Why Now?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 24, 2011 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves, Video | 24 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-06-24 at 10.44.46 AM

The Mavericks have acquired Rudy Fernandez (and the draft rights for 2007 selection Petteri Koponen, a footnote which may or may not have relevance) in exchange for the 26th and 57th picks in yesterday’s draft. As far as draft day trades go, this one isn’t horrible; the Mavs aren’t the Kings, who somehow talked themselves into acquiring John Salmons while losing Beno Udrih and trading down in the draft at the same time. But if you’re looking for the logic in a move like this one, I see little.

It all comes down to what Dallas surrendered. Selected with the 26th pick was Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton, a player who can functionally perform a lot of the same roles that Fernandez can. He doesn’t come without his own faults (Hamilton looks at the rim almost lustfully with each catch on the perimeter), but Hamilton eclipses Fernandez’s utility while still holding that infinite potential of youth.

In Rudy, the Mavs have acquired a streaky shooter who, for the most part, comes up errant. Fernandez shot 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last season, and though 2010-2011 was without question the worst campaign of Fernandez’s three-year NBA career, he doesn’t exactly have a healthy body of work to rule that year as an aberration. We know Fernandez can be better (particularly from three-point range; Rudy connected on 40 percent of his threes during his rookie season), but there should be legitimate concern over whether he’ll be able to return to his previous shooting marks.

Unfortunately, that kind of pessimism is what clouds discussions of Fernandez’s basketball strengths. Offense is supposed to be the side of the ball where Fernandez makes his living, and yet over the last two seasons, his offensive performance has been wholly underwhelming. Things only get worse on the defensive end, where Rudy scrambles plenty without accomplishing much at all. He has a pretty worrisome gambling problem; he’ll abandon good defensive position in a second to chase a pass he has no business chasing — and that’s when he’s even in the right defensive position in the first place. Fernandez isn’t a replacement for DeShawn Stevenson, but an even more limited stopgap, capable of possibly replicating Stevenson’s three-point shooting while falling well short of his defensive performance. Fernandez just isn’t anywhere near the defender that Stevenson is, and though Jordan Hamilton is similarly lacking in defensive ability, he’s 20 years old, long, and athletic. I have more hope for Hamilton finding religion as a defender than Fernandez, and while that hope could ultimately prove to be misplaced, I think the “he is who he is,” perspective on Fernandez is tough to refute.

Plus, Fernandez withered when he wasn’t handed the minutes he expected and was forced to compete for playing time in Portland. Based on Rick Carlisle’s rotational habits, why exactly should we expect any different result in Dallas? Fernandez has a fresh start, but he may find that Carlisle and Nate McMillan share in some particularly inconvenient elements of their coaching philosophy. “Stay ready,” which became the mantra of the Mavs’ role players last season, doesn’t quite seem to fit with Fernandez’s understanding of the team concept.

Maybe Fernandez will find new life in Dallas, but at best he’s an active offensive participant, a three-point threat, and a defensive liability. Couldn’t Hamilton be capable of the same, while giving the Mavs another interesting piece for the future? Dallas is rightfully looking to maximize on their current core, but the drive to acquire veterans has led them to one who holds all of the weaknesses of the prospect they could have had without any of the potential long-term strengths.

  • davidrchen

    Don't know much about Hamilton. But I know Rudy will be a great fit in Dallas. He's a complete player. You just didn't see it because he was stuck behind B-Roy and Wes Matthews in Nate's horrible iso offense.

    Rudy is obviously a good shooter. What sets him apart from guys like Hamilton is his feel for the game. Rudy is a great passer. He's an underrated defender. He'll help the team A LOT with his ability to put the ball on the floor and slash.

    We've needed a 6'6″ sg for a very long time. The Mavs have been undersized at 2 since Finley left.

    I love this deal. I didn't think anyone from the draft would help us next year, but Rudy helps us a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

    I'm glad you wrote this.  Everything I'm reading points to the fact that the Mavs are attempting to be pro-active because there are a number of FA's who could sign elsewhere.  That may be true, I just can't help but think we passed up a possible star.  Even if Hamilton is the headcase that Rick Barnes says he is, a locker room full of vets and a coaching staff that doesn't put up with bullshit would inevitably curb any inherent immaturity at some point.

    They have to be preparing for a hard cap at some point, since Rudy's contract is another cheap piece (to go along with Brewer), but he only has a year on his contract.  If we're preparing for the inevitable “Time to blow it up and start over” why not have young pieces?  Roddy might never get there, and Dom Jones is not very good (from what I've seen).  Hamilton was a bit of a gamble, sure. But its the 26th pick.  The upside with Hamilton is higher than with Rudy.

  • davidrchen

    With steady minutes, Rudy will give you 2 to 3 steals a night. He's a thief.

    I know he's not very impressive to most Mavs fans but you have to give him a chance. He was completely under-utilized in Nate's offense. The ball always flowed to B-Roy or Lamarcus. They had no team offense.

    Under Carlisle, he is truly going to blossom.

  • http://twitter.com/chadstanton Dirk Chilliwitzki

    Thank you! These were my thoughts exactly, Hamilton has the potential to be a number two player on a championship team and Rudy has shown he's a rotation guy.

    • Shawn Collenburg

      The only relevant definition of “potential” for the Mavs is “potential to help win the title again in 2012″.

      Something Rudy has a lot more of than any rookie that wasn't a top 3 pick this year, much less #26.

  • Trey

    i like the trade, if he does start to whine about playing time we will simply let him go. i think people are underestimating his defensive abilities as well, he is a good steals guy who was the defensive player of the year in a formidable Spanish league. I REALLY REALLY like the deal if he is Peja's replacement rather than Stevenson's. I just think we lose some of our toughness and edge if we lose Stevenson!

  • Trippoli

    i agree with everything you said about trading rudy for hamilton (essentially) in terms of talent/ability/etc.  but i feel as though you're taking this too hard on a down draft year.  so much was said about “potential” in hamilton that could've been said about any player we decided to pick 26th.  we do our best with free agents and in-season trades anyways.  you're not going to draft many stars late in the round, especially when there aren't any guaranteed stars in the top 5.

    i feel like the return of a healthy beaubois/butler/jones, plus integration of brewer into the system makes the draft arbitrary this year.  i'd like hamilton, but we simply don't need him right now.  maybe our activity with free agents will reveal why we gave up hamilton.

  • Rhett

    When you look at Dallas they might run the most european style of offense in the NBA. The ball movement, scoring by commitee, the creation of quality shots and driving lanes. In other words, exactly the opposite of Portland.
    I think these things were considered by the Mavs brass (who employ a hefty, well rounded brain trust) and they see a lot of upside. Besides, assuming we keep chandler amd roddy returns to form, thats a nice arsenal of athletes to finish kidd lobs to the rim.
    Lastly, I think the biggest point is in the title: Now. Dirk is a high milage 32 years old. He could be a knee injury or back spasm away from missing a year or never being the same. It sucks to say but it is realistic. We are talking about potential and Rudy has potential we can tap, completely developed, next year. Cuban clearly ontends to win big and and bottom out.

  • Guest

    There's probably a reason why you're blogging rather than actually working for an NBA team. And that reason probably extends beyond merely the fact that you're an ambitionless beta male content to earn a 5-figure salary.

    • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

      Dear guest, you must be a fully functioning retard. Considering Rob writes for the NYtimes, among other websites, not to mention the fact he's a published author, invalidates your asinine comment.

    • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson


      Do some research before acting a fool. Christalmighty some people.

  • Guest

    I really have no comment on the substance of this post, which I don't much about, but I just have to say as a first-time visitor to this site — the writing is really, really bad. It reads like a college essay, overwritten and with poor word choice. I guess I was just hoping for something a bit higher-end from the TrueHoop network, which generally delivers.

    • William_JD

      you're an idiot

    • http://twitter.com/zoaxanthellae hop scotch

      Gotta ask, if you think this is bad sportswriting, who are you reading regularly?

      • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

        Must be reading Skip Bayless or Scoop Jackson.

    • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

      Considering your first sentence doesn't actually make sense – “I really have no comment on the substance of this post, which I don't much about” – you, dear guest, are a troll.  Thanks for visiting.

  • Mattzilla

    Bulls fan here just wanting to say that I think the Rudy trade is great for you guys, because if he doesn't perform he'll just be your Scalabrine (without the cheering). In the mean time, I also want to let you all know that if Caron Butler comes back full force and Rudy works out well…..no matter what any fan from another team says, we are scared sh*tless of the Mavericks next season. Wow.

  • Jptejada92

    There is plenty of upside to Rudy's game.

    First, teams will respect his 3 ball despite your observation that such game of his has been erratic of late. That's what Dallas needs at that position. Further, the inconsistency of his game in general may be due to Coach Nate's misuse of his skills and to some pretty unstable rotation in Portland, an injury-prone that it is. Rudy needs a new situation where his skills can be systematically put to use– a well coached team of veterans with a world class PG running the show.

    Second, he is a pesky defender and though he has the tendency to frolic on defense, I do not think that such tendency cannot be reined in. He is 6'6, long wing span and quite quick on his feet. He's also pretty young, at least by Dallas' standards and is quite athletic. In him, the Mavs should have a passable wing defender.

    Third, he is a much under-rated passer. Coupled with his ability to create off the dribble, I will not be surprised if Mavs end up starting play actions with the ball in his hands.

    Fourth, he is under a reasonable contract and his acquisition will not
    interfere with Dallas' plans this year or
    the next.

    This is a correct move.

    Jordan Hamilton? Come on. Really?
    There is reason why he was picked 26th
    in a pretty weak draft– he cannot make
    the rotation in any team. More importantly, I understand Donnie's hesitation to use the pick: if even first
    or 3 picks may be doubted, what does that say about a player who is number 26 in the program. Oh, he is also rookie.

    And Rudy? He has 3 years of playoff experience. That cannot be doubted.

    D-Steve may demand (or even command) salary higher than Rudy. Mavs are in the books for 60 million as it is and without the new CBA in place, prudence is advisable.

    We all love Roddy B. But in the long run, and I think this coming year, he better start doing PG chores. There is no way he will be a combo guard for the long haul. He is too short and small.

    That leaves Jet, with 1 year left with the Mavs. Jet can still come off the bench while Rudy absorbs 20 minutes per game. And all is well.

    Neither should we worry about a dip in the defensive effectiveness of the Mavs. We can do that if we lose Chandler, not D-Steve. Besides, with Caron back (hopefully) and with Trix still there, Mavs defense should be as hard-nosed as ever.

    Oh how about Dojo? He is a combo guard 1 to 2 years down the line. The repeat championship cannot wait for him. So we need a Rudy now.

    Worst case scenario, Rudy is a “nice problem to have”– this should be a common enough refrain for those of us familiar with Donnie Nelson.

    • Mike

      couple things on rudy, thats three years of first round playoff exits, but that kind of experience worked in the Mavs favor this year. He is a great passer but not a great ball handler so playing point guard probably wont happen and he can't create anything off the dribble. what I like is that you already have international players on the team, Rudy's only friends in portland have been patty mills and sergio rodriguez, something tells me he will like barea, and he plays A LOT better when he's happy.

    • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

      Hamilton slipped because Rick Barnes told NBA GM's etc. that he was an uncoachable head case.

  • Jptejada92

    To add, this trade is forward-looking. I like it. This trade is looking at this year and the next, which is always good.

    Mavs' game is now exposed: even casual basketball fans who only watch during the playoffs are now familiar with Mavs game.  To counter that familiarity of the other teams, new blood is necessary.  Throwing Rudy in the Mavs mix, I humbly believe, accomplishes that.  Now, the Mavs have pesky 2-guard who can create off the dribble (a type of player that the Mavs never really had with D-Steve or even Jet), a player whose activity at that position should give the Mavs' offense a different feel and look, a thief and a dynamic player who can actually dunk on people.   Rudy's addition should give the Mavs offense and defense a new patina. 

    Perhaps, I like this trade even more because it is the best that can be done under the circumstances.  I failed to see any other type of trade that could have been more beneficial to the Mavs than this one. At $1.2M with 1 year remaining in his contract, Rudy is a steal.  None of the Mavs players entering free agency will be this cheap.

  • Mikemorris000

    Blazer fan here, nate mcmillan should never coach a euro for the rest of his career, they hate him and he hates them. Rudy is a great offensive player, he's not 6'6 as someone pointed out,  so still a pretty small shooting guard. His passing and instincts are what always impressed me, chandler will see some lobs next year and rudy can do great things in the open court. Rudy was a fan favorite but played no defense and never really found a role on the team, when his confidence wasn't there he was the worst player on the team. In portland he just wasn't used correctly, that said he doesn't have a great attitude and always seams to have one foot still back in spain, you have a year to convince him the NBA is fun or he's gonna go back

  • Shawn Collenburg

    Rob what do you base your “streaky shooter” comment on? Compared to Barea, Rudy was more consistent by almost double.

    You also need to include in the narrative the overall decline of Portland's offense the last two years, two years in which Brandon Roy has been a ghost of his former self. All of which add up to Rudy's defender being able to stay a half step closer and giving him less space to shoot.

    Oh, and Rudy also had twice as many great offensive games as Barea (Ortg over 140) last year.

  • andytobo

    Wonder if we'd be having this conversation if Hamilton went to UCLA or UNC. Obviously, the Rudy we saw in the playoffs wasn't much of a player, but I think, you know as someone a bit divorced from the UT sports scene, it's hard to get too upset about not getting a guy like Hamilton. Could be a great player, could really make us regret it, but at least it's certainly not obvious that that will be the case. I keep thinking about Barea, who has driven me nuts over the last several years with his ups and downs. At any time Coach Carlisle could have killed his confidence by reacting to 'em, but he never did. And there's no question that Carlisle got the best possible play from Barea at the most important time and I, on that subject, was completely and entirely wrong. If what Rudy needs is confidence, this is the place for him to get it back. If it's something else, I think this was still probably a pretty even trade. Which is all besides considering the fact that the Mavs could have drafted ANYBODY there if they were even thinking of drafting for themselves.