The Cleveland Cavaliers will pick No. 1 overall and No. 33 overall in the upcoming NBA draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft on June 26th. Today, we profile Croatian forward Damjan Rudez. Click here for more draft profiles and here for the post on the Cavs working out Damjan Rudez.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Damjan Rudez
Position: Small Forward/Power Forward
Age: 27 (Turns 28 on June 18)
2013-2014 Eurocup Per Game Stats: 10.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 50.0% FG%, 51.9% 3PT%, 87.5% FT% (16 GP)
2013-2014 ACB Per Game Stats: 10.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 46.5 FG%, 44.1 3PT%, 75.6 FT% (36 GP)
Let’s look at the elephant in the room right now: Rudez’s age. In the summer of 2008, Rudez was slotted to land to teams picking late/at the end of the second round. With many question marks surrounding his physicality and drive, Rudez was left off the board. Six summers – and, therefore, as many years – later and Rudez is back in the minds of teams and mock drafts across the web. The Croatian forward – likely to play the three at the NBA level – is back and playing with more experience and maturity.
Rudez banged a lot down low at the international level, thanks to his 6-10” frame and his 7-foot wingspan, more so on the offensive end than on the defensive side of things. Even though he saw a lot of time at the four, Rudez, with his strong outside presence, is most definitely going to play small forward if drafted into the NBA. His physical tools at disposal, which have improved tremendously since his last try at the NBA Draft. It’s no secret that the Cavs need outside shooting, Rudez is ready to be a contributor off the bench right away because his athleticism makes him a potent threat from the perimeter. His defensive tools, however, have not been as efficient as his court vision on offense. He still has much more learning to do on that side of things.
Although many see Rudez as a spot-up shooter, he excels equally at both on the ball and off the ball play, thanks to his frame and experience as a power forward during international play. The drive that many scouts saw as lacking in Rudez’s play six years ago now has him being looked at as a physical presence down low as well as a deadly weapon from the corner, where he recently shot 51.9 percent from three during Eurocup play. His move to play for a Croatian squad allowed him to see the minutes he needed to have an immediate impact on the team and become one of the star players for Zaragoza.
Whomever the Cavs hire as head coach needs to understand that players such as Rudez need to be implemented in the bench rotation right away before it becomes too late. His on-court awareness is proof that Rudez can and will be a contributor right away, and he doesn’t need the ball to do so (averages 16.6 points on 12.4 shots per 40 minutes, with 43.5 percent of those shots being from beyond the arc). His polished release and ball-handling skills also give him the capability to easily create shots on his own and he gives you that “yaw” action every now and again.
Although I feel this is a case where the Cavs aren’t drafting for defense, I still think that the knocks on Rudez’s defensive play aren’t all that concerning and will get him by for a bench contributor in this league. Think of it this way: He would be filling the Alonzo Gee/C.J. Miles’ role, and he might be the perfect man to do that at a lower cost. There isn’t much out there to back Rudez’s style of play on D (he has averaged a hair above/below 2.0 RPG for his career and not impressive numbers in the steals or blocks category either), but his offensive abilities down low is proof enough that his defense will be more passable than Gee’s or Miles’ was ever. His wingspan and experience at the power forward position allow him to have success both down low and outside on offense; applying similar tactics, his defense, especially on other wings, can be just as good as his fluidity on offense.
As mentioned earlier, questions surrounding Rudez’s draft stock during the ’08 offseason centered on his motor and whether or not he could hang with the type of athleticism at the next level. Being put in a high usage situation and emerging as a star on Croatian teams, Rudez didn’t hog the ball, continued to be an aware passer and used his dribbling skills to fly by matchups that were at a height disadvantage for him. Basically, Rudez has improved in all the areas in which scouts had doubts on him the last time around. His age (28 once the draft rolls around) puts the Cavs in a situation where he will likely play right away off the bench. He’s matured as a leader for a subpar Croatian squad; now it’s time for him to move on to the NBA as a role player.
The comparisons that fluttered around Rudez’s name the first time he was mentioned in the NBA Draft crop were to Hedo Turkoglu, a get-by guy who never really proved to be anything beyond special when given more minutes than a bench player should receive. Both were/are great 3-point-shooting international talent and not famously known for their defense. (Although Turkoglu ended up being and they have very similar, if not the same, frames). A comparison that I see playing out in real life for Rudez is a poor man’s Danilo Gallinari, but one that’s more efficient from long distance. Gallinari, standing at 6-10, 225 pounds, matches the frames of both Turkoglu and Rudez, but demands the ball much more frequently than Rudez. In 32.5 MPG during the 2012-2013 season, Gallinari chucked up the ball 12.3 times, which is around the rate at which Rudez shot for per 40 minutes. You’ll pretty much know what you’ll be getting from Rudez off the bench, but he won’t have as high as a usage rate as Gallinari, who had a usage rate of 21.3 in his most recent NBA season.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
His outside shooting, low usage rate, surprisingly good ball-handling skills, ability to bang down low with bigger opponents and maturity makes him a pretty potential free agent nice pickup if the Cavs go the route of not re-signing Miles and/or Gee. He’s capable of picking up for the defensive presence that Miles was at times for the Cavs and has a stroke that will have Cleveland calling for him to come off the bench late in close games. He can create his own long-distance attempts and even takes it to the rim from time to time. He’s a role player that the Cavs could use on their roster.
Correction: As Damjan Rudez is a free agent – and not a draft eligible prospect – this article was amended to reflect that on June 15, 2014 at at 10:53 a.m.