Rudy Watch: Game 1

First of all, you guys are crazy.  600+ 700+ comments on an Olympic game featuring one potential player in the middle of the night?  Only on Blazersedge.

We all saw a little bit of Rudy Fernandez in this game...enough to make some preliminary judgments.  There were plenty of things to talk about too.

The initial good news is that you could tell it was Rudy from the minute you saw him.  This may sound weird at first but you'll often hear GM's and scouts talk about a guy commanding your attention.  Rudy didn't exactly scream out for your eyeball time--that would be Ricky Rubio--but you could definitely tell there was something about him.  Much of it was in the way he moved.  He had quickness and confidence both...solid attributes for a guy hoping to make it in the NBA.

Rudy has good height and appears to use it.  That quickness almost makes him seem rangy.  As expected he moved well without the ball when the sets called for it.  He also showed good speed up and down the court.  His shot and release were quick as well, both in decision-making and execution.  He doesn't let grass grow under his feet when there are points to be had.  He's also fast getting up in the air.  One of the problems plaguing the current Blazer leapers is that their rim finishes take a long time to develop.  Rudy appeared to get in the sky in a hurry.  I don't have many doubts about him being able to get shots up in the NBA.  Everything that's good about him happens fast. 

Rudy's shot looked good.  He's obviously comfortable shooting from distance.  He looked equally happy going left or right, though I imagine teams will try to force him left.  It's hard to tell against non-NBA competition but his first step looked pretty good.  Beyond that, though, things get more shaky.  The best way to describe it is:  when he had an opening he looked great.  Creating those openings for himself may be an issue.  His offense didn't go anywhere when he was in traffic.  His best interior attempts (the highlight reel stuff) came when he had a clear lane.  When he was bothered he looked like a float-and-hoper inside.  Unless you're talking straight catch-and-shoot he's going to get bothered a lot in the NBA.

They let Rudy initiate the offense a few times.  This was less of a success.  His inability to get clear off the dribble hampered both his shot and his passing ability.  That passing ability became much clearer when he was receiving the ball and then moving it on.  He looks like he could be a good team player, a nice fit with the already-unselfish Blazers.  But he didn't look like a true playmaker.

One possibility that has me excited is seeing Rudy as a wing on the break.  With his speed, quick jump, passing ability, and shot he'd be a multi-pronged threat all by himself.  If his teammates run with him you'll have a hard time deciding who (or what) to defend.

The worst part of Rudy's game by far was his defense, which, aside for a couple noticeable moments, ranged from a high of semi-adequate to a low of wholly ineffective.  He was reaching, leaning, and getting beat off of the dribble with regularity in the first quarter.  He got a little more active in the second quarter but still ended up getting to the spot late, getting out of position, and/or playing with his arms instead of his feet.  He ran behind every pick thrown at him when he didn't get rubbed off entirely.  In the third quarter I finally saw him fight through a pick.  In the fourth quarter he managed to stay in front of his man off the dribble.  But really he appears to have a long way to go in this area.  I am very interested to see him against the U.S. and to see if the effort is more sustained there.  I feel pretty comfortable saying that if he played that style of defense against any NBA guard he'd get BBQ'ed like a Kansas City rib.  My guess is the Blazers will need to employ a lot of zone when he's in if they want to get the best out of him.

Overall I thought he had a very nice offensive game and he did more than enough to help his team win.    I didn't see anything tonight to move me off of the convictions that he's going to need to play shooting guard and that he's going to need to hit outside shots to stay on the floor initially.  However you can see what the Blazers like in him and so far he looks like a guy who can contribute while learning.  After some of the rookies we've watched that's not a bad deal.

More data to come.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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