DALLAS – Mark Cuban’s megabytes were all over this deal.
According to Cuban’s calculations, Rudy Fernandez ranks among the NBA’s top 20 players in advanced plus-minus. That made him a long-time Mavs target.
“He’s a guy that we’ve had our eye on for a while,” Donnie Nelson said, “and it was just kind of right place, right time.”
And right deal. The Mavs wanted to deal their draft picks for a proven veteran and pulled the trigger without hesitation on the trade for the third-year swingman and the rights to Finnish point guard Petteri Koponen.
We’ll wait at least one year for Koponen to arrive in Dallas. The Mavs expect Fernandez to make a significant immediate impact, believing he’s a better player than indicated by his unimpressive traditional numbers (career averages of 9.1 points on 39.4 percent shooting, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists).
“We went into the draft not having a deal in our hand, but this was the deal we liked the best,” Nelson said. “It was a combination of getting our backcourt a little bit more athletic, having a little bit more scoring punch. He’s also an underrated defender. He’s a better defender than you think and a big-time athlete with the ability to break defenses down.
“We like this over taking a guy that might pan out and might not. He’s a guy who can step right in and help us out right away. The experience factor is the thing that really put us over the top.”
Nelson compared Fernandez to a poor man’s Richard Hamilton. It sounds like Fernandez should be considered the favorite to start at shooting guard next season.
That’s a job that was split primarily between DeShawn Stevenson and Rodrigue Beaubois. Stevenson is a rugged defender who is a 3-point threat, but the Mavs want to upgrade athletically. They would also prefer to avoid starting games with an undersized 2 guard.
“He’s 6-6 and rangy,” Nelson said of Fernandez, “so that’s a nice supplement to Jet.”
Nelson acknowledged that Fernandez’s contract, which has one season remaining with a $2.1 million salary, ensured that the Mavs would have some financial flexibility. However, Nelson emphasized that he considers Fernandez a long-term fit.
“The player was the main thing, to have a guy that has experience,” Nelson said. “He’s athletic, he’s young, he has upside.”