Recently signed Sixers point guard Sergio Rodriguez has been an absolute star in his home country of Spain, but never earned that sort of praise in the NBA. The 30-year-old was drafted in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, and played four seasons in the NBA to little fanfare before joining Real Madrid in 2010. Rodriguez has done it all in Spain, especially during the past few seasons. He was named Euroleague MVP in 2014, crowned Euroleague champion in 2015, and was Europe's Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Now on a one year deal with Philadelphia, Rodriguez returns stateside for another opportunity to make a name for himself in the NBA.
For those who may be unfamiliar, can you describe how good Real Madrid is, as well as the level of competition they face?
AG: Real Madrid is a perennial top 3-5 team in Europe. They had a down year in Euroleague last season because they couldn't defend anyone, but they still made the playoffs (top 8) before being swept by eventual 2nd-place finishers Fenerbahce. In the Spanish ACB, they won the title for the 2nd straight year, beating Barcelona 3-1 in the finals.
Rodriguez spent four years in the NBA, but has been in Spain for the last six seasons. What was the motivation in him returning to his home country, and why do you think he's returning to the NBA now?
AG: Rodriguez returned to Spain because he wasn't getting much playing time in the NBA and he didn't want to waste his career on the bench. He went back to his home country, improved a lot, and won everything possible (Euroleague title in 2015, multiple ACB titles, Euroleague MVP in 2014). He's returning to the NBA because he's making like $5-6 million more than he would in Madrid and he wants to prove himself after a rough 1st stint in the NBA. He also has a newborn baby, so I think the money and timing are big factors.
Philadelphia's been looking for a point guard who can shoot well from the perimeter and create offense for teammates. How does Rodriguez fit in the equation there?
AG: Rodriguez is a magician with the ball and he has become a very reliable shooter. Per Synergy:
Sergio Rodriguez's eFG% was 52% on pull-ups + 57% on set Js in 2016. Also made 42% of floaters and 60% at rim. Matured from last NBA stint.— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) July 4, 2016
He is an unbelievable passer and he had one of the top 3 handles in Europe. He won't be able to blow by guys all the time, but he is a crafty ball-handler and an expert at running the pick-and-roll. He'll be good for Philly's offense, especially their young bigs, who will be spoon-fed beautiful passes at the rim.
Is there any glaring weakness in his game that may affect his play at the NBA level?
AG: He will be exposed often defensively. Part of his problem is effort — he was often very lazy on defense in Europe because he knew his value on offense was almost always good enough to make up for it. But part of his problem is his physical limitations. He's not particularly strong or athletic, and he will have a lot of problems defending starting PGs. He should be fine against backups, and Philly can probably hide him on non-scoring wings in certain situations.
Philadelphia has a plethora of big men (Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor). Seeing that the Sixers are most likely to run most of their offense through them, how can Rodriguez make the bigs better players?
AG: Rodriguez should be very good for the big guys. He is a pick-and-roll master and he is great at finding his big men around the rim. Young center Willy Hernangomez, a 2015 2nd-round pick who will be joining the Knicks this season, posted great shooting numbers, in part because Rodriguez kept feeding him in the right place at the right time. Per Synergy:
Wily Hernangomez was more efficient scorers in Europe in 2016, FG%s: Cuts 72%, Rolls to Rim 67%, Put Backs 63%. Attempted 3 jumpers total.— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) July 5, 2016
Rodriguez is only signed on a one-year deal. Let's say he has a decent season -- is there a chance he'll run back to Spain again?
AG: Since the cap will spike again next summer, my guess is he will cash in again and then maybe head back to Spain after the 2017-18 season. But if he gets stuck on the bench in Philly — which I definitely don't envision — then maybe he'll decide he had more fun being a star and winning titles in Madrid. But as I said, he has a young child and his $8 million deal from Philly is life-changing money. I don't think he would pass that type of money up next summer.