It's been six and a half years since the Memphis Grizzlies acquired Rudy Gay from the Houston Rockets in a draft-day trade for Shane Battier. Today the contending Grizzlies find themselves faced with a harsh reality: The key 26-year-old might be too expensive to keep around for a title run.
Gay, who, believe it or not, has never been an All-Star, signed a five-year deal worth a little more than $82.3 million in the summer of 2010 and is set to earn $16,460,538 this season and $17,888,932 next season with a player option in 2014-15 for $19,317,326. As good as Gay is, and as valuable as it is to have an athletic 6-foot-9 small forward in the starting lineup, that's a lot of money for anyone without an All-Star appearance.
As far as Memphis is concerned, keeping him in the fold will get pretty costly starting next season.
This season, the Grizzlies' payroll of $74,127,785 is almost $4 million over the $70,307,000 luxury tax level. Under the former collective bargaining agreement rules, the team has to pay the league one dollar for every dollar it's over. Starting next season under the rules of the new CBA, though, the penalties are much stricter for teams that exceed the luxury tax level -- particularly for repeat offenders, as the Grizzlies would be if Gay remains on the roster. (The 2013-14 luxury tax level has not yet been set, but Memphis has $72,481,656 on the books for the 2013-14 roster, per HoopsHype.com).
Multiple reports in the past week from Grantland's Zach Lowe, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, USA Today's Sam Amick and ESPN.com's Marc Stein have Memphis shopping Gay, with Phoenix, Toronto, Golden State, Denver, Minnesota and Sacramento being the six teams mentioned in trade talks. However, getting anything close to equal value for Gay while cutting payroll could prove quite challenging for Memphis.
Let's take a look at which of the six teams mentioned have the best chance of working out a deal and which other teams might also make sense.