Thursday, May 1, 2014

We Have to Discuss Fran Vazquez Again


We almost made it a full 2 years without having to mention Fran Vazquez's name in regards to finally making the jump to Orlando. Sadly, the Spanish media is dragging the Magic back into the rumor mill. This ONE article from Encestando a few days ago states that the Magic have had recent talks with Fran and his representatives. By the way, there are a plethora of comments made underneath that story that are interesting to translate and sift through. So why now? Why must Fran re-enter another Orlando offseason rumor mill?

Well, if we look back at the summer of 2012 - right before Dwight Howard got traded - you'll see that Fran departed from Barcelona after 6 seasons there and signed a 2-year contract (with the third year being a team option) with his home town team of Unicaja Malaga. It appeared that the Magic had a legitimate chance at bringing Fran in considering Rob Hennigan was the franchise's brand new General Manager. But alas, Vazquez's agent Jose Cobelo played us all for fools and Fran was able to play ball professionally in his backyard, just like over a decade ago when he began his basketball career.

It's been almost that long since former Magic GM Otis Smith curiously selected Fran Vazquez 11th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. What's baffling is that Otis allegedly didn't talk with Fran nor did they ask Vazquez to partake in a workout before the draft. So with that lack of communication, it's no wonder why Fran's intentions weren't known in regards to how seriously committed he was about coming to Orlando.


Let's fast forward to today. As of May 1st, Fran Vazquez is now 31 years old. He's been the team's captain, but Fran has only started 16 of 27 ACB league games this campaign. Unicaja Malaga hasn't won anything in Spain or in Euroleague action over the past few years since acquiring the 6'10" lengthy Spanish league veteran, and that doesn't have fans or management feeling too happy. Unicaja Malaga does have the option to retain Fran for next season, however due to some financial reshuffling they would prefer to negotiate the amount of money to keep Fran down to a cheaper rate. Depending on where you look, Fran's making anywhere between $1.5 million and $2.5 million currently.

It is peculiar to note that the Fran rumors have begun mighty early. The ACB regular season doesn't end until the end of May, and then you still have another month of playoffs that won't end until after the NBA Draft is completed. Malaga are in 4th place in the ACB domestic competition and they have been in Euroleague competition the past 2 years that Fran has been with the team.

Below you can see Fran's Euroleague stats this season compared to his career numbers:




The 70.1 FG% in that '04-'05 Euroleague season is probably what Otis Smith and scouts saw on paper that had a large influence in selecting him. You can notice pretty easily that Fran's 2012-2013 season with Unicaja didn't go that well and that this season has seen improvements in production that Malaga fans should be more accustomed to witnessing from Vazquez. It's a respectable stat sheet at 18 minutes per game and only starting 11 of 22 games. Still, Unicaja hasn't been able to advance past the top 16 of Euroleague and that's not met expectations.


Taking a peak at ACB league action, you can see here that based on how 'Value' is calculated that Fran has been Malaga's 3rd-best player in the ACB. That's not bad considering he's only playing on average 19 out of forty minutes per contest. Fran's never been a scorer and he wouldn't be in Orlando. But the man is outstanding in pick-and-roll situations, and he's still a defensive force. Fran physically takes up a lot of space because of his wingspan, help defense instincts, and his ability to swat anything in his range. He's still athletically in his prime (barely), and any team in any league can use a player like Fran.



Back to why rumors about Fran's future are starting with a full month left in the ACB regular season. Malaga has a team option on Vazquez for the '14-'15 season. Unicaja isn't hiding their intentions for lowering the team's salary. Fran will be asked to take less money to stay with his home team. This where the Magic, Real Madrid, and I'm sure other teams come in. To build that supposed interest. Fran's representation has stated that Vazquez is now all of a sudden open to playing outside of Spain.

As always, Orlando needs to tread lightly. Supposedly, 'Henny' and the Magic front office communicated with Fran last week. Maybe, maybe not. How thorough were the chats? Was it a quick 15-minute reminder that we'd show interest in him, or are we talking several hours? I have no doubt that Real Madrid could use Fran's services considering they're losing Nikola Mirotic to the Chicago Bulls and possibly a few other big men. It'd be strange to see a former Barcelona player join rival Real Madrid, but we don't have to delve deep into that.

Back in 2012, Fran's agent Jose Cobelo said that the Magic showed little interest in bringing Fran over as reported by the Orlando Sentinel:

"We haven't had much communication with Orlando," Cobelo said. "They didn't have much interest, so they didn't affect our situation." 
Cobelo still would not rule out the possibility of Vázquez transitioning to the NBA eventually. 
"It depends on what happens when we finish this contract," Cobelo said. "It's possible that, yes, he could still come."

Does Rob Hennigan and crew have more of an interest in Fran now that it appears Orlando is getting out of rebuilding mode? We're pretty much at the end of Fran's contract considering Malaga doesn't want to continue paying Fran what he's currently making. If continuing his career in Spain isn't a viable option, does Fran prefer to stay in Europe in countries such as Greece or Russia over flying across the Atlantic to the U.S.? If he wants to play in the NBA, does he prefer other teams that are not the Magic? Just know that Fran-to-Orlando rumors are back, and that I'm sure we'll hear more whispers in May, June, and possibly July. The 'Fran Watch' is on.

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