After six years with Real Madrid, Sergio Rodriguez has chosen to return to the NBA, agreeing to a one year-deal worth $8 million with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Despite being only 30 years old, Rodriguez looks past his prime from a physical-standpoint and it’s possible he is joining (re-joining, in his case) that league too late to still be an impact player, as was the case with Pablo Prigioni and Marcelinho Huertas.
But Rodriguez’s skill level and intelligence on the offensive end of the floor remains so high that it’s worth a short-term gamble for an NBA team to recruit him and the new cap boom has made it so that such a team can now offer him enough of a monetary incentive to make it palatable for him to make the jump.
SHOT CREATION & OUTSIDE SHOOTING
It’s unclear whether the 76ers are a particularly good fit for Rodriguez, mostly because there’s just very little certainty regarding how that team is going to look like by opening day.
But Rodriguez’s combination of shot creation and outside shooting should mean he is able to fill whatever role is necessary of him.
While we can’t know whether Joel Embiid will participate, which of Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will be retained and which position Dario Saric will play, we do know Ben Simmons is going to run offense for this team most of the time.
When that’s the case, Rodriguez can be of help as a weak-side threat. An unimpressive shooter in his first stint at the NBA level, he developed into a prolific gunner these last few years. Now possessing a quick, compact release with clean mechanics and smooth rhythm, Rodriguez nailed 39.2% of his 1,256 three-point shots over the last five seasons.
Then when Simmons sits, he will be able to run quality offense for 15-20 minutes. Rodriguez can’t create separation on straight isolations anymore, even attempting to burn big men on switches as he didn’t even try taking on Ekpe Udoh several times in the Euroleague quarterfinals series against Fenerbahçe.
But that’s not that big deal because Rodriguez should never be isolating since he is at his best as a pick-and-roll maestro, having proven himself a remarkable decision maker reading the two defenders involved in the two-man game and the weak-side defenders collapsing against his dribble penetration.
The sort of passer who anticipates an opening a second before it appears, he assisted on at least 35% of Real Madrid’s scores when he was on the floor in each of the last five seasons and posted assist-to-turnover ratios at or above 2.3 in each of the last four seasons – according to RealGM.
Rodriguez still has enough speed to turn the corner and get into the lane. He no longer has much of a chance against length at the rim due to his lack of lift at this point of his career, but has great coordination squeezing himself through tight spaces and uncovers a path to the basket for an uncontested layup from time to time.
But how he manages to remain a legit scoring threat handling the ball is through his pull-up shooting. Rodriguez doesn’t hunt for his own shot off the bounce as much as teammate Sergio Llull but is aggressive elevating off the dribble when the defense gets a little too courageous leaving him unaccounted for, even from three-point range.
The concerns over Rodriguez’s ability to stay on the floor at the NBA level regard his defense.
He doesn’t even need to be screened to lose his man anymore and when he does manage to stay in front, Rodriguez lacks strength in his weak 176-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact and length to contest outside shots effectively.
He has no lateral quickness left to navigate over ball-screens and recover to his man to try making plays as a trailer. His contributions through blocks, steals and defensive rebounds are marginal.
It’s entirely possible he will be just as unplayable as Huertas was, even on a bad team.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara