2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Damjan Rudez

Dec 10, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Damjan Rudez (3) signals his three point shot as guard Evan Fournier (10) follows along during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Damjan Rudez (3) signals his three point shot as guard Evan Fournier (10) follows along during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic kept Damjan Rudez off the training camp roster hoping familiarity would help the team transition. His shot did not arrive with him though.

Damjan Rudez likes the baskets at the Amway Center.

His lasting memory in the building came in January 2015 when Rudez drained four of seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Indiana Pacers erase a double-digit deficit and pick up a win in Orlando. Rudez finished with 18 points that night as Frank Vogel’s team escaped with a victory.

That game stayed present when the team announced it was adding Rudez to the training camp roster. It was on Vogel’s insistence that Rudez be added to the training camp roster and be given a chance.

At the very least, Rudez would provide the Magic another veteran and another floor-spacing shooter at power forward. He would be the Magic’s only true stretch-4.

At this point in his career, the Magic knew they were not going to get a ton from Rudez. He is not a regular rotation player as he bounced around the league in the interim from that game in Orlando. But every once in a while, throwing him in there to space the floor and put up shots? That seemed valuable.

Rudez’s solid preseason seemed to suggest he could support that role. It was no surprise when the Magic added him to the roster for opening night.

But no one expected him to play very much. Rudez was a solid locker room guy and someone who would play spot minutes for the team. Any heavy reliance on him was likely a sign that the team saw something go wrong.

That was the case when Rudez entered the rotation early in the season. The Magic hoped by playing Rudez at the 4, it would free up space for Aaron Gordon at the 3. They moved Aaron Gordon to the bench for this short stint for that specific reason. The team scrapped that idea after roughly nine games.

The Magic went back to using Rudez sparingly after that.

It was kind of surprising the Magic opted to keep Rudez after the guarantee date. Perhaps this was a sign of how well-liked he was in the locker room. He did tend to keep things loose for the team.

But his overall season averages were nothing to write home about.

Per Game Table

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/4/2017.

He averaged 1.8 points per game in 7.0 minutes per game across 45 games. He shot just 35.2 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from beyond the arc. He was simply on the roster by the end, not even getting minutes when the Magic turned to smaller lineups at the end of the season or were playing out the string.

This is probably all anyone could expect from Rudez. The Magic were not going to rely heavily on him.

But when the Magic did rely on Rudez, they did not get what they paid for either. His poor shooting percentages were persistent throughout the year. It was not just a matter of small sample sizes. In the nine games he played major minutes in November, he averaged 1.9 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc in 10.0 minutes per game.

Hardly inspiring.

Vogel joked during the preseason Rudez would get the hook if he ever missed a shot. That joke may not have been too far from the truth in reality.

If Rudez was not hitting shots, it was hard to see much value in playing him. He is not a good defender at all. And having him in for long stretches without solid defense around him would only further expose those weaknesses.

Essentially, his longest stretch in the rotation came only because the Magic were trying to free up Gordon on the perimeter without moving him to power forward. That may have been the first sign something was very wrong with the Magic’s plans. Rudez was a cheap Band-Aid.

With Rudez’s contract expiring, it is unlikely he returns to the Magic despite his connections to Vogel. The Magic took a flyer on a familiar face to breed some continuity and instruction off the bench to Vogel’s defensive systems.

Rudez played a role on this team in the locker room. He is well liked and a relatively funny guy. He keeps the team loose.

But that continuity from Vogel’s team only goes so far. At a certain point, a player has to produce. And Rudez did not produce enough to stay tethered to this team much longer.

D. . PF. Orlando Magic. DAMJAN RUDEZ

Damjan Rudez had one job to do this season for the Orlando Magic. The team brought him in to make shots.

They did not expect him to play meaningful minutes for the long term. When he came in, though, he had to make shots. If the Magic were going to play him any meaningful minutes, he had to hit shots to counteract his struggling defense.

In theory, this all would work. Rudez is a good shooter.

But even he became a victim of the team’s poor spacing. Or perhaps that one hot game he had in Orlando two years ago was simply an aberration. Rudez never really had a game like that in Orlando where he turned things around with his shooting. He scored 18 points in a 30-point loss to the Boston Celtics and 17 in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was not that kind of a season for Rudez. Or maybe Rudez simply is not that kind of a player.

Next: 2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: C.J. Watson

In any case, the Magic were right to keep Rudez after his stellar play during the preseason. Whether they should have kept that roster spot open after the guarantee date in January is another matter. He hardly played after that date. And likely, the Magic will move on from the veteran forward.