Around mid-June, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that European forward Damjan Rudez was piquing the interest of several NBA teams in search of a low-cost, stretch-four. At the time, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, and Indiana Pacers were all said to have taken "close looks" at the sharpshooter. Now, two days into free agency, it is being reported that the Pacers have edged out their competition and reached agreement with the 6-foot-10 Croatian native:
Yahoo Sources: Euro shooter Damjan Rudez reaches agreement on three-year deal with Indiana Pacers. http://t.co/usXyxBAkvt— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2014
Rudez, now 28, went undrafted in the 2008 NBA draft. However, Wojnarowski reports that his production for CAI Zargoza of the Spanish ACB is what caused the Pacers and several other NBA teams to give him a second look.
According to his Draft Express Profile, Rudez shot 46.5% from the field and 44.1% from three this season with Zargoza. On just 24 attempts, Evan Turner (50%) was the only Pacer to shoot a better percentage from behind the arc during the 2013-2014 season. As a unit, the Pacers managed to shoot just 35.7% from three-point range this season, ranking 17th in the league. During the Eurocup, Rudez's field goal percentage from long-range surged to 51.9%.
The Crotian native's basic stats (10 points and 1.9 rebounds per game) may not exactly jump off the page, but his numbers definitely look better when analyzed per 40 minutes (17.7 points and 3.2 rebounds). Beyond just his stat-sheet, stretch-fours are a hot commodity in today's NBA. Rudez, if actually utilized (ahem, Copeland), will be capable of pulling defenses beyond the three-point line, providing spacing, and diversifying the team's offense, a skill set no other power forward on the Pacers' roster readily possesses.
With Lance Stephenson's contract negotiations still in flux, the Pacers may need to actually utilize Chris Copeland at the wing next season, thus possibly freeing up some minutes for the team's freshly signed sharpshooter in the front court. While some analysts have already begun to theorize that Rudez's signing is just a precursor to the Pacers' possible decision to buyout Luis Scola, the Indy Star's Candace Buckner reports that move is not yet in the cards:
Scola costs the #Pacers roughly $4.5 M, already has $2.5 M guaranteed. And a league source tells me he's still in the team's plans.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) July 2, 2014
That being said, Rudez and possibly C.J. Miles will only serve as decent upgrades if the decision is made to actually rely on the team's bench options next season.
Specific terms and conditions of the European sharpshooter's three-year deal are not yet known. For more on the Pacers' new acquisition, check-out some highlights from his professional career overseas: