As we all know and cherish, this very forum featured a plea to the Kings from our Zacharyous friend to sign the now waived Delonte West. The logic was simple, yet infallible: the Kings have a need for another backcourt player who can shoot, defend, and handle the ball; and whaddaya know, Delonte West can shoot, defend, and handle the ball. Zach has all the good stuff listed right here, including a fantastic breakdown of West’s shooting ability (specifically in crunch time), tactfully seasoned with details of the undersized guard’s off court issues and youtube clips of the even more undersized Seth Green.
However, though I thoroughly agree with Zach that Delonte would be a great fit, I have a hard time seeing the move come to fruition. I should note that my knowledge of who may be interested in Delonte pretty much amounts to the Sam Amico tweet Zach linked to (Sam names the Celtics, Bulls and Mavs). However, even without that list, I would imagine Delonte would be very reluctant to even consider Sacramento over contending teams who, if they possess logically sound people at the helm, are certain to go after him. The only way to lure him in would be to overpay, as Zach suggests, but given the recent nature of Geoff Petrie’s moves, I doubt he chooses that route.
However, there is another shooting guard out there who is supposedly very much available. Not as available as Delonte – there is a reason the term free agent includes the word free in it – but for a team reluctant to shell out money, he may be easier to get.
Rudy Fernandez has been on the market for quite some time. Kelly Dwyer wrote why teams should try and get him back in late July (remember late July?), after months and months of “I wanna go back to Spain” rumors interweaving with “I wanna stay in the NBA but not in Portland” rumors. Friday night, your, mine, and everybody’s friend Nick Flynt (perhaps better known as DDL legend Buck Nasty) discussed the chances that the Bulls, Celtics or Knicks – widely considered to be Rudy’s hottest pursuers – fill their respective needs for Spanish shooting guards. As most things usually do, this stirred up a twitter debate between Nick and yours truly, which opened my eyes to just how good Rudy would be on the Kings.
(While researching, I saw that commentator Robert Arctor mentioned Rudy as a nice fit in his response to Zach’s Delonte piece. He is a wise wise man.)
As mentioned by both Dwyer and the NBA record book, Fernandez is just one year removed from setting a new NBA record for 3 pointers from a rookie. And while his shooting from long range fell off from 40% to 37% in his sophomore campaign, few can doubt that the man can light it up. He probably attempts too many shots from behind the arc – 63% of his career shot attempts – but if he shoots them well, why stop him? His true shooting % was a strong 58.8% in his rookie year, and though that dropped to 54% last season, one feels much more comfortable going to war with a 54% true shooting mark than with a 38% field goal shooting mark. With Tyreke and DMC drawing double teams at every turn, and a new environment giving him a fresh start, Rudy should easily return to his strong 08-09 shooting form, and perhaps even eclipse it.
The shooting alone should sound good to Kings fans for the bargain price of 1.25 million next year, but there is more. Rudy is also a very good creator. In fact, his Portland stats hardly do him any justice in this regard – Nate McMillan mainly asked Rudy to stay in the corner and shoot threes. One has to assume that without the direct order from above, he won’t shoot as many.
His stats are still quite impressive, though. Rudy posted an assist rate of 19.1 last season – a very respectable 21st amongst shooting guards. His turnover rate wasn’t as good, at 10.8, but was still middle of the pack. Had he stayed at his 08-09 rate of 9.2, he would have ranked 32nd amongst shooting guards. All this, remember, while being denied the chance at initiating the offense, an ability that seems to be well within his repertoire. Obviously, hoping that Rudy comes in and immediately becomes the second coming of Manu Ginobili as far as creating from the 2 is more than cautiously optimistic, but the risk is fairly low here – at worst, Rudy is a servicable starter who can bring up the ball when necessary and knock down shots. The upside though? That’s through the roof.
On the defensive end, Rudy is hardly the ace Delonte is. While Delonte is an elite perimeter defender, Rudy is below average at best. However, his defense should benefit greatly from not playing next to a star shooting guard at all times. Brandon Roy’s sheer presence meant that on most nights, Rudy guarded opposing small forwards. Despite his athleticism, those small forwards tend to be a bit too big for him.
With the Kings, though, Rudy will be a shooting guard full time. In fact, the monster manning point guard is so big, that Rudy might even be able to switch to point guards when playing against the more physical 2s the league has. I doubt this makes him an elite defender, but when he’s not getting bullied left and right, his speed and athleticism should stop him from being a downright liability.
Of course, Rudy doesn’t come risk free. He’s not as disruptive personality wise as Delonte could be, but his tenure in Portland shows us he’s not a naturally happy camper. Rudy might bicker about wanting to go back to Spain the second he comes off the plane. If he remains unhappy, in a locker room full of strong personalities who are even younger than he is (24), the situation could get out of hand.
There is also the minor detail of how to sell Portland on shipping Rudy to Sactown – the Blazers reportedly want a first round pick, but Sacramento would be foolish to give one away for Rudy and nothing more (I would assume the best bet would be to try and sell the Blazers on Fransisco Garcia or Beno Udrih, since they have the financial resources necessary to take on such deals, and the Kings could then take on some filler salary like the injured Joel Pryzbilla’s expiring contract. Of course, if you move Beno, you suddenly lack a backup point guard, unless you really trust Pooh Jeter, which I do, but the Kings probably do not at this point. So then you want to get another player, and you probably ask the Blazers to give you Jerryd Bayless, and things can get out of hand very quickly. This is why speculating where players under contract can fit is stupid. However, this is the internet, so ha.)
All that being said, if the Kings can deal for Rudy without losing a major component of their core going forward, I think you have to do it. Rudy is too talented, too good a backcourt complement for Tyreke heading into the future to not take a shot. Can’t you see a rotation of Tyreke/Rudy/Donte/Omri/Landry/JT/Cousins/maybe Whiteside/’11 and ’12 draft picks growing old together? I can. The Kings have already seen one, possibly two grade A building blocks fall into their laps. It’s highly unlikely it happens again. Take the chance. Get me some Rudy.