NBA Free Agency 2014: Cavaliers have shown interest in Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez?

Christian Petersen

According to El Contraataque in Spain, more than one NBA team has shown interest in Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez, including the Cavaliers. I have no idea how that makes any sense.

This is probably the most "out-of-left field" rumor I've heard recently given that it's December, so bear with me. But the Cavaliers have shown interest in point guard Sergio Rodriguez, also known as Spanish Chocolate, according to El Contraataque in Spain. Hereeeeeeeeeeeee we go (the article is translated from Spanish using Google Translate):

Rodriguez not only has the interest of Fenerbahçe, but three franchises are also now extremely interested: the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. All three proposals would be to end the season with Real Madrid. Rodriguez is a free agent and can negotiate a guaranteed contract exceeding $ 3 million per season. The advantage to the NBA option is now Rodriguez feels fully trained and mature enough to repeat the experience in the NBA.

Rodriguez is the flashy former first-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2006 and is now 27 years old. I've been following him pretty much since he was 16 years-old. Back in the mid-2000s, he was recognized as one of the best basketball players in the world in his age group. In 2004, Rodriguez got to play against Oak Hill Academy's team with Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith, where he was forced to go one-on-one every play with Rondo and succeeded spectacularly despite the failings of his teammates. Here is a scouting report of him in high school from DraftExpress:

No European player has come into the NBA featuring such an outstanding talent level (physical gifts aside) for a long time. Sergio is a very special player who draws affection, but although sometimes disdain too. Not everybody is happy putting up with bold moves and risky decisions on the court. However, his spectacular style puts fans in the seats. We shouldn't reduce what Sergio is as a player to a flashy act, though; he's a great player who should bring wins with him when/if he manages to adapt to the NBA game and fulfill his potential.

Reportedly a very serious kid, it's not clear whether he might be rushing things a little bit by declaring this year. He has still a lot of work to do, and he's in an excellent position to keep improving while playing at high level in Estudiantes, a playoff-caliber team in the ACB League. In a hypothetical NBA scenario, Sergio could suffer having to share the ball with his team's stars while being asked to get the job done on defense and hitting his open shots regularly.

Later that year, Rodriguez was named MVP of the FIBA Under-18 Tournament in Spain where he averaged 19 points and 8.5 assists in the eight tournament games. In 2005, he won the ACB League Rising Star Award (won two years later by Ricky Rubio), and then decided to declare for the draft as a 19 year-old in 2006. The Blazers picked him and bought out his contract with Estudiantes, bringing him over immediately.

That was probably a slight mistake, as Rodriguez proved to be not nearly ready for the NBA. In his final season in Portland, where he played 80 games and started 13, he averaged 4.5 points and 3.6 assists over 15 minutes per game while shooting 39% from the field. The Blazers then dealt him to Sacramento for the first pick in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft (Jeff Pendergraph).

Rodriguez performed well in his half-season tryout for the Kings despite never earning the recognition of Tyreke Evans, posting a PER of 16.9 in 13 minutes per game, while averaging 16.3 points and 8.4 assists per-36 minutes with 46% shooting. He was then moved along to New York in the Tracy McGrady-Larry Hughes-Kevin Martin-Jordan Hill three-team trade in 2010. While with the Knicks, Rodriguez played fine but was slightly less efficient. After receiving calls from the Bobcats, Knicks, Heat (I would have KILLED to have seen him with LeBron and Wade), and Grizzlies, Rodriguez decided to sign with Real Madrid and return home. Since returning home, Rodriguez has blossomed even further. So far in 15 games this season, he's averaging 12 points and six assists per game in 20 minutes as the starting point guard for a loaded Real Madrid team featuring Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, and Nikola Mirotic.

I haven't even gotten around to mentioning how awesome he is to watch on the floor. The nickname "Spanish Chocolate" is taken from Jason Williams' "White Chocolate" nickname, and it's well earned. He was basically Rubio before Rubio (without the self control). His court vision is spectacular and his handle allows him to get to the hole despite not possessing elite athleticism.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I'm fairly certain that Rodriguez is an NBA-caliber point guard at this point in his career. Given the improvements he showed in his final season in the NBA along with his play in Spain, there is no reason that Rodriguez can't step in and be a valuable bench piece. Pablo Prigioni has stepped into this role seamlessly as a veteran, and I'm sure Rodriguez can do the same. Prigioni is about 10 times the defender that Rodriguez is, but Rodriguez is right on that level due to his superior offensive skill. Throughout his time in the NBA, he improved himself to about league-average from behind the three-point line, which was his biggest offensive problem coming into the league. He can obviously pass and get his teammates involved. Plus, he's just generally fun to play with it looks like. There's a lot to be said for that after watching Jarrett Jack constantly stop the ball and look for his own shot this season.

Therein lies the problem as far as the Cavaliers are concerned though. With all of Kyrie Irving, Jack, and Dion Waiters in the fold, it doesn't really make sense at all at this juncture for the Cavs to make a move like this unless they trade one of them (namely, Jack. No seriously, I'm going to keep calling for that). So while they probably inquired this summer, I'd be surprised if the Cavs got involved again in a deal to bring him over next summer unless another supplemental move is made. My guess on this is that the Bulls would have the inside track to bring him over, with a need at point guard and the Mirotic connection from Madrid.

Mostly though, here's to hoping that Rodriguez comes back across the Atlantic. The NBA is a more fun place with creative guys that march to the beat of their own drum like him. I'd absolutely love it to be with the Cavaliers, but I'll be happy no matter what. It seems like Spanish Chocolate has finally grown into the player that he was supposed to become, and that's good for basketball all around the globe.

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