This Copa del Rey has just confirmed that Rudy Fernandez is head and shoulders above any other player in the ACB League, and one of the very top performers across Europe. He has blossomed this season into a massive scorer and a nightmare for opposing defenses, particularly relying on a fantastic shooting touch that allows him to put the ball in the net from anywhere on the court. He always had showed a nice stroke whenever he was left open, but this season hes especially standing out by his ability to create his own shot (a la Belinelli, but the Spaniard actually makes them), being able to connect on some pretty wild jumpers.
You just cant concede Rudy any opportunity, because he will bury you with a barrage of shots in the blink of an eye. Enjoying NBA range, effective off the dribble and even fade-away moves, and extremely quick with the release of the ball, the only way to stop Fernández is to make him pay for his relatively limited ball-handling skills, especially with his left, and slashing ability. Indeed, Rudy struggles in pure one-on-one situations if hes pressured, as it was exposed particularly in the semifinal. Suffering against aggressive on-ball defenses, he struggled trying to get rid of his opponent off the dribble, and given his prominence in Joventuts offense, it almost cost his team the game.
Rudy needs to be already in motion or to enjoy some kind of advantage (a screen, an unbalanced defense, a mismatch) in order to break that first defensive oppositionbut once he manages it, hes extremely difficult to stop, thanks to his long strides, good footwork, and crafty finishing ability around the rim. He doesnt need to find the layup, as he can stop somewhere in the paint to release his mid-range jumper while hanging in the air. He delivered a lot of that stuff in the final, paving his way to an outstanding 32-point outing that crowned his MVP performance in the Copa.
Having a nice feel for the game (even if he might eventually force too much trying to create his own shot, as it happened in the semifinal), Rudy can also officiate as a creator for his teammates thanks to his passing game. He sees the court pretty well, and shows a quick mind to take decisions. He did nice work here in the quarterfinal game, throwing some excellent passes, including consecutive alley-oop lobs, which fueled the spectacular aggressive and up-tempo style that Joventut likes to put in practice. He outdid himself in the semifinal, though, coming up with 9 assists to make Real Madrid pay for the defensive attention he was receiving.
Defense doesnt look like a high priority for Rudy at this point. Hes not the most aggressive on-ball defender, and hes not putting much energy into stopping his matchups. Enjoying a much larger offensive role this year, hes probably saving some efforts. Hes a skinny guy who might get eventually outmuscled, but his length and quickness make up for it whenever hes focused on this department. He fully takes part in the intense gambling style of defense that his team employs, staying aggressive in the passing lanes at all times to come up with a large amount of steals each game. Joventut is by a huge margin the team with the best steal/turnover ratio in the ACB league, and Rudy replicates this trend by coming up with more steals than turnovers during the regular season. However, in this Copa he caused 13 turnovers, with only 3 steals to speak of.
Already one of the very top players in Europe, Rudy seems more than ready to take the next step to the NBA. Even if he settled down as a shooting specialist (and hes capable of playing a significantly bigger role), he should emerge as a valuable piece for the Portland Trail Blazers.