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International Trail Blazers

With the Trail Blazers firing on all cylinders in Portland, we dispatched Jay Aych from the renowned basketball blog The Painted Area to follow the progress of three players in Europe whose NBA rights are owned by the Trail Blazers.

Rudy Fernandez is an athletic 6-6 shooting guard from Spain, who is arguably one of the best players outside of the NBA. His style of play is similar to Manu Ginobili, both players known for their non-stop energetic play. Rudy is currently the top player on DKV Joventut in the Spanish League.

Petteri Koponen is a 19 year-old, 6-4 point guard with a sweet shooting stroke. The Helsinki-born Koponen plays in the top division in Finland.

English-born Joel Freeland is a 20 year-old, 6-11 center currently playing for Gran Canaria Dunas in the Spanish League.

RUDY FERNANDEZ--DKV Joventut (ACB)

Acquired: Drafted by the Suns with the 24th pick in the 2007 Draft and traded to Portland on draft night for cash considerations.

General: The ACB (Spanish League) is the best domestic league in Europe, and Rudy is no doubt one of the top stars currently playing outside of the NBA.

One of the few European vets that has a legit shot at becoming a quality starter in the NBA. The comparisons to Manu Ginobili are warranted, and Rudy is probably a better outside shooter than Manu was at the age of 22.

This season: Rudy is having a superb year so far, and is one of the top players in the ACB. He leads the ACB in scoring at 18.0 ppg and is 2nd in overall ranking (an overall statistical compilation similar to John Hollinger's PER rating) in the ACB only behind Marc Gasol, Pau's brother & LA Laker draftee.

DKV Joventut currently has a record of 11-5, and they are tied for 4th place. Joventut did not qualify for the Euroleague this year, but are currently ahead of TAU Ceramica & Unicaja Malaga (both Euroleague participants) in the ACB standings.

Fernandez is currently 5th overall in assists in the ACB. Rudyís 4.5 apg is excellent even for a point guard in Europe, but for a wing player like Rudy, itís outstanding. Assists are recorded differently in Europe, and 5-6 apg in Europe is similar to averaging 9-10 apg in the NBA.

Rudyís shooting has been top-notch across the board. He is shooting 47 percent overall, and 40 percent from 3pt. land. Those high shooting numbers are even more impressive when you take into account Rudy makes the same amount of treys per game (2.7) as he does 2-pointers (2.7). Did I mention his near-perfect free throw shooting of 97 percent for the season?

Last week: Rudy helped lead Joventut to 92-85 win over perennial ACB power, Pamesa Valencia, with a monster performance of 25 points, 4 assists , 3 steals , 3 rebounds, 9-of-16 shooting overall, including 3-of-7 from downtown.

FERNANDEZ MIN FG 3PT FT PTS AST REB STL
vs. Pamesa W, 97-82 34 9-16 3-7 4-4 25 4 3 3
Season 11-5 27 47% 40% 97% 18.1 4.5 3.0 2.0

A quick look at how Rudy fares overall in the ACB:
  • 2nd in ranking (22.4); second only to Marc Gasol
  • 1st in scoring
  • 5th in assists per game
  • Tied for 3rd in steals per game
  • 1st in 3pts made per game
  • 3rd in free throw makes per game & 3rd in FT%

    PETTERI KOPONEN--Honka Espoon Playboys (Finland)

    Acquired: Finlandís Petteri Koponen was drafted by the Sixers with the 30th pick of the 2007 Draft and traded on draft night in exchange for Portlandís 42nd pick, Derrick Byars.

    General: Yes, that is the official team name. Have to say, the best name I've ever seen for a professional basketball outfit. The Finnish league is definitely a step down from the ACB (Spanish League). Think of the ACB like the ACC & the Finnish league as the Big Sky Conference, just something to keep in mind.

    This season: Petteri is the go-to-guy for the Playboys, who are currently in 3rd place with a 14-8 record. Koponen is definitely playing up to his potential, and is one of the top players in the Finnish league.

    Petteri is the leading scorer (19.2 ppg) on the Playboys & he's shooting the lights out Ė 40 percent from downtown, 46 percent overall.

    Also, Petteri is averaging close to 4 assists, to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game. The only real sore spot with Koponen's game right now are turnovers -- 3.3 per game.

    Last week: Petteri had the honor of playing ToPo Helsinki, the top Finnish team with a sterling 22-1 record. And ToPo had a special guest helping them out vs. the Playboys, none other than 6-time NBA Champion and future Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen. Pippen pitched in with 9 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists for ToPo. Petteri was not phased by going against a living legend, as he had a very solid outing with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 3-of-7 shooting from downtown.

    KOPONEN MIN FG 3PT FT PTS AST REB STL TO
    vs. ToPo Hel 40 6-13 3-7 3-4 18 3 5 1 4
    Season 37 46.6% 39.3% 80% 19.2 3.8 4.0 2.0 3.3

    A quick look at how Petteri fares overall in the Finnish League:
  • 1st in minutes played per game
  • 8th in scoring
  • Tied for 4th in assists per game
  • 4th in 3pt makes per game
  • 9th in 3pt%
  • 7th in turnovers per game

    JOEL FREELAND -- Gran Canaria (ACB)

    Acquired: selected by the Blazers with the 30th pick of the 2006 Draft.

    Joel is not seeing a ton of playing time for Gran Canaria, a middle-of-the-pack team in the ACB. Joel is seeing about 11 minutes per game of floor time, and averaging 4 points on 48 percent shooting and 2.4 rebounds, which are pretty solid numbers for his limited minutes.

    In Gran Canaria's last game, a 91-74 victory over ViveMenorca (the team of noted basketball blogger Paul Shirley), Freeland had a very solid all-around outing with 5 points (2-of-4), 4 rebounds, 2 steals & 2 blocks in only 16 minutes.
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