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Sergio Rodriguez, how a creative point-man became a dead-eye shooter

22/10/2020
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Going into the unexpected EuroLeague break, Sergio Rodriguez is shooting 50 percent from three-point range: he has made 12 of his 24 attempts. This is not necessarily surprising, because Chacho is sixth all-time in the EuroLeague for three-point field goals made, but he is the second, among the top 10 in accuracy, behind only the specialist Jaycee Carroll (42.35 percent for the American, 40.38 percent for Rodriguez). Combining volume and accuracy, Rodriguez deserves to be considered among the greatest shooters to ever play in the EuroLeague. But still…

Still, he wasn’t always this kind of player. Rodriguez, when he emerged playing for Estudiantes Madrid, was known for his penetrations, creativity, for the art of performing amazing passes. In fact, his idol growing up was Jason Williams, who in the NBA, first in Sacramento and then in Miami, where he won a championship, had popularized the most unpredictable passes. Sergio Rodriguez was his Hispanic version. But, in spite of being an effective scorer, he was no shooter. In 2004/05 when he played both in the Spanish league and in the EuroLeague with Estudiantes, Rodriguez finished the season 29-for-99 from three. Not a catastrophic year, but certainly not indicative of a dead-eye shooter. The following season – combining the Liga and the Eurocup – he made 31 three-pointers out of 109. In those days, he attempted one three-pointer for every three two-pointers.

In 2006, he was selected in the NBA draft first round by Portland for many reasons, but not for his outside shooting. As a rookie, in the NBA, he made 28.2% of his threes. He then gradually improved, but in the 2009/10 season, the season spent part in Sacramento and part in New York, he finished with a pedestrian 31-for-90 from three-point range. The three-pointer was still an afterthought for him. For every four shots he was taking from the field, three were twos.

In 2010, Rodriguez returned to Europe to play for Real Madrid. And he continued to be the player he had been until then, a creative point guard, with exceptional vision, terrific passing, outstanding ball handling, and just average as a shooter. In his first season at Real Madrid, he made 4 of his 20 threes in the EuroLeague. He was just a little bit better in the Liga, 32.4%. In terms of accuracy, the turning point came the following season when in spite of shooting from three only sporadically, he suddenly jumped from 20 to 46.9 percent (15/32 in 16 games) in the EuroLeague and to 39.6 percent in the Liga. In 2013/14 when he was named the EuroLeague MVP, the conversion became complete, total. That year, Rodriguez, at 27, was officially to be considered a lethal shooter. In the EuroLeague he had the best shooting season of his career, he made 50.0 percent of his attempts, and for the first time the number of three-point shots became comparable to those attempted from inside the arc.

Since then, the Chacho has never looked back and the three-point shot has become more and more a lethal weapon for him. The benefits to his game are clear: since that time, Chacho have won the EuroLeague twice and have been MVP of the competition. Without those improvements in long distance shooting, it probably wouldn’t have been possible. 2015/16 was the season of his second turning point, the one in which Rodriguez shot more often from three than from two (127 against 97). Since then it has always happened, massively at CSKA (381 three-pointers in 71 games, against 269 two-pointers), a little less in Milan last year (virtual parity: 155 three-pointers against 153 two-pointers). In the first four games of this season, he has attempted 24 threes against 15 twos (by the way he’s converting 60.0 percent of them). Starting with the 2013/14 season, Rodriguez in seven seasons (he spent one more in the NBA) has made 393 out of 938 three-pointers, or 41.89 percent. Until then, he made 54 out of 169, 31.9 percent.

However, he still manages not to abuse of the three-point shot. It is no coincidence that in the Real Madrid game, in which he set his personal index record (37) and the second-best career scoring night, 25 points, he made only three threes, while he went 4-for-5 from two on top of going 8-for-8 from the line. Indeed, Rodriguez is a deadly shooter from the line. In the two years in Moscow, he made 97 of 109 free throws (89%). Last year he made 49 of his 51, or 96.1 percent, the best number of his career. Linking the end of last season and the beginning of this one, Sergio has scored 25 consecutive free throws, missed the 26th and then resumed his streak, now at 10.

 

CHACHO FROM THE LINE
CHACHO FROM DOWNTOWN
CHACHO FROM THREE