Rudy Fernandez stayed the same last season; incredibly frustrating when he doesn’t do anything in the Euroleague title game and remarkable when he plays great two-way ball in game one of the Spanish league finals.
Few players in Europe have the combination of athleticism and skills Fernandez has, yet he really only plays well sometimes. And when he goes out there and does nothing, sometimes you forget this is a great player who can impact the game in several areas.
OFF BALL OFFENSE
Real Madrid didn’t run as much this season as some of the other teams of the Pablo Laso era did, but Fernandez is still a lock for a couple of runouts per game. Then in the half-court, he leverages his athleticism to make himself an option for lobs on weak-side cuts. Very few wings in the continent can play above the rim the way Fernandez can.
That said, we might be starting to see some signs of decline. His dunks in the Spanish league dropped from 19 in 2013-2014 to six in 2014-2015. He also relied more heavily on the three-point shot, which accounted for 59.6% of his live-ball attempts last season after accounting for 53.5% of his shots the season before.
Because he is a good shooter, Fernandez should age well enough to remain productive for a few more years, though. Especially when you consider he is not only good spotting up on the weak-side but has also proven able to shoot on the move – coming off staggered screens. He is a fluid shooter with a quick trigger and a high point in his release.
Fernandez hit his 330 three-point shots at a 36.7% clip last season. Since returning to Real Madrid full time these last three years, he has converted 34.4% of his 1,058 such shots. So, while his percentage is not out of this world, his volume of attempts help understand just how productive he is on that department.
ON BALL OFFENSE
The threat of his shot often provides Fernandez opportunities to attack closeouts. He did not get to the rim a lot last season (just 32 attempts in 25 Euroleague appearances), but remains effective on straight line drives due to his long strides and can still stress the defense to converge to him when he dribbles into the lane – assisting on 17% of Real Madrid’s scores in his 1,611 minutes on the floor.
Despite having Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez on the team, Fernandez was still relied on a little to create against a set defense. He lacks dynamism to create separation going from side-to-side due to his so-so handle, with his 10% turnover rate not to be ignore in the context of his 21.4% usage-rate.
But he shot off the bounce better than the year before – converting his 73 mid-range shots in Euroleague play at a 46.5% clip. In addition, he remains a remarkable flopper, able to bait the official into awarding him free throws regardless of how small contact is – averaging 4.7 free throws per 36 minutes, which he converted at an 83% clip.
Game one of the Spanish league finals is the perfect example of what kind of defender Fernandez can still be when he’s engaged. After Juan Carlos Navarro’s shooting gave them some trouble in the first half, Laso had Fernandez guard him to start the third quarter and for five minutes, Navarro could not get open. He can chase just about anyone in continent around screens and then effectively contest shots on the move with his eight-foot-five standing reach.
Later, after Mario Hezonja fueled a fourth quarter run, Laso had Fernandez guard him for the last four minutes and the Croatian could not lose him. When he is not trying to flop by exaggerating contact with the screener, Fernandez is able to slide around screens and stay attached to the driver’s hip. Despite being 10 years older than Hezonja, Fernandez still has the athleticism to stay with him and stressed the Croatian into two or three miscues that sealed that game for Madrid.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.