With two highly-anticipated new reserve guards coming onto the roster this fall it’s pretty natural for people to pick a favorite and ride along on the bandwagon. When that happens it’s also pretty natural to view the other bandwagon with suspicion. With each bandwagon led by a back-up, backcourt player we’ve already started to hear the rumblings. How much are these two guys in competition? Will they end up taking minutes from each other? Will both get a fair shake? Before we get too far down that road we should take a closer look.
Before I even start let me answer a question I’m sometimes asked: Which one is my favorite? I can answer that pretty easily. It’s the one who helps us win most. Unfortunately we don’t know which one that will be yet, if either. As far as personal favorites, really they’re all my guys as long as they wear the uniform (and some for long after). I try to be as realistic as I can about our players’ shortcomings and whether they fit in with the team’s plans, but the truth is I get regret pangs every time I consider any of them being traded. If you asked I could come up with at least half a page of assets each player brings to the team (and that includes both Rudy and Jerryd). If I were the GM we’d need a 52-man roster and Buck Williams would probably still be on it.
In any case, with Jerryd being a combo guard with scoring skills and Rudy being a scoring guard with passing skills it would seem both would be fighting each other for minutes in our backcourt. In a sense this is true in that either alone could eventually end up meriting the entirety of the reserve backcourt minutes and obviously that can’t happen with both of them on the team. But really that’s a concern for the future, if ever. We don’t know what this team will look like next year even. It may be the same, we may make deals, or one of these two reserves could become a starter himself. It’s safe to say that neither one will be ready to come in and take 30+ guard minutes all by themselves this year. This season there will be enough minutes to go around. Right off the bat the tension is eased somewhat.
As far as the minutes that are up for grabs, there are two major ways players can overlap and thus compete for the same time: position and skills.
Considering position, both players have the capacity to swing around a little bit. The key word there, though, is “little”. I am pretty comfortable saying Rudy is not going to be able to guard NBA point guards for extended minutes in his first year. I am also comfortable saying Jerryd is not going to match up well defensively against taller shooting guards, especially early on. Either might be able to do it situationally, for a play or two, but as a matter of course I believe that defense will dictate Jerryd mostly guard ones and Rudy twos. That will keep the overlap to a minimum and thus keep them out of direct competition with each other.
While both players are primarily offensive guards, their skills are quite different. Jerryd’s main physical asset is his body. It’s not so much that he’s huge and bulky, he’s just stacked like a brick wall. Rudy, on the other hand, is surprisingly fleet. Jerryd is straight ahead at you. Rudy dips around. Jerryd is a rock. Rudy is the wind. Jerryd loves the ball in his hands. Rudy moves without it. Jerryd defends by getting up in your grill. Rudy plays the spaces in between. Jerryd has focused vision. Rudy sees all around him. Jerryd likes to score off of the dribble. Rudy can catch and shoot. Jerryd is aggressive. Rudy is sneaky. Jerryd will hit you hard. Rudy will annoy you until you hit him. These are two guards with a lot of weapons, neither one much like the other. The guy who gets the call will be the guy whose skills best fit the situation. Need some more offensive flow? You go with Rudy. Fourth quarter is here and the team isn’t getting to the cup aggressively enough? Hello Jerryd. Three pointer? Probably Rudy. Lock down for one possession? Go with Jerryd. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of gray area there. You either need a standard screwdriver or a Phillips. The two don’t directly compete even though they’re both screwdrivers. Hopefully soon Jerryd and Rudy will both be Swiss Army Knives and more interchangeable, but by the time that happens one or both might be starting or might be traded. For now I don’t think Nate will have a lot of trouble figuring out which one to call in a given situation.
The elephant in the closet here is Brandon Roy. Where does he play and how much is he willing to move? If he’s a full-time shooting guard then expect Jerryd to get more minutes. If Roy is willing to move around to point or small forward or if Nate goes with a three-guard lineup expect Rudy to be on the floor. Either way the rotation depends far more on Brandon than on either of the rookies. Their playing time may not be as much a matter of who shines brighter as who fits in better with the All-Star. Again, though, that’s not real competition between the two. If one has a game that blends seamlessly while the other doesn’t then that second one is going to get fewer minutes even if he’s darn good.
The long and short of it is as long as both play well they should both see minutes…maybe not as much as their supporters would like, but they’ll play. If one isn’t playing it almost certainly means he’s not performing adequately. But if that happens it’s not like the other guy is going to eat all of those minutes. If Jerryd bites the big banana you’re not going to see Rudy suddenly made the back-up point for 15 extra minutes. Maybe Jerryd could absorb some of Rudy’s minutes should the latter sink like a stone, but it’d be more likely that Roy would get less rest and Nate would grumble to KP about needing another veteran in the backcourt.
In other words, at least as far as it looks right now, Rudy fans would be wasting their time hating on Jerryd and vice versa. The two are not interchangeable enough to make it matter.