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.