(The third installment of the player previews highlights 18 year old point guard phenom Ricky Rubio. I originally was not going to do a piece on him, but with all the talk about the Knicks trading up to the second pick I figured I would.)
"La Pistola"... that is the nickname given to 18 year-old Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.
The nickname is a reference to former LSU and NBA star "Pistol" Pete Maravich. That's lofty praise for a kid who could not even sign his initial basketball contract with Spanish team DKV Joventut.
Is it justified? Let's explore.
Rubio has been on the NBA radar since he was just a 14-year-old kid. He wowed scouts at an international youth tournament and the spotlight has been on him ever since.
At 6'4" Rubio has ideal height for the point guard position. He is a slight 180 pounds, but at only 18-years-old he'll have plenty of time to grow into his body.
While Rubio's body needs time to mature, his game does not. Rubio's game is as polished as any collegiate player coming into the NBA right now. He's fearless, tough, and has a tremendous basketball IQ, which enables him to see things before other players can.
Because of these reasons he is arguably the best pure passer coming into the NBA that I have seen since Jason Kidd back in 1994.
Rubio's biggest challenge in the NBA will be developing his jump shot. It is the one part of his game that is the most glaring weakness. The form on his shot is inconsistent. When he shoots in one motion the shot is pretty good and flows from his hand nicely. For some reason he doesn't always shoot it this way.
He has a slight hitch sometimes. When he catches the ball to shoot many times he pushes the ball instead of extending with his arm. It is something he has to work on, but he has such a good work ethic and is very coachable, so I don't see it being a problem.
On defense, Rubio is surprisingly very good. While he is just an average athlete, his anticipation and wingspan make him a hard guy to get around or shoot over. These same skills also allow him to get into the passing lanes and create steals for himself or for his teammates.
He is not strong, but his tenacity on the court makes up for whatever he gives up strength wise. The Knicks need solid perimeter defenders. Rubio would be able to play the opposing team's point guard or shooting guard.
Rubio is a player who could come in and help the Knicks immediately.
Since he has been playing professionally since he was 15 he has plenty of experience. He is the best pure point guard in this draft, and since he is young he has plenty of time to develop the other parts of his game.
He definitely won't be around at the No. 8 pick, but there is talk of the Knicks trading up to grab the second pick.
If the Knicks can swing that deal, Rubio would be the guy I would select. His potential is limitless.