Ricky Rubio, a Spanish prospect widely known for his jaw dropping court vision, outstanding basketball IQ and "Kobe Bryant praise" will make the jump to the NBA pending a lockout. He currently stands at 6'4'', a lean 185 lbs, and it's reported that his wingspan is anywhere from 6'7'' to 6'9'', giving him comparable measurements to players Jrue Holiday, O.J Mayo and Rodney Stuckey.
His resume is quite impressive. Just to put a few facts out there.
- FIBA's Europe Under-16 Championship (somewhat like the McDonald's High School All-Star Game), he achieved two triple doubles and a quadruple double. In the double overtime victory, he scored 51 points (first to score 50+ points since Luol Deng), grabbed 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 11 steals (widely known as the best performance in the game's history) and also hit a midcourt 3-point shot to force the first overtime.
- Youngest player to play in the Spanish ACB League (age 14)
- Won the EuroChallenge championship with team Joventut in 2005-2006
- Led Spanish ACB league in steals in 2006-2007
- Won Spanish ACB's Young Rising Star award in 2006-2007
- 2007, 2008, 2009 FIBA's Young Player of the Year.
- Won the Eurocup championship with Joventut in 2008
- Voted Spanish ACB's Leagues best point guard in 2008 and 2010
- Won Mr. Europa Award in 2008
- Won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008-2009, also led the league in steals that year
- Youngest player (age 17) to ever play in an Olympic basketball final
- Catalan Tournament (3): 2005, 2007, 2008 (Joventut)
- Catalan Tournament (2): 2009, 2010 (FC Barcelona)
- Catalan Tournament MVP: 2009
- Euroleague Rising Star: 2010
- Won the Spanish ACB League Top 5 Trophy: Most Spectacular Player of the Year (2010)
We could go on and on, add the fact that he won't be 21 until October of this year and that's absolutely amazing. His accomplishments speak for themselves, but it's his court play that will have you visually in love. The way he runs a team is absolutely stunning, and he isn't doing it with incredible numbers.
He's currently averaging around six points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals a game in 22 minutes. You could take those numbers alone, put them to a 36-minute total and you get nine points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Those are good numbers for a rookie point guard, but they don't exactly jump out at you, and wouldn't quite convince you that a guy that barely can post 10 points would have won all of the awards listed above. If you are a stat junky, Rubio probably won't impress you other than plus/minus, but if you just love watching basketball, Rubio is your guy.
Watch him on the fastbreak, and Rubio has almost every pass in the book and can accurately hit his man in stride 99 percent of the time, but 50 percent of the time his own teammates don't make the proper read and end up fumbling the ball (he does average two turnovers). His play in the open court is stunning, but he has a rare basketball IQ for a point guard his age and can play just as well in the half-court sets. The pick and roll is run to perfection with Rubio, especially since he's not a huge threat to score.
What's even more impressive is that he's been playing in the second best league in the world as a teenager, so as he enters the NBA, or when he does, he's not your typical rookie. He's played against NBA talent before, he's played against Olympic talent before and he's shown he could do it time and time again, but just like any young player, he struggles with inconsistency.
Where Rubio struggles the most with is his scoring. He has the instinct for it, but he struggles with his jump shot, but his teammate Pete Mickeal thinks he's going to be great in the NBA.
"About Ricky Rubio…he’s 20 years old. In five years, he’ll be still young! Always willing to learn, to play better D. If you can pass and play defense, you can have a great career in the NBA. And he’s working his shooting skills. I tell him all the time before the games 'I need to see you attack more.' People thinks only about his shots, but I tell him that in terms of being aggressive, attacking the basket, and then he’s great. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Ricky, because I see him making shots everyday.
"If he gets close to the basket, Ricky can finish with both hands, it doesn’t matter. This is a big key for his game. I really like to see him so aggressive."
Going to any team, much less the Timberwolves, Ricky obviously is going to need athletic shooters that can propel him to the next level. Propel as in bring out his best qualities as a ball handler, distributor and defender. But he's going to seriously struggle with scoring, for he isn't the greatest finisher inside the paint, he doesn't have a great jump shot and he isn't the quickest or most explosive.
Although he isn't explosive, the older and stronger he's getting, the more he's dunking the ball in transition and the more aggressive he's becoming on the offensive end. But what's going to keep his team off balance is his passing, and while players in the NBA will force him to shoot the ball, more often than not he will be penetrating, drawing fouls and wreaking havoc in the passing lanes.
But where does that put him as an All-Star talent?
Rajon Rondo has made the jump to perennial All-Stardom, and he only averages 10 points a game; he just happens to lead the league in assists. He somehow gets it done every single night, and regardless of the talent that's around him (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett), it must take an extraordinary point guard to be able to command three future Hall of Famers.
Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondo both draw numerous comparisons, like how about their inititals are both R.R.? In all seriousness, they both have extraordinary court vision and excel in the open court, and because Rondo is such a willing passer, his teammates make it easier for him by running the floor consistently every single play, by being in their right spots at the right time and executing.
Rubio has to follow this mold as a rookie; there's no doubt in my mind that one day he can average 14-15 points, but it won't happen in his rookie season, for his demeanor is too passive. An offense can be run through him a rookie or a second year player, but you're not going to get the majority of your points from him if that makes any sense. Fortunately, there's a place for a guy in the NBA that has high defensive potential and great passing qualities; those are guys like Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo, who have both been All-Stars.
What team he goes to will greatly shape how good Rubio will be. It depends on the system, personnel and leadership on the team. Take for instance the Timberwolves (the team that drafted him). There's a legit fear that he will not develop as well as he could because the Wolves run variations of the triangle offense. However, Minnesota has a lot of young players that Rubio can definitely play with that can help him excel, like Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and, to a lesser extent, Darko Milicic.
However you want to see it, despite the fact that Rubio is inconsistent overseas, the NBA is a more guard-oriented game now. Heck, Dwight Howard can't get 15 shots some nights? The best big man in the NBA doesn't lead the league in scoring, or he isn't even close? Kevin Durant is a swingman, Kobe Bryant is a combo guard, Dwyane Wade is a combo guard and LeBron is a freak of nature, and those guys all are guys that have led the league in scoring at one period or another.
Rubio will step into a league where the point guard position is the hardest to learn and hardest to fill, but it's the greatest benefit to a team where you can have a maestro or orchestrator to fill up assists and put on a good show. The Minnesota Timberwolves have themselves a gem if they can cash it in, and it's a core with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley that you can really get excited about.
Even in Rubio's inconsistency, one thing you have to notice is that Rubio's team has always been competitive, and that's truly all that matters. Winning and losing is all that matters, and Rubio is a winner. He has the potential to be an All-Star and that, to the Minnesota Timberwolves, was worth the two-year wait.
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