the aforementioned lack of going to the rim, and his poor handle on the ball when he tries to drive with it. His decision-making never seems to make any sense to anyone but him.

But sometimes he’s amazing. He’s great on defense, especially against the league’s elite small forwards: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, etc. His detractors always say “The Grizzlies beat the Spurs in 2011 without him,” but they also probably would’ve beaten Oklahoma City that year if they’d had him. It’s a two way street.

Unfortunately — and I mean that, because I really like Rudy — I think his days in a Grizzlies uniform are numbered, and mostly for salary reasons. The new CBA has a pretty strict luxury tax, and it’s going to force small market teams like the Grizzlies to have to make hard decisions about who they can afford to keep. One could also argue they shouldn’t have signed Gay to such a huge contract to begin with. But what’s done is done.

This is the best team the Grizzlies have ever had, though. I think he stays through the trade deadline and into the offseason, and then he gets dealt. Anything else would provoke questions of “what if” from the fanbase for the rest of eternity. To break it up mid-season without getting a star-caliber player in return would be a colossal mistake by the new ownership group.

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Again, I want to thank Kevin Lipe for answering our questions. Please give him a follow on Twitter, and check out his blog, Straight Outta Vancouver.

Seeing as though the Grizzlies would probably want Bradley Beal to be a part of the deal, I don’t see how Rudy Gay will find himself in a Wizards uniform this season. Trade rumors are fun and all, but I don’t see this one coming to fruition.

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