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Ricky Rubio: The Spanish Sensation Has Transformed the Minnesota Timberwolves

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 07:  Ricky Rubio #9 of the Regal FC Barcelona in action during the NBA Europe Live match between Los Angeles Lakers and Regal FC Barcelona at the at Palau Blaugrana on October 7, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Colin W.Contributor IIIJanuary 29, 2012

He's played only 19 games in his NBA career, but I think it's safe to say that Ricky Rubio has lived up to the hype.

I'll admit it, I was highly skeptical when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Rubio with the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Why waste such a high pick on a guy who may never come to the NBA?

But with his stellar performance thus far, the young Spaniard has proven all of his doubters wrong.

Along with Kyrie Irving, Rubio has emerged as one of the top rookies this year. His entertaining style of play has led the Timberwolves to a solid 9-10 record, giving them hope of a possible playoff berth. That's a phenomenal effort considering that Minnesota finished with a league-worst 17 wins last year.

If the Wolves somehow sneak into the playoffs, it will be the first time they have done so since the 2003-04 season when Kevin Garnett was running the show.

Through the first 19 games, Rubio is averaging: 11.4 PPG, .387 FG percentage, 4.6 RPG, 8.8 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 3.2 TOs

Although he's been inefficient scoring the ball and is prone to turnovers, he's producing at an outstanding rate for a rookie.

He's also developed good chemistry with teammate Derrick Williams and has asserted himself as one of the most creative passers in the entire league. Rubio's skills are undeniable, but it's his court vision that sets him apart.

 

However, Rubio's greatest impact on the Timberwolves goes far beyond statistics.

For the first time in a long while, there is an indescribable buzz circulating throughout the Target Center.

I liken the situation to what happened to the Clippers last year. Before Blake Griffin arrived, the Clippers were the laughingstock of the league. They won 29 games in 2010 and had the 20th-ranked attendance despite playing in a big market. Even with the addition of Griffin, the Clippers only improved by three games in 2011.

But something had changed.

Blake made the Clippers into a team that people had to watch. In just 82 games, they went from "perennial lottery team" to "exciting, young team with a bright future." That transformation continued this season, with Los Angeles becoming the destination for superstar Chris Paul. The Clippers are now amongst the league leaders in attendance.

Although Rubio may not be as talented as Griffin, he is doing exactly the same thing in Minnesota. Last year, the T-Wolves had the 24th-ranked attendance in the NBA. They are now ranked 11th in attendance and while they haven't yet attracted a big-name free agent, they did manage to re-sign their star power forward Kevin Love.

Is Rubio one of the reasons why Love decided to re-sign? Possibly. It's completely plausible that Love noticed the young talent around him and foresaw a bright future ahead of them. Either way, the Wolves have Love inked in for at least the next three seasons and they have done a good job to surround him with potential All-Stars.

You know what the most exciting thing about the Timberwolves is? They have nothing to lose. The Hornets own their first-round draft pick, so losing games isn't going to be of any benefit to them. The hope of getting another great young prospect in the first round is nonexistent, so they might as well play their hardest every night and put on a show for the fans.

After enduring more than their share of losing seasons, that's what Wolves supporters deserve.

Ricky Rubio is changing the culture of basketball in Minnesota and the fans have taken notice. His presence has had a profound impact—both on and off the court—for the Timberwolves. This kid has a bright future in the league, and we're lucky enough to watch it all unfold.

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