Welcome to the 2017-18 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of all 15 Spurs from this season (excluding two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello) and looking towards the future. If you’ve missed any, you can click here to catch up.
2017-18 stats: 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 47.1 FG%
2017-18 salary: $8.41 million
Contract: 1 year, $8.83 million remaining (player option)
When Gay signed with the Spurs last summer for a surprisingly reasonable price (partially thanks to coming off an Achilles tear in early 2017), there were dreams of what the trio of he, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge could do to opposing front courts. Once fully healed he would be the missing link from the 2016-17 team that would give the Spurs another go-to scorer who could create his own shots and get them over the hump.
Gay was surprisingly ready the instant the season kicked off — a relatively quick 10-month turnaround for an Achilles injury — and he looked good out of the gate, all things considered. Despite shooting a career-low 31.4% from three, he shot a career-high 51.6% inside the arc and proved to be that extra creator the Spurs had been lacking.
Unfortunately, the “dream trio” never came to pass as Gay and Leonard only appeared in a total of five games together back in December, and it wasn’t long afterwards that Leonard shut himself down for what would ultimately be the rest of the season, and Gay would miss 23 straight games over the course of nearly two months with heel bursitis.
His return at the end of Rodeo Road Trip helped a Spurs team that was severely struggling get back on its feet enough to make the playoffs. He was the valuable bench contributor the Spurs had hoped for, and his importance to the team only grew once it was clear that Leoanrd was not returning. He was the second-leading score of players who appeared in more than 9 games and had the fourth best defensive rating on the team (using the same perimeters).
Still, 57 games was the third-lowest in his career, and had he been more available the Spurs postseason outlook could have been different. The Spurs won at a rate equivalent to 51 wins with him playing, and with all other things being equal that would have gotten them the third seed in the West and likely a much more friendly first round match-up, even if their ceiling would have remained the second round. This season ended with a lot of “if only’s”, and Gay’s health was certainly one of them.
Gay came to the Spurs so he could experience the post-season for only the second time in his career. It was a success in that regard, but surely this was not what he had in mind when he signed on. To that end, many factors may come into play in deciding whether he opts in or out of his contract for next season.
While he may never be the prominent scorer he was before his Achilles injury, he proved this season that he can still be an excellent second or third option on a playoff team, so more lucrative offers may be out there for him. Things will likely boil down to what becomes of the Leonard situation. If Leonard returns, then the Spurs will be back in contention, and an even healthier Gay could have another shot at being the missing piece in getting the Spurs over the hump.
At this point, winning appears to come over money for Gay, so hopefully everything works out and he returns. I still want to see what that trio can do.
Oct. 25 vs. Heat: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Final Grade: B
Up next: Kyle Anderson