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.
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, hes 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. Hes currently in great shape, and the nagging injuries that slowed him down early in the season appear to be a thing of the past.
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. Theres 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
It isnt his first great performance and it wont 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. Hes 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. Hes 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, its 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 hes 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.
The level of competition Tsintsadze faces is not the best in the continent, but its a move in the right direction. He doesnt look to be much of a serious draft candidate at this point but we shouldnt 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.
State of the Prospect: Whos 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 (hes 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, doesnt look like a NBA prospect for the moment, but hes a very promising wing for the FIBA scene.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
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 (hes 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. Well keep you updated on him.