The name Sergio Rodriguez might be a blast from the past for those unfamiliar with overseas basketball. Rodriguez, also known as “Spanish Chocolate,” was a first-round pick who debuted for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2006. His stay in the NBA was short-lived and marred by inconsistency, so the Spanish native came back home to play for Real Madrid. Five seasons later, he might be ready to give the NBA another try.
Per Adrian Wojnarowski, and really what isn’t these days, Rodriguez is considering signing with an NBA team this summer. Rodriguez has since refuted those remarks, but he still left the door open for an NBA return if “there’s an offer he could not refuse.” A team should make that kind of offer for the Spanish sensation because he’d be well worth the investment.
***Statistics are from the past two years in the Euroleague and NBA, respectively***
Rodriguez entered the league as a 20-year old who wasn’t close to being ready for the NBA. He failed to reach even a league average PER in his four seasons in Portland, Sacramento and New York. Even amidst the struggles, Rodriguez showcased his flashy passing skills and overall swaggy style of play:
Rodriguez has tremendous feel for the pick-and-roll game with his outstanding vision and nifty scoring techniques. He flashed brilliance at times in the NBA, but he couldn’t put it all together on a consistent basis. He has since perfected his craft with Real Madrid:
Rodriguez has finally showed what he’s capable of in his tenure with Euroleague powerhouse Real Madrid. The Euroleague is the best competition outside the NBA and the ACB, where Real Madrid plays its games against other Spanish teams, is the best domestic league overseas. Rodriguez was the MVP of the Euroleague in 2014 after leading Real Madrid to the Finals due in large part to his ridiculous efficiency. He averaged a whopping 25.0 points and 8.7 assists per 40 minutes in the Euroleague while splashing the net with a slash line of .505/.500/.906. All of that added up to a 26.7 PER, which indicates a return to the NBA would be successful for the Spaniard.
Rodriguez has benefited from NBA-level teammates (Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Andres Nocioni, Nikola Mirotic), but ultimately his improvement overseas has been jaw-dropping. Rodriguez has molded into a knockdown shooter, capable of draining jumpers in the pick-and-roll or off-ball on the catch-and-shoot. Half of his field goal attempts have been from behind the three-point line the past two seasons in Euroleague competition, when he shot 50 percent and 38.1 percent from behind the arc, respectively. Rodriguez has come a long way since his career 31.6 three-point percentage in the NBA. His newfound shooting touch to go along with his passing acumen brings back, dare I say, memories of Steve Nash‘s Phoenix Suns days.
The second half of that video above displays some of Rodriguez’s passing skills. He’s a pick-and-roll maestro with otherworldly lobbing abilities. His deadly floaters and runners keep the defense honest and allow him to execute drop-off passes for easy buckets. His pick-and-roll skills, both as a scorer and passer, would translate seamlessly to the NBA.
Rodriguez will cost a pretty penny. His buyout with Real Madrid shouldn’t be an obstacle, but his desired NBA contract might be. Rodriguez will not leave Spain unless he’s given a substantial raise, something an NBA team might not be willing to do. It’s unlikely that a team would start him right off the bat, so breaking the bank for a backup point guard might not be the most attractive option for most NBA teams. Ignoring his past struggles in the NBA will also be difficult, but Rodriguez is a different player now.
He’s no longer that raw 20-year old that looked like a deer in headlights. He’s turned into a pick-and-roll assassin who’s more than ready to help an NBA team. Mirotic left Real Madrid for the Chicago Bulls this past season and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Of course, that required the Bulls dishing out a three year, $16.6 million contract. Rodriguez will demand around the same, but the 29-year old is worth it. He deserves a second chance.