Then, he tore his Achilles in January.
Where does that leave Gay with his option?
Gay said those plans could change due to the injury. He’s on course to be ready for next season but said he’ll decide what to do after an evaluation of his health and his agent’s assessment of the market.
“I’m looking at where I feel most comfortable, where I can showcase my talents and win,” Gay said. “Wherever I think I can do that at, that’s the best place for me.”
Gay has a fairly early exercise date — June 10 or five days after his team’s last game, according to Basketball Insiders. It’s unclear whether Gay’s deadline is the earlier or later of those two dates.
That still leaves Gay some time to evaluate his health, and his agent can likely gather some information. But Gay must decide well before free agency begins and likely well before he returns to the court.
It’ll be a close call and the money is only part of it. Remember, Gay reportedly coined the term “basketball hell” for Sacramento. But if Gay opts in, the Kings might trade him — which he probably wouldn’t mind.
After trading DeMarcus Cousins, their narrow window to rebuild is open. They owe the 76ers their 2019 first-round pick. So, tanking in 2017-18 could be the last clear path to fortifying a young core with Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, Bogdan Bogdanovic and, ideally, two high 2017 picks.
Gay no longer fits the plan. He wouldn’t be able to control where Sacramento trades him, but only teams that value him would deal for him. At worst, he’s spending only one more season in an undesirable situation.
Then, he could pick his team in 2018 free agency — likely from a, literally, healthier place.