The Memphis Grizzlies have gone on an improbable playoff run, and there are rumblings that the team is better off without injured small forward Rudy Gay.
Trading Gay would be a bad move.
Though the Grizzlies have played like a very cohesive unit in Gay's absence, the former Connecticut star deserves to be a vital part of the organizations plans, and owner Michael Heisley and general manager Chris Wallace should avoid shopping him in the off-season.
Gay, 25, is in the first year of a five-year contract he signed in the off season and his contract is not exactly trade-friendly. Also, he is expected to recover from his dislocated left shoulder by next season.
Most importantly, Gay is an excellent player, and is appears to be content playing in small-market Memphis. He's a smart, explosive scorer with great athleticism. After his rookie season, Gay has averaged 19.6 points per game in the past four seasons.
With the Oklahoma City series still up for grabs, the Grizzlies need to be aware that their star player's absence isn't the reason for their success. Rather it's their unselfish play and depth that has gotten them this far.
Players know their roles, and when Gay went down, Lionel Hollins's squad stepped up.
It even happened in the immediate game following Gay's injury. Shooting guards Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo, who were involved in a physical altercation on a team flight, picked up the slack by scoring 26 and 21 points respectively, as both shot better than 50 percent from the field in a February game in Denver.
A stronger than expected bench has been a major reason for the team's resurgence. Memphis has enjoyed improvement from players like 6'9 Darrell Arthur, who has stepped up in the first-round series win over San Antonio.
Shane Battier is a huge fan favorite and a hard-nosed defender. Swing man Sam Young has been a pleasant surprise, and rookie Greivis Vasquez has shown potential in limited playing time.
And what area would the Grizzlies look to upgrade by dealing Gay? The organization appears to have a rather firm grip on all starting positions next season with Gay back in the lineup.
At power forward, Zach Randolph, an under-rated big man even when at Michigan State, finally has an NBA team that appears willing to hold on to him. After an excellent regular season he has been the team's star in the playoffs, averaging better than 23 points per game, and 11 rebounds. In the last five games, he's shot nearly 89 percent from the free-throw line.
Marc Gasol, considered by many as an afterthought in the trade that sent his brother to the Lakers, has been a major contributor in the postseason, as well. In a triple-overtime loss to the Thunder, Gasol went for 26 points, and 21 rebounds, and has significantly increased his scoring and rebounding in the playoffs.
Point guard Mike Conley has had a particularly strong series against the Thunder, average better than 18 points per game, and he has improved his regular-season scoring and assist averages since entering the league in 2007.
Shooting guard has been a joint effort between Allen and Mayo, and both have done their part. Allen has been a defensive gem for the organization, and is a decent scorer.
After Hollins decided to bring Mayo off the bench, there were doubts about his future in Memphis. His minutes declined, and as a result his shots per game and shooting percentage dropped, as well. But the former lottery pick continues to prove his worth, and Hollins may have to decide how to get the 23-year-old more involved in the offense next season.
The Grizzlies tried to trade Mayo to Indiana for Josh McRoberts and a first-round draft pick at the deadline. Fortunately for Memphis, that traded fell through, as Mayo has picked up his game, while McRoberts has sputtered with the Pacers.
Dealing Gay would have an even worse outcome.
No matter what the result is for the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semi-finals, Gay should remain on the roster next season.
Big things could still be in store this postseason, and even bigger things with Gay on the Grizzlies next season.