Does Rudy Fernandez deserve to start?

Mar. 28, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - epa02097227 Portland Trail Blazers player Rudy Fernandez from Spain during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half of the game at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 28 March 2010.

I keep hearing that Rudy Fernandez is unhappy with the amount of playing time he has been getting in Portland, and that he’s angling for a trade to a team where he’ll have an opportunity to play more minutes.

Fine. But does he deserve to play more minutes?

In 2008-09, he averaged 25.5 minutes per game. In 2009-10, that number fell to 23.2. In order to determine if Fernandez should get starter’s minutes (which I define as around 28 min per game), I parsed out those games where he played 28+ minutes to see if he played any better with that much run. Here’s what I found:

Obviously, his numbers are going to go up the more minutes he plays, so the key numbers to look at are his shooting percentages and his Efficiency Per Minute (EPM), which provides a good overview of what Fernandez brings to the table statistically on a per minute basis. He does play about 8% better (in terms of per minute stats) when he gets 28+ minutes per game. But that’s to be expected, assuming a player is in good physical shape and can play extra minutes. The more minutes you play the more comfortable you are, and the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll play.

However, his EPM of .400 in starter’s minutes is not particularly good. There are 53 shooting guards and small forwards that averaged 28+ minutes per game this season, and the group’s average EPM was .458. Fernandez would rank #38 (or in the 30th percentile) if he were included in this group, just ahead of guys like O.J. Mayo, Richard Jefferson, Rip Hamilton, Marvin Williams, Ryan Gomes and Eric Gordon.

Looking only at shooting guards, Fernandez’s performance in 28+ minutes would trail John Salmons (.401), Ray Allen (.426), Jason Terry (.431) and Anthony Morrow (.432).

Moreover, he ranks ahead of several players — Ronnie Brewer, Courtney Lee, Ron Artest and Thabo Sefolosha — who are known more for their defense than anything they produce offensively or statistically. Fernandez’s defense is considered to be mediocre at best.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this post — no, he does not deserve to start, at least not for a playoff team. Virtually everyone who ranks below him in EPM plays for a lottery team or is known more for their defense than their offense.

He may very well get his wish and find a new home, but the chances of him finding a situation where he’s going to get starter’s minutes on a playoff-caliber team certainly seem slim.

His coach, Nate McMillan, sums it up pretty well:

“The thing about it, anybody in the league can use him,” McMillan said. “He’s a good player. He’s a rotational player. For some teams, he’s going to be able to start. For some teams, he’s going to have to come off the bench. If he goes to Boston, he’s probably coming off the bench behind one of those guys, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. So it just depends on where he goes as far as his role and how he would play. But his talent, there are a lot of teams that can use him and take advantage of what he does. But we’ll see what happens.”

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