Ricky Rubio, Thriving On a Second-Hand Reputation

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Ricky Rubio, Thriving On a Second-Hand Reputation
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The biggest name, at the moment, when it comes to the 2009 NBA draft, is Ricky Rubio, a Spanish point guard, with years of experience playing professional basketball in Europe. Everyone seems to know his alliterative, catchy name, even casual fans.

He's projected to go at number two in the draft, right after Blake Griffin, an impressive power forward from Oklahoma University.

Even so, I'd wager more basketball fans, when you take the casual ones into account, know Ricky Rubio's name, much more than they do Blake Griffin's, on account of all of the media attention he's received.

Rubio's name has been big, in basketball, for quite a few years, mainly as the result of some extraordinary performances in the 2006 Under-16 European championship tournament, during which he had an oft-mentioned 51 point game, against the Russian under-16 national team. Rubio went on to lead the Spanish under-16 team to a championship. He's been riding that accomplishment, ever since.

According to most analysts, Rubio's greatest asset is his floor vision and high basketball IQ. Whenever the name Rubio is mentioned, these are the two qualities emphasized and elaborated upon, with no concrete examples or stats, only one awe-aspiring and thrilling adjective after another.

Besides having personally watched him play in the ACB, a professional basketball league in Spain, on numerous occasions, and not being impressed, these qualities that supposedly make him the second overall selection make me most skeptical about Rubio's potential for stardom in the NBA.

These oft-mentioned qualities bear some simple questions, for Rubio's supporters. What exactly is meant by high basketball IQ, insofar as his numbers and production are concerned? What is meant by floor vision, and, again, how has this quality been quantified?

You see, it's just so much easier for folks to assign a player these fluffed up qualities, than to point at stats and actual production. With Blake Griffin, in contrast to Rubio, a stats guy or girl can point at rebounds, points, assists, etc., in support of his potential for success in the NBA.

Rubio, on the other hand, creates a dilemma, in that there is a huge disparity between the amount of praise that he has received and his actual production.

Of course, certain things can't be seen on the stats sheets: the intangibles. In making my analysis of Rubio, I have taken this into account. The things he does, which aren't seen on the stats sheets, however, aren't, as I see it, generally positive.

Watching Rubio in the ACB and Euroleague, one can see that he lacks speed, explosiveness, can be turnover prone: losing his dribble, walking into double teams, etc. He also has trouble knocking down jumpshots, sometimes even when left open.

Mind you, this is against inferior competition. Some of the easy, soft layups that he drops in, from time to time, against his ACB opponents, would, in my opinion, be swatted out of the building in the NBA.  

Much has been made of Rubio's '08 Olympics outing, during which many of his supporters claim he "held his own" against "the world's best," while playing behind Jose Calderon, the extremely talented Toronto Raptors point guard.

Well, first of all, that phrase is sort of loaded. If you take "the world" to mean each country sending its best players out to compete against those of other countries, you'd be right to say that he did "hold his own" (another loaded phrase) against "the world's best." If, as I do, you take "the world's best" to mean the world's very best players, regardless of national origin, that's the NBA.

Besides, Rubio's Olympic numbers: 28% shooting, 4 ppg, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, were mediocre, some might say poor and unbalanced, to the point of showing he'd create a liability, at point guard, for whatever NBA team chooses him. This is very similar to his ACB and Euroleague stats: 10 ppg, 39% shooting, 2.2 assists, 3.0 turnovers and 2 ppg, 30% shooting, 2.8 assists, 2.4 turnovers, respectively. 

Most Spanish basketball fans know he's not going to meet expectations. They like the kid, but they also believe he's not ready for the NBA and want him to remain in Spain for a few more years.

It's the NBA, its analysts, GM's and fans, who have never actually watched Rubio, who only have second-hand knowledge of him, that believe him to be much more than he is, or will be, at least in the near future: the best point guard coming out of this draft.

The irony is they don't really seem to know what he does: all we hear about is court-vision, basketball IQ and "exploits" that, outside of his big under-16 51 point game, aren't cited. It's very likely that fans will

 

 

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