The news isn't exactly surprising, as Gay is far from untouchable. He's averaging the fewest points per game since his rookie season, while his three-point shooting percentage is down. His rebounding has improved now that he's playing more power forward, but the Kings are still better when he's on the bench, specially on defense.
According to Stein, the Kings won't trade Gay for just anyone, which makes sense. For all his flaws, Gay is still a productive player in his prime who causes no locker room issues and can play two positions. If the right deal materializes, however, he could be moved.
So let's take a closer look at this rumor.
Why it makes sense to trade Rudy Gay
The Kings are not even close to contending, so committing to a flawed core is the last thing they should do. They should consider offers for everyone on the roster except for DeMarcus Cousins. Gay is a good player, but he's perfectly replaceable, so for the right price, parting with him makes complete sense. With Cousins and Rajon Rondo handling the shot creation, a wing that can shoot and defend without occupying a large offensive role may fit better with the starters.
If the Kings hope to trade Gay, now's the time. A dozen teams in the East are trying to make the playoffs and a handful of Western teams could use a big wing to play power forward to match up with the Golden State Warriors and battle Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. Gay is not perfect, but he might be one of the few players available who fit that description. Someone could panic and overpay.
Sacramento also needs to get its hands on some young players and picks. They still owe the Chicago Bulls one first-round pick from the awful Omri Casspi -- J.J. Hickson trade several years ago, and they traded another future first-rounder along with the eighth pick of the 2014 draft to get cap space last summer. The only young, cheap rotation players they have are Ben McLemore and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they can get someone on a rookie contract or a draft pick for Gay, they should take the opportunity to get younger.
Why it doesn't make sense to trade Rudy Gay
The Kings are not gunning for a championship right now, but they desperately crave respectability. They are currently half a game back from the eighth seed in the West, which means the playoffs are a real possibility. Making a move now that the team's chemistry is sound could backfire horribly. A drop in the standings could bring back the issues between Cousins and George Karl and not only cost the Kings their shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2006, but also the fragile peace they have achieved so far.
While Gay's contract is not cheap, it's not prohibitively expensive either and it expires soon. He has one more guaranteed year after this one at around $13 million and a player option for an extra season worth around $14 million. The salary cap is going up, so Gay's deal won't prevent the Kings from keeping Rondo or making additions in the offseason. Speaking of additions, will the Kings be able to attract a better free agent for $13 million with half the league loaded with cap space? It doesn't seem likely.
Then there's the possible return. The Kings rejected an offer from the New Orleans Pelicans that consisted of Alonzo Gee and a currently injured Eric Gordon, according to Stein. If that's representative of the value Gay holds around the league at this moment, expecting him to fetch a young player or a pick seems like wishful thinking. If that's the case, the Kings are better off keeping him.
Likelihood of happening: 3/10
The Kings are doing the right thing by exploring the market for Gay, but it's hard to see a trade involving him that works. If they lower their asking price or a playoff team loses its small forward for the season and overpays, a deal might happen. If not, the most likely outcome is Gay finishing the season in Sacramento.