July 29, 2010
I didn't. Skeets and Tas gave me a bit of a trivia lesson earlier this month, and when the question was posed as to which NBA rookie set the record for most 3-pointers in a season, I was stumped.
It was Fernandez with 159 during 2008-09. Kind of blows me away that no other rookie has managed two 3-pointers a game in his rookie year, but the person behind the record just doesn't seem right. Fernandez, in his two NBA seasons, always struck me as an all-around talent, and not just a 3-point shooter. And Rudy, to his credit, has tried to push the perimeter-based part of his resume onto the backburner. Even took part in the dunk contest. I'm sorry for bringing that up.
But Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, for whatever reason, doesn't see Rudy as someone to hand the ball to. It makes a little bit of sense — you want Brandon Roy(notes) using as many possessions as he can and Andre Miller(notes) is no slouch as a point man — but those guys can't hound the rock forever. Or for 48 minutes. So why not hand Rudy the ball, and at the same time, hand him his game back?
Ah, forget that. The Blazers are just going to trade the guy.
All three would love to have him. And if I were a fan of either of those teams, I'd welcome him to a new city with open arms. I'd be wary about some things, but then I'd get past them.
What's to be wary about? Well, Fernandez hasn't been all that great in two NBA seasons. Average in his rookie year and below average last season. A fine shooter, to be sure, but someone who has taken a ridiculous 63 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Ray Allen(notes) is another (nearly) record-setting 3-point shooter and (weirdly) a dunk contest participant, and he's only taken a third of his career looks from long range. And even these days, with his forays to the basket seemingly few and far between, and the years ticking away, Allen takes only about 40 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point line.
On top of that, though Fernandez has started only nine NBA games in his career, three of those came in the playoffs last season, against the Suns. Phoenix, a team that can't play defense despite all the on-air proclamations about how things have improved markedly (or even partially) on that end. Should have been right up Rudy's alley, which sounds like an album title, and yet he managed only 7.3 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Five assists, during that turn, at just under 26 minutes a game.
And yet, this is where I throw all this stuff out. All this documentation of how things actually went down with him on the court. All this proof we have, spread out over 3,700 NBA minutes during the regular and postseason.
Because, if it's not his game that he's playing, how can we criticize him for not playing it well?
This is a prickly path to go down. You can scan the Internet for scads of columns I've written criticizing certain players for straying from a coach's seemingly righteous intended path. For wanting to play their game above the team game.
But Rudy, just by watching the guy play, seems different. There are a lot of Rudys in this league, players who aren't used properly in one fashion or another, and I think this guy could be a sterling pickup for a team that needs someone to run stuff off the bench. Or even a starter and second ball-handler. Perhaps, like — I don't know — Kirk Hinrich(notes) was in Chicago over the last two years?
Not to demand that he ends up in Cook County, but you get the picture. A starter and someone to take over on a team that can be aided by its point guard playing off the ball sometimes. Or, to take over running the show when the starting point man sits, because of the sheer amount of shoot-first backups in this league. Or just your typical mini-Manu, ham-and-egging it off the pine.
"Or just your typical mini-Manu, ham-and-egging it off the pine." Sportswriting.
Either way, with just one year and just under $1.25 million left on his contract (there's a quite affordable team option for $2.1 million to follow in 2011-12), Fernandez could be a steal. And even if he keeps playing the way he's played — slightly below average — he's a steal at ... $1.25 million!
So yes, team, give up that first-round pick. Give it up in an instant. This guy is either going to be a bust-out player for you, or well worth what a team like Chicago or Boston (with a selection in the low teens or probable 20s) would end up paying for a first-round guaranteed deal at that slot anyway. If you kept the pick and ended up drafting a guy of Rudy's 2010-11 caliber, you'd be ecstatic. Even with him playing at his lowest ebb, as we may have seen last season.
This is worth chasing down, NBA. Take advantage of a team that might not know what it has.