Real Madrid could complete the treble with a win in Barcelona on Wednesday night but it could be the last time Sergio Llull suits up for Los Blancos if the Rockets get their way. Emmet Ryan on why Houston are keen on the Spanish guard
Sergio Llull really picked the right weekend to go absolutely nuts, even if it was really just for a quarter. The combo-guard is reportedly being pursued by the Houston Rockets of the NBA for a fee, around $21 million over 3 years, that indicates they want the 27 year-old to be their starting point guard alongside James Harden. For Rockets fans who found out about the potential move yesterday, a quick YouTube search of Llull would leave them salivating and also a little misguided. This is why:
That’s the type of thing that makes you badly need perspective. Going 5 of 5 from deep in the first quarter of a huge game against a big time opponent is going to have everyone singing your praises but it’s not like scoring is the problem for the Rockets. They’ve got James Harden, he does a whole heap of that on his own. With Llull the Rockets are looking for and getting something different, the numbers give a good part of the story.
Llull is a scorer, averaging 10.4 per game this past season in Euroleague and 11 per game in ACB play in Spain. He is however far from a killing machine from deep, averaging 37.9 per cent in Euroleague and 34 per cent in domestic action. He makes enough to be a threat but with Llull it’s the total package that makes him stand out as the type of player Daryl Morey wants in Houston.
Ball security is a huge plus for Llull. In a 10 year career in Spain he’s only averaged 1.1 turnovers per game and he has stayed remarkably consistent on that front since a young age. Last year in Euroleagye was a touch worse at 1.7 per game but he’s the type of guy who isn’t going to get Houston in trouble with mistakes and he’s got the creativity to hurt opponents, averaging 5.8 assists per game in Euroleague and 3 per game in ACB (although he has shot back up to close to his Euroleague average in the post-season). Likewise his rebound totals are wildly different between both competitions, averaging 5.1 in Euroleague but just 1.5 in ACB.
This isn’t an issue of sample size, Llull played 33 games in the ACB regular season and 30 games across the Euroleague season. The variance has a lot to do with what Real needed from Llull in each situation. In their national league, the gulf between Real and the bottom half of the ACB is huge and Llull isn’t needed to create or defend to the same degree. In Euroleague, it’s a step up and that’s where the responsibility goes on his shoulders. Defensively he’s not the aggressor, he’s rarely even attempts to force a turnover, but he’s got the speed and awareness to limit opponents.
Mentally, Llull is definitely going to appeal to the Rockets. This is a player who has never been the primary focus and has fitted in to that role while still having the confidence and ability to take charge. He’s a good distributor who is happy to take charge and used to not being the guy. Even in the Real back court, he has to defer to Sergio ‘Chacho’ Rodriguez. Chacho is far closer to a pure 1 than Llull, although Pablo Laso has always preferred to use him off the bench (still getting starter’s minutes). Chacho is the more exciting player and he’s even got a better beard than Llull. Like Chacho, Llull has a really nice situation in Madrid. He gets paid well to be a star on what is, right now, the best team in Europe but making the jump is far more of an easier call for him.
With Chacho, there are deeper roots with Real and it would certainly prove a more emotionally trying call. Llull is a Laso guy but unlike Chacho he’s never played in the NBA so if he’s offered the right situation he will be open to the jump. The crucial thing with Llull is that the right situation has to involve a serious payday and with it the promise of a role that will work for him. If Houston wants a pure point guard, they are shopping in the wrong place. If they want a guy who works well with bigs and knows when to defer along with showing intelligence on D, he’s their guy.