Miami Heat Mailbag: Where would small forward Rudy Gay fit in as a free agent signing?

Sacramento’s Rudy Gay drives to the basket in a game at New York in December. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

While teams are focusing on working out players for the June 22 draft, free agency always is on their minds.

The Heat and Pat Riley have decisions to make, not only with their own free agents like James Johnson and Dion Waiters, but who to pursue whether they sign both Johnson and Waiters, one of them or neither.

Which leads us to today’s question. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From: @MV305MIA How hard will we go after Rudy Gay?

Gay already has informed the Kings he will opt out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him $14.3 million and become an unrestricted free agent.

The 6-foot-8 Gay will be 31 when training camp starts. He averaged 18.7 points on .455 shooting including .372 on threes (although he’s only averaging about one 3-pointer per game in his career), 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 30 games last season before tearing his Achilles. His ESPN player efficiency rating was ninth in the league at 17.95. He is a career .452 shooter and two years removed from averaging his career-high 21.1 points, which came during his first full season in Sacramento.

Reports surfaced early last season that the Heat may have been exploring a deal with the Kings involving Gay. Some rank Gay as a borderline top-10 free agent while others have him lower. Among small forwards he generally falls in behind Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Danilo Gallinari and Otto Porter. The Heat could have conversations with all but Durant, who is a lock to return to Golden State, but could settle on Gay as a backup policy or as a lower priced option than, say, a Hayward.

Gay has been somewhat of an enigma. While his numbers have been pretty steady – between 18 to 20 points and around six boards each year – many believe he could be doing more. He typically is among the league leaders in efficiency, landing in the top 15 in each of the last seven seasons and in the top 10 in four of those.

Although Gay’s age and recent injury could be a deterrent, he would be a nice addition to any team and would certainly give the Heat another option offensively on the wing and also as a small-ball power forward. And his athleticism makes him a solid defender.

If Miami loses Johnson and Waiters and pursues a power forward (say, Blake Griffin or Serge Ibaka), Gay could fit in well, or he could be brought in to go along with either Johnson or Waiters if one of the two returns.

[Dion Waiters makes it clear he wants to return to Heat — ‘Let’s get it over with as quick as possible’]

[Erik Spoelstra a finalist for another coach of the year award]

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