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Roundup: Rudy Fernández Explodes for 36 Points

Roundup: Rudy Fernández Explodes for 36 Points
Dec 12, 2006, 06:33 pm
Player of the Week: Rudy Fernández

Rudy Fernández earns well-deserved back-to-back nominations as Player of the Week in our roundup after a terrific weekend both in the Euroleague and the domestic front.
We were warning people from the very beginning of the season (indeed in the preseason SuperCup) about Rudy playing bigger role in his team, assuming more responsibilities, and being much more of a leader. This has translated into both increased scoring production for Fernandez as an individual, and more efficient offensive play for DKV Joventut as a whole. Rudy is now prepared to emerge as one of the brightest stars in the European sky.

One reason Fernandez has been able to take his game to the next level is that his perimeter shots have been falling, which gives him an extra degree of confidence. Besides, he’s extremely active playing without the ball - cutting, using screens, and understanding how to set up favorable situations in which to receive the ball. He can score from just about anywhere on the court, with almost unlimited range. At the same time, his defensive effort is as good as always, if not improved. He’s currently in great shape, and the nagging injuries that slowed him down early in the season appear to be a thing of the past.

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The week started for Fernández in Ljubljana, playing against Union Olimpija in a very important game, given the parity shown by the Group B in the Euroleague. Scoring the first seven points for his team (including an impressive coast-to-coast play finished with a dunk to open the game), he also came through in key moments late in the late third and fourth quarters. Rudy finished the game with 17 points and 2 rebounds. His presence on court on the court was alone a guarantee for a more fluid offense, a feeling that was even intensified when he was joined by his teenager buddy Ricky Rubio. Both secured the victory for Joventut in a fantastic second half.

That was only the beginning. Alta Gestión Fuenlabrada was waiting in the ACB League, and Rudy just took over the game with a 36-point performance. It was his career high and the highest mark in the Spanish League by any player this season. Shooting 14/19 from the field (7/9 from the arc), he also contributed with 2 rebounds and 3 steals. Again Ricky Rubio was his most faithful partner in crime, and it appears this deadly duo has developed an oustanding level of on-court understanding.

Averaging 15.3 points in 22 minutes per game, Rudy ranks currently third in scoring per minute in the Euroleague, only behind the Greek beast Sofoklis Schortsanitis and super-scorer Juan Carlos Navarro (coincidentally the player ahead of him in the Spanish National Team rotation). In the ACB League, with 15.6 points in less than 27 minutes per game, Rudy ranks third in points per game, this time behind Will McDonald and Igor Rakocevic. There’s no available rank for per-minute stats, but apparently only Louis Bullock beats Rudy here.

All of this adds up to quite an impressive résumé for these first months of the competition, particularly considering that Rudy is leading a winning team such as DKV Joventut (4-3 and third in the Group B of the Euroleague and 7-5 and fourth in the ACB League). The first round of the draft is waiting for him, and he seems determined not to waste the opportunity.


Taking a Long Look at…

…Jonas Maciulis, who had a terrific showing in the Euroleague with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks in a dramatic game that called Pau Orthez winner in Kaunas after two overtimes. Despite the loss, it was an impressive outing for Maciulis, who showed remarkable versatility. He’s a small forward all the way, but he played parts of virtually every position from point guard to power forward in this game. Among other things, we could see him taking the ball up-court on a number of times, occasionally running the offense as a point guard, and executing a pick-and-roll situation (with Tanoka Beard) as an orthodox playmaker (he delivered a perfect assist to his teammate). He asked for the ball in the low post, taking advantage of his physical superiority to score with his back to the basket. He did a good job cutting and receiving the ball to attack the basket and to shoot from the perimeter (with poor results, though). He also scored in coast-to-coast fashion, beating his defender off t he dribble. He passed the ball within the offensive flow, and hematched up against both forwards on defense. Maciulius kept his hands very active, looking to stealing the ball from any rival on the court. He worked hard on the glass as well. For some stretches in the game, particularly the first three quarters, he was all over the court.

It isn’t his first great performance and it won’t be the last one (he delivered 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals this in the Baltic League this week as well). Something really strange would need to happen in order to keep Maciulis from becoming a very good player at the highest European level. He’s a very strong wing (he can already outmuscle most of his matchups in international basketball), intense and aggressive, and knows how to take advantage of his physical dominance. He’s quite athletic, but also skilled. His size (6-6; poor for a SF) and his inconsistent perimeter stroke (1/6 from the three-point line in this game; 28% in the Euroleague, and little off-the-dribble ability in this department) seriously hurt his draft chances. After all, it’s pretty obvious that the physical advantage he enjoys in Europe would be significantly diminished in the NBA, so his effectiveness would take a big hit. But he’s a name to remember, as somebody might fall in love with his toughness and character, and bet on a future development.


…George Tsintsadze has emerged as an offensive force for Tartu Rock. He leads the Estonian team in scoring in the Baltic League, with 13 points per game. He shines in the assists department, ranking second both in the Baltic League and FIBA EuroCup Challenge (for a combined 4.9 average). He managed to drop 27 points on Lietuvos Rytas a month and a half ago, and last week, he had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists against Samara in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge.

Tsintsadze is another product of the CSKA juniors (he played there with the likes of Shabalkin or Kurbanov), and a typical presence in the Georgian youth teams; indeed, we did cover his performance at the U-18 European Junior Championship in 2004. From what we saw then, he seems to have improved in some areas of his game, but still has ways to go. He still looks like a promising prospect with very good tools even for pro competition, thanks to his 6-4 well-built body (although still a bit skinny) and nice athleticism. Tsintsadze’s one-on-one skills remain pretty effective. He takes advantage of nice handles and notable quickness to beat defenders, while he easily finds the open man on the court. He seems to have settled his game down a little bit, as he used to get out of control too often. Now he is more patient, trying not to force the issue, and not looking for the unnecessary flashy assist. He still gets out of control every once in a while, but it isn't as big of an issue as it once was. He has never been a good shooter, and still lacks consistency from the long range area, while his mechanics are not the most solid ones. Besides, he’s too much of a static player off the ball, just waiting for his teammats to feed him. However, he actively helps on the defensive glass.

The level of competition Tsintsadze faces is not the best in the continent, but it’s a move in the right direction. He doesn’t look to be much of a serious draft candidate at this point but we shouldn’t rule it out if he continues to blossom in the next year and a half.


…Dragan Labovic delivered a solid performance against Helios. He had 18 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in helping FMP to the win, which kept them in second place in the Adriatic League.
Labovic is an important part of the 1987 Serbian generation that has been so successful in youth basketball. This has included Cadet champion in 2003 sharing the frontcourt with Aleksandrov, junior champion and MVP in 2005, and U-20 champion in 2006 (always Europe-wise). He has shined at these stages thanks to his excellent skill set, basketball IQ and maturity. Those are useful characteristics in his pro career, where Labovic looks like a rather steady player. He currently averages 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in the ULEB Cup, and is yet another useful piece of the deep, young and talented FMP. Dragan is a versatile guy who can face the basket or play in the low post. Playing the power forward position, we usually see him shooting from the mid-range area with nice accuracy, and even from the three-point line, where he still struggles a bit. Still, he has good footwork to evolve down low and the ability to finish with both hands, as well as the ability to easily put the ball on the floor. A smart player, he passes the ball pretty well within the offensive flow, and battles on defense despite his own athletic limitations. This is precisely the biggest knock on him: his poor athleticism seriously limits his potential, particularly NBA wise, and while he stands somewhere between 6-9 and 6-10, which is not that bad, the combination leaves a lot to be desired in terms of making the NBA cut. He will be a very serviceable player in Europe, that’s for sure, but it’s very hard to picture him at the NBA level.


State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Marc Gasol registered his second consecutive double-double with a 17 point 13 rebound performance in the FIBA EuroCup against Maccabi Rishon Le Zion. It was a career high for him in the rebounding department and the fourth consecutive victory for Akasvayu Girona, the only undefeated team so far in the competition. The intrigue just keeps growing around the Spanish center.

Omri Casspi netted 27 points in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge to mark a career high. However, his team Galil Elyon lost against Prostejov by a wide margin. Although he still showing inconsistency, this season is providing priceless experience for Casspi at the pro level. It will prepare him for his future return to Maccabi Tel Aviv (he’s on a loan right now) as a player ready to contribute at top European level, while feeding his draft stock as well.

Jaka Klobucar also recorded a career high with 28 points (6/9 from the arc) in the Adriatic League. He added 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals for Geoplin Slovan. The Slovenian team was just way too weak to battle against the leader Cibona Zagreb. Klobucar, a fundamentally sound shooting guard with a nice shooting stroke, doesn’t look like a NBA prospect for the moment, but he’s a very promising wing for the FIBA scene.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Dusan Sakota is suffering from the crazy depth of Panathinaikos (arguably the strongest European squad top-to-bottom) to the point that he plays and produces less than last season. He hasn’t scored a single point in the Euroleague in over a month now, and when it comes to the Greek League he only averages 4.2 points and 2 rebounds in 18 minutes of playing time (he achieved 6.2 points per game last season). Beyond the playing time issue, this is also fed by the poor shooting accuracy that he’s showing this season. Sakota’s first and most important weapon is his perimeter stroke, and he’s struggling badly, netting only 14% of his three-pointers in the Greek League. This is an awful percentage, particularly when you consider than most of those attempts are wide open shots. If his shots aren’t falling in, Sakota becomes a rather worthless player, as he rarely slashes or plays without the ball, his defense is average. His passing ability doesn’t stand out, and generally speaking, he doesn’t seem to be much of a physical presence on the court. All in all, the situation screams for a loan: Sakota would probably benefit from gaining experience and assuming some responsibilities on a weaker Greek team.


Rounding Up…

Nihad Djedovic and his team Bosna have finally reached an agreement with F.C.Barcelona. According to the press, the Spanish team would have paid near one million euros for him, which would include his buyout (30-50% of the amount) and a six-season contract (with the last two as optional for the team) starting the next one, so he will remain in Bosna until the end of the current campaign. As the player reported to the press, Tau Vitoria had offered more money, but he decided to sign where he prefers to play in (he’s a big fan of F.C.Barcelona). To celebrate it, Nihad reached double digits in scoring this weekend against Siroki, finishing with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Starting the game as usual, it was the third time he scored in double digits this season. He currently averages 4.9 points, and 1.9 rebounds in 17 minutes per game, not bad for a 16 year-old kid.

The once-heralded top draft prospect Nemanja Aleksandrov had finally made his debut with Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) a week ago against Bosna, but he didn't recieve meaningful playing time until his team's most recent game against Split. In 18 minutes, he went for 9 points (missing only one field goal), 4 rebounds and 2 blocks while helping his team to beat Split. It looks like a promising start for a guy who is going to be one of the most scrutinized international prospects in the following months. We’ll keep you updated on him.

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