If the Portland Trailblazers ever live up to their potential and win an NBA title, they might just owe it to the Balearic Islands of Spain. These are the islands that produced and nurtured Rudy Fernandez into a basketball juggernaut. Both his parents were professional ball players in Spain. As soon as Rudy was born, he was on the radar of every pro basketball team in the country. By the time he was 16, Rudy had a contract with Joventut Badalona and a roster spot on the Spanish national team. It was only a matter of time before NBA scouts joined the party. Fortunately for the Blazers, not very many did.
Come the 2007 NBA draft, Rudy was a hot topic. Every player ranking system you could find was touting his offensive abilities. There’s no discrepancy as to why. He’s a great one on one guy, gets to the rim with ease, is fluid, smooth, has amazing court awareness and is a great shooter from deep. He can play anywhere from the PG to the SF in the league. He is a leaper with above average athleticism and a quick first step second to none. So, when he dropped to the 24th pick in the draft, some eyebrows raised. Upon further inspection, it was decided that he wasn’t strong enough to guard some NBA guards. It was also well-noted that in 2006, he signed a long-term contract with Joventut Badalona. The buyout in the contract was so large, he wouldn’t be able to play in the NBA until the ’08-’09 season. Basically, his physical strength and professional status in Spain caused him to free fall.
With the 24th pick in the 2007 draft, the Phoenix Suns took Rudy Fernandez. I wasn’t the only one who saw this pick and thought it was a perfect fit. Ric Bucher of ESPN predicted that Rudy would be a perfect complement to the Suns’ style of play. He thought Rudy would thrive in the league and turn out to be the “steal of the draft.” Then, inexplicably, Phoenix traded Rudy along with James Jones to the Portland Trailblazers for Cash. That’s right, cash. I hope that cash is enough to pay for all the therapy Suns executives are going to need when they see this guy play next year.
When Portland got Rudy for cash, they had to think, “God is a Blazer fan.” Just two months after winning Oden in the lottery, they find a duffel bag full of gold bars on their front lawn. If you don’t think Rudy is worth his weight in gold, go search “Rudy Fernandez” on YouTube. You’ll find countless highlights, which include high-flying dunks, dribbling trickery, and unbelievable shots. What’s more impressive is his game film. I’ve watched 5 games in their entirety and couldn’t believe what I saw. The evidence is this article, which I was compelled to write based on my conclusions. Fernandez is the best player (MVP last year) in the 2nd best league in the world. He is a star in Spain and it is only a matter of time before he’s a star in the NBA.
This year, in the Spanish league, Rudy is averaging 22 ppg in 28 minutes. He is also adding 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and a block every game. He shoots 93% from the foul line and 41% from downtown. Keep in mind that this is the best player in the league, meaning teams hone in on him and he is consistently double-teamed. Over the last five years, his stats have gotten better in EVERY category listed above. In 2006-2007, he was the ACB league’s MVP. He was also the 2007 FIBA European player of the year, which is given to the best European player outside the U.S. He won this award at the age of 22.
The only player I can compare Fernandez to is Gilbert Arenas. Seriously. He gets to the rim at will and has a great shooting touch. When he catches fire, which he often does, he makes absolutely everything. The only knock on him is his strength, even though he’s gained 10 pounds in the last year. He is 6’6 and weighs 185 pounds. With an NBA workout regimen, he’ll add another 10-15 pounds and be just fine. Defensively, he could also be special. As mentioned, he’s 6’6 yet can guard the PG position. He has very quick feet, quick hands and deceptively long arms. The only thing that could keep him from being a great defender is his will. If he decides he wants to defend, he’ll do it with the best of them. Physically speaking, this guy is perfect for the NBA. With these physical gifts and a jaw-dropping array of offensive skills, this guy will be an all-star. You can quote me on that. I can only hope that happens while he’s in Portland.