On draft night in 2006, the Rockets traded the 8th pick to Memphis (who turned into Rudy Gay) for Shane Battier. It was a controversial deal at the time because of the immense talent that Gay possesses, compared to the limited upside of Battier. The Rockets thought Battier was the perfect compliment to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Five years after that trade was made, the Rockets were right about Battier. Sadly, the Yao/McGrady duo has dissolved and Battier ages, so fans have criticized the deal more and more. Gay has turned into a very good player in his own right, but after the Rockets beat the Grizzlies for the ninth straight time it seems Houston made the right move. It’s a trade I’d make again. You can be a great team with Battier as your third-best player, you can’t with just Rudy Gay.
The Grizzlies won 49 games in the 05-06 season and made the playoffs for the third straight season. That year, the Rockets were 15 games worse. The next season, Houston finished with 52 wins, 30 more than Memphis. The Rockets were 33 games better in ’07-’08 and 31 games better in ‘08-’09. The Rockets have finished with better records than Memphis in each of the last 4 seasons. Would that have been the case if the trade hadn’t been made?
Houston was in win-now mode that summer and Battier was everything that they needed: a defender, who could knock down the three. Jeff Van Gundy couldn’t have genetically engineered a better fit for what he wanted to do. He was a winner who had won in college and was a key part of the only good run the Grizzlies have ever had. Gay on the other hand was purely a scorer whose UConn team (littered with NBA prospects) was upset in the NCAA Tournament by George Mason. You couldn’t have two players who were so different despite playing the same position.
Rudy Gay is incredibly talented, but he’s the type of guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. His actual value to a team will always be overrated because of the numbers he puts up. He’s the classic guy that gets overpaid – which the Grizzlies did this offseason by giving him a max contract. Now they are saddled with him eating up a lot of their cap space and – once again – the talented Grizzlies are under .500, and it doesn’t look like they are going anywhere . Why? Because their best player is Rudy Gay.
Would the Rockets be better off today with Rudy Gay? Maybe. I guarantee you without Shane Battier the Rockets would not have competed in ’07, ’08, and ’09 - and they don’t have Gay’s terrible contract on the books for the next 5 years.
About the Author
Written by Adam Spolane
Spend most of my time in Houston covering teams in Houston, however in the summer I am a radio broadcaster for the Casper Ghosts, the Colorado Rockies Pioneer League affiliate.