Ricky Rubio: Breaking Down the Draft's Biggest Mystery
Ricky Rubio is the best basketball talent that all of Europe can offer to the United States.
He is also the single biggest mystery within the 2009 NBA Draft.
In a draft packed with guards, Rubio seems to be the undisputed top draw. His ability to dish the ball out to his teammates are rivaled by none within this year's draft, let alone his own age group.
His ball handling skills are years ahead of his age, who was more than able to hold his own against even USA's "Redeem Team."
Rubio is naturally a point guard, whose vision and playmaking ability are something that many franchises could only hope to have on their roster.
But once again, nobody truly knows how Rubio's game will translate into the NBA.
Rubio has shown very little ability to create plays for himself, depending tremendously on perfectly executed pick-and-rolls.
With the NBA's elite defenders, he'll be very hard-pressed to get enough separation. His perimeter shooting is somewhat mediocre, and his overall lack of athleticism hurts his ability around the basket.
However, at just 19 years of age, remember that Rubio's body is still growing. His potential for success is limitless, while the amount of basketball IQ this "boy" possesses is scary.
Will Ricky Rubio live up to his potential within the NBA?
Or will he become the next big European bust?
Natural Basketball IQ: A+
A natural basketball IQ is Ricky Rubio's greatest asset.
There are just some skills a coach can't teach, such as an uncanny ability to do the right things at the right times.
There are guys within the NBA who have significantly less basketball smarts and overall mental maturity than this Spaniard.
Nothing can bust a potential successful career more than terrible shot selection, picking up useless fouls, and being unable to control one's emotions.
Rubio has shown none of the above, as he's clearly a facilitating team player who rarely looks for his own shot first.
His shooting attempts are significantly below the other guards in the draft, mainly due to Rubio's ability to find better scoring options using his teammates.
Ninety-five percent of his best highlights involve Rubio somehow giving the ball to his teammates, who then magically have easy bucket around the rim.
The No. 1 quality an NBA point guard must possess is the ability to run an offense.
This natural ability to make your teammates better by facilitating the ball is much more important than the individual's own ability to score.
Fortunately for Rubio, the most important skill needed by NBA point guards just so happens to be his greatest strength.
Natural Athletic Ability: D+
Pure athletic ability is Ricky Rubio's largest weakness, something that could plague the young Spaniard within the NBA.
As noted before, Rubio depends tremendously on pick-and-rolls to create space on the offensive end.
Epitomizing the heart and soul of international basketball, Rubio could suffer when it comes to one-on-one American basketball.
With a weak build and mediocre speed, Rubio will have a tough time adjusting with all the one-on-one assignments of the NBA.
Can Rubio be effective on the offensive end against the likes of Ron Artest, James Posey, Bruce Bowen, and Dahntay Jones?
The NBA brings a level of mental and physical toughness never seen in the European international leagues, which is cause for major concern.
Defensive Ability: C
Despite his lack of athleticism, Rubio still has decent size for his position.
He's a tough, scrappy defender who will constantly pressure the opposing point guard.
Rubio was named Defensive Player of the Year for Spain's ACB League in 2008-2009.
At around 6'3", Rubio has the ability to block passing lanes and decently contest shots. Rubio is also reminiscent of Chris Paul, as Rubio lead the Euroleague in steals per game at age 17.
Nevertheless, not is all rosy for the young Spaniard.
His foot speed lacks efficient quickness, leaving him prone to getting blown past by NBA-caliber guards.
Rubio has also struggled defending the Euroleague's more elite guards.
These fully grown men usually have more quickness and/or superior strength, which Rubio seems to struggle with on the defensive end.
Unfortunately, the majority of the NBA will have more quickness and/or strength than that of Ricky Rubio.
Offensive Ability: B+
Finding open passing lanes, overall ball handling, and ability to get to the foul line are all things done well by Ricky Rubio.
He's very patient with the ball, showing strong composure and concentration when being trapped or double-teamed.
Rubio's deep perimeter shooting is inconsistent, but his mid-range jumper has shown sparks of being dangerous.
While averaging just 10 PPG in his 2008-2009 season, Rubio is at his best when giving the ball up to his teammates.
Rubio is a master at giving the ball up during transitions/fastbreak opportunities.
Other times, he slashes into the paint followed by a kick-out pass for his teammates.
He's also a very good offensive rebounder, which is a testament to Rubio's smarts more than his athletic ability.
One glaring weakness is that the he is very weak finishing around the rim. He doesn't have the athleticism to dunk, or slash in for an easy layup.
This forces Rubio to be that much more reliant on his jumper.
Fastbreak/Mid-Court Game: A+
Ricky Rubio is often compared to another master of the transition/mid-court game, a current NBA superstar who knows a thing or two about passing up the ball in a fast break.
Like Steve Nash, Rubio has tremendous vision running down the floor.
He often creates his own fast-break opportunities from steals, later finishing the run with a well-timed pass for his teammates.
Combined with his exceptional ball-handling skills, Rubio can make any team's offense lethal with the fast break.
European to American Transition: C
All his life, Ricky Rubio has only known one style of basketball.
The international style of game differs tremendously from the Americanized NBA.
For one thing, the NBA and its "superstars" go hand in hand, while in Europe the team is much more important than the individual.
The majority of European basketball teams during the 2008 Beijing Olympics were comprised of no-name players.
Part of it has to do with their talent level, but most of these players naturally put the team before themselves. Likewise, most teams within the Euroleagues are comprised of 100 percent "role players".
If Rubio doesn't put up impressive individual stats, (which he won't, how will he handle the negative criticisms?
Averaging 10 PPG is very lackluster within the NBA, but in Europe, individual numbers, don't weigh as heavily.
Ten PPG can still be considered a great game in Europe, (assuming one did everything else right, especially for the "team") but in the NBA it translates to "B-U-S-T."
Final Verdict: B+
Ricky Rubio will succeed within the National Basketball Association.
He's simply too young with too much talent to not have success within the United States.
Rubio may never develop himself into a "superstar", but that reflects popularity more than actual basketball content.
He's never posted up amazing stats in the Euroleagues, and I don't suspect that he will post up magical numbers during the rest of his career.
Even though he's so young with so much talent, his game is just not built towards individual numbers.
He's clearly a facilitating point guard who gives the ball up to his teammates, creating easier scoring opportunities through others.
Because of this, Rubio will never completely win over the NBA fans.
Yao Ming will never be the Chinese version of Shaq, the physically unstoppable force in the paint that people initially thought he would be. Ricky Rubio in all likelihood will not be the next Tony Parker.
Despite all that, Rubio will be a big asset for any team needing a true POINT guard.
The sky is the limit for this young Spaniard, as his potential has no bound.
Regardless of where he falls in the 2009 NBA Draft, he will indeed live up to his potential.