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The Season in Review: Rudy Fernandez

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Today we look at the most popular Blazer rookie to hit the scene in forever, Rudy Fernandez.

If you haven't read the conversation guidelines for these threads, please take a look before commenting.

Rudy Fernandez 2008-09 stats:

Statistic

2008-2009

Games Played

78

Games Started

4

Minutes per Game

25.6

Points per Game

10.4

FG ATT per Game

8.1

Field Goal%

42.5%

3PT ATT per Game

5.1

Three-Point%

39.9%

FT ATT per Game

1.8

Free Throw%

83.9%

Off Rebs per Game

0.6

Def Rebs per Game

2.1

Total Rebs per Game

2.7

Assists

2.0

Steals

0.9

Blocks

0.2

Turnovers

1.1

Personal Fouls

1.4

Effective FG%

55.2%

True Shooting%

58.8%

PER

15.4

Plus-Minus

+3.03

Assist/Turnover Ratio

1.82

You couldn't want for much more in the rookie campaign of Rudy Fernandez.  Several numbers jump off the page to substantiate the claim.  His 40% three-point shooting clip was phenomenal, especially when you consider how quickly he shoots that shot, often in the face of a defender.  Steve Blake's percentage is similar but there's a world of difference between Blake-style and Rudy-style threes.  His overall field goal shooting was nice for a guy who has an 84% rate of shooting jumpers.  With 2 of the 3.4 shots he hit per game being threes, his Effective Field Goal Percentage and True Shooting Percentage are both through the roof.   The +3 average per game point gain isn't bad either.  Coming into the season we expected an offensive firecracker and Rudy, while not exactly turning in an M-80 performance he at least provided plenty of pop and sizzle.

Rudy also introduced a once-familiar concept back into the Portland offense:  moving without the ball.  Sergio Rodriguez actually deserves credit for attempting to get more motion going for the last couple years but he always had the ball in his hands, never had enough people around him on board, and couldn't finish the play himself despite the lack of help.  Rudy had none of those difficulties.  His off-ball movement, punctuated by the always exciting baseline alley-oop drive, demonstrated the value of finding creases and the fun of beautiful offense.  By the end of the season you saw more folks than just Rudy moving around out there.

Rudy's stats also fall short of describing his momentum-changing capabilities.  Brandon Roy is the number one game-changer on this team and there's no doubt about that.  But Rudy has to receive serious consideration for second place because of his ability to hit the quick three or get his hands on a crucial steal.  Besides that, he's got guts.  He doesn't care what the situation is.  He feels he's up to it, he wants to play, and he's going to shoot.  It's not for good looks alone that he became a crowd favorite this season!

The main criticisms of Fernandez are three:

1.  He was forced to over-rely on the jump shot this year because he couldn't gain enough separation via the dribble to get up consistently good attempts.  If you closed out effectively on Rudy this year you basically solved him.

2.  His penchant for the spectacular, gutsy, or at least optimistic play opened some questions about his timing.  He had many more critical plays to the positive than to the negative, but the negative plays were still there.

3.  Many of those negative plays showed up on defense.  Whether it was going for an ill-advised steal when the opponent was in the early stages of a break, setting up for a charge when there was no chance for contact, or garden variety drifting out of position, Rudy's physical and mental defensive routine needed work.  He was fantastic in the passing lanes.  When no interception was forthcoming, not so much.

Surprisingly enough, Portland's overall offense actually produced comparatively fewer points when Rudy was on the court than when he was off while the defense also allowed fewer when he was playing than when he sat.  This would appear to refute and reverse both the compliments and criticism listed above.  However Rudy played relatively few of his minutes with the Blazers' biggest scorers and also played heavy minutes against opposing reserves.  This may not account for the complete difference, but it does explain most of it.  Again the +3 point margin per game is really the one you want to hold onto.

Fernandez is going to get more time next year.  The Blazers have to find a way to play him.  The question will be, "Where?"  Despite giving the appearance of being a versatile player with his passing skills, hops, and quickness Rudy got destroyed during the relatively few minutes he played any position but point shooting guard.  He had a -10.4 PER gap as a point guard and a -37.5 PER gap as a small forward.  His offense appeared to stay intact at the point but he turned the ball over a ton, collected personal fouls left and right, and had real trouble defending.  The troubles were similar at small forward and his offense and rebounding went to pot as well.  Presumably some of this will level out during his second trip through the league but you can't just cavalierly pencil him in to play either position without a ton more experimentation.

Rudy needs to improve his handle, his understanding of where to get good shots in this league and this offense, and his understanding of his place in the defense.  He did well for a brand new guy in the league.  The Blazers need better next season if they are to improve.

Rudy is highly valued by the team and despite a probable high value around the league as well I don't see his name being batted about much in trade talks from Portland's end.  If they could make a move for a bona fide young star who meshed perfectly they might consider Rudy in a deal simply because of the positional conflict with Roy.  It's hard to see another team giving up that kind of player for Rudy in what would appear to be a lateral move.  Like Nicolas Batum, Rudy is a shade this side of untouchable.  It would take quite the crowbar to pry open the sliver of difference wide enough to fit a trade through.

We know the assessments of Rudy's season are going to be overwhelmingly positive, and deservedly so.  How do you see him growing, both individually and in his role on the team?  Where do the Blazers play him?  And would you consider any offers for him at this time or is he firmly ensconced on your must-keep list?  Fire away below.

See more stats at 82Games.com and BasketballReference.com.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)