With Ricky Rubio, The Timberwolves Could Get Really Good, Really Fast.
Wolves fans like me are forced to wait patiently for the past year and likely the next year (or more) to see if some kid we've never seen play a "real" professional game ever suits up for one of the worst teams in the league.
While I have my doubts, as Ricky Rubio (pictured) seems to be a spoiled, pampered, big-city-or-bust kid, the possibility of his game intrigues me to the point where again, I have little or no choice but to hope he decides as soon as next year to come overseas and try and save a franchise he owes nothing to other than the fact they drafted him.
I did not want the Wolves to draft Rubio. For one, I didn't expect him to be there at five, despite his talents, I called him possibly the next Fran Vazquez, another former Spanish star who refused to come to the NBA because among other reasons, he just couldn't leave the comforts of home.
But the Wolves drafted him so now we, as fans, have to spin him off as the next big thing and hope for the best. Still, I cannot blame the team for trying and I cannot blame the team for taking him. I wanted that circus to be avoided but now it appears this may be the only way save for a Turner or Wall lottery to get interest back into the team and the state.
Had the Wolves passed up Rubio-twice-I might remind you, national critics would have assuredly blasted the Wolves repeatedly saying: "see this is why the Wolves are the Wolves" and "This is why they never win, they are afraid to take the best players." This will be the same jest if the Wolves win the draft and to their "luck" do the right thing and draft a player like John Wall only to hear "This team doesn't know how to draft, they just take point guards." or "the Detroit Lions of the NBA. They like Wide Recievers, Minnesota likes point guards."
I can hear it now.
Wolves President David Kahn as in "In Kahn we trust" has said over and over that the Wolves need both a #1 scoring option and more star power. Rubio while he could provide both in a best-case scenario, likely would only fill the 2nd void.
David Beckham-Star Power
Rubio, I believe has a chance to bring a David Beckham-like international coverage to the Twin Cities and Minnesota unlike that they've ever seen. In the best case scenario, Wolves games would be picked up on national TV just for a chance to see the kid play. People would come from miles around, from many states over just to get a chance to see "the kid" or whatever stud nickname they dub him.
Endorsement deals would be off the chain.
Shoe deals, Nike, energy drinks, an MTV-club-esque atmosphere on the ads promoting how "cool" it is to be a Rubio fan and more importantly how "cool" is is to be a Wolves fan.
Spanish kids would walk around Barcelona and Madrid wearing Rubio #1 jerseys or whatever number they give him.
Women would be featured in ads claiming to be Wolves fans.
We might even find out who the hot celebs are that reside in the Twin Cities, or relocate their (temporarily) because of him. E! would cover Wolves games-at least for the gossip aspect.
The Taget Center would be the place to be, similarily when Wayne Gretzkty was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the L.A. Kings in 1988. "Who is Rubio dating now?" "Did you see who he was spotted with (after the game)?" "Look who was courtside tonight...."
That is the chance the Wolves took and that is the idea they had when they took him last year. I believe it can still work, if and when he comes over. The kid is 20, all the big names in the sport, from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Jason Kidd say he's the real deal.
That alone brings me hope.
They've not only seem him play in person, but they've played against him. If they say he's good, then he probably is. If they say he can play, who are we to judge?
Its not like he's going to magically forget how to play if and when he comes to America, and its unlikely that he couldn't adjust to NBA life or their level of competition, after all, he's been playing professionally overseas since he was 14 and been on the Spanish Olympic team when he was 17.
Think about that for a minute.
You've got the best in the NBA saying he can play and so far, only Brandon Jennings has questioned his game. As for the rest, he's passed all their tests and they should know talent when they see it.
So what does the future hold for Rubio?
Many Wolves fans see Rubio putting up decent scoring numbers. I've personally never had him pegged for more than 10ppg in the NBA. He's currently averging 6.5 ppg 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals, playing limited minutes on Spain's top team. The minutes aren't limited because he isn't any good, they are limited because the team is so stacked they don't need him as much.
Putting up points in the Euroleagues is kind of like being a scorer in Women's basketball in America by my evaluation. Its rare to see 20 point scorers, rather if you score something like 10-15 ppg and grab 8-10 rebounds per contest that usually projects you do do pretty well in the WNBA.
To put it in comparison, for the men in Euroleagues, Jennings scored 5.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg and 2.3 assists per game playing 17 minutes on his Italian league team and see how he turned out? That's what I expect from Ricky, minus the scoring.
Wolves fans don't drool over him because they want or expect him to score, they are ingrained with him over his play making ability, leadership, experience, and stealing ability at such a young age.So far, there has been little signs to suggest why it wouldn't translate here in the NBA.
I envision weekly SportsCenter highlight reel plays, the commentators dubbing the "Top 10" the Ricky Rubio Ten (he might even get his own list).
So who could he project to be?
I agree with the Jason Kidd assessments. I mean look at Kidd. Is he a proficient scorer?
A career 13.6ppg, which is higher than I'd expect Rubio's to be. But look at those assists.
9.2 per game for the duration of his career-1187 games. Thats where he makes his money and fame.
Kidd's 6.6 rpg may be a little high for Rubio whose one inch shorter than Kidd at 6'3". but there is no reason he can't be the defender that Kidd is with a career 1.97 steals per game average.
That's Allen Iverson impressive back in his day. That's also the under-covered stuff that makes SportsCenter only if it leads to fast break points which the star-driven and flashy NBA thrives for.
So what to hope from Rubio? Best Case? 10-12 ppg, 5-6 rpg and 11+ apg with two steals.
Right out of the gate? 6 ppg 4 rpg, 8apg and 1.5 spg.
Now you can begin to see why waiting for Rubio is the hardest part but it may be well worth it for long-suffering Wolves fans.
David Kahn, the Wolves GM, figured out very quickly that the NBA for all its faults, is a star-driven league. That means, its not the Denver Nuggets taking on the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA playoffs. No, thanks to the NBA's ridiculous marketing that appeals to youth and urban fans alike, its really Carmelo vs. Deron Williams—the rest of their supporting cast be damned.
Baseball is a team sport and marketed as such. Hockey is the epitome of team sports, same with football, but basketball you need 2-3 stars and a bunch of luck (warm weather climates don't hurt either) and a tradition of winning.
Don't forget that 29 of the past 31 champions have all come from Detroit, LA (Lakers), San Antonio, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, and Houston. All except for Detroit, Chicago, and Boston because of their history are warm-weather cities.
This image and sad fact much surely change for new markets to emerge and thrive. The NBA is missing out on appealing to new fans by keeping teams like the Kings (2002-02), Wolves (2004), Suns (2007) and Thunder (2009) out simply because they want to milk all they can out of the same tired, Boston-Lakers glory days.
As I've written over and over, we can't all be Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Spurs, Bulls, or Rockets. We don't all live in those markets. We don't all care about those same boring teams. Some of us want parity which is holding the league back from being all that it could be.
Some of us are destined to be Timberwolves fans. And Rubio and Turner would ensure at least a fighting chance at this reality to start to break the NBA's self-imposed glass ceiling that the Thunder have began to chisel away.
But only if the lotto balls play out right and a certain Spanish point guard decides to come over to set it all up on a nightly basis.
Information and statistics from the New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, ESPN.com, and the American Chronicle directly contributed to this article.
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