Ricky Rubiowoah No
USA Today Sports
When Ricky Rubio was drafted in 2009, he became the first player born in the 1990s to be drafted into the NBA. He had already been wowing scouts for years in Europe, having begun playing professional basketball at the age of 14. His court vision was remarkable, and his play in the 2008 Olympics introduced him to the rest of the world.
No matter that Rubio only scored 38 points on 35 % shooting in 8 games. His passes were electric!
His play was so good, it convinced the Minnesota Timberwolves to invest the No. 5 pick in the draft on him. Then, in a game against the Lakers, Rubio tore his ACL late in the fourth quarter. He would miss the rest of the season, and miss part of the next season, recovering from his knee injury.
This year was the year that the core was supposed to finally be in one piece. Cole Patty wrote, “Sit back and enjoy the ride,” when previewing the T’Wolves season. However, after a month of basketball, the Timberwolves were struggling, and no player was struggling more than the prodigal point, Rubio.
“Barely averaging 10 points per game and shooting under 40 percent from the field, 50 percent around the rim with an inability to score consistently, from anywhere on the floor, aren’t the characteristics of a championship point guard,” said Hickory-High writer Zachary Bennett on Dec. 6.
Since then, Rubio’s struggles have continued, and he is on the verge of having another historically bad shooting season.
In a comparison with his divisional peers, Rubio was the worst in almost every statistic, with only the maniacal Russell Westbrook saving him from total cellar-domination.
||Points per game
||Catch and Shoot eFG %
||Pull Up Shots eFG %
||FG % on drives
But wait, there’s more.
No guard has has put up the same shooting numbers as Rubio since Guy Rodgers in 1962-63, who was averaging over 40 minutes a game for the San Francisco Warriors – oh, and he didn’t have a 3-point line.
Rubio’s struggles have pushed him down the “ranks” of point guards in the Western Conference. For a player that was supposed to be part of the championship core for Minnesota, Rubio is one of the worst scoring starting point guards in the NBA this season – only Kirk Hinrich has been worse.
There will still be opportunities for Rubio to help his team while he is on the court. Minnesota is a good fastbreak team, ranking in the top third of the league this year. The Timberwolves rank in the top third of the league in assists per game. Unfortunately, they are in the bottom third of the league in shooting percentages.
Therein is the problem with Rubio’s play this season. While his teammates – Pekovic, Love, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer – are more than capable of putting up shots, the game becomes difficult when the defense knows one of the players isn’t going to shoot the ball. When Rubio weaves his way into the lane, down under the basket, and then back out the other side, the defense is content to let the clock continue to tick down and clog passing lanes to prevent Rubio’s teammates from getting a scoring opportunity. Even Rajon Rondo has figured out how to abuse the defense for only paying attention to the threat of passing the ball.
If Rubio is going to help the Timberwolves be a championship caliber – actually, a playoff caliber team this season, he needs to be at least an average shooter from somewhere on the court. Whether it’s a little midrange jumper that he can use off the pick and roll with Pekovic, or looking to lay the ball in on drives to the basket, there needs to be something added to his game in order for him to help kick the Timberwolves out of their slump. Love will get his shot attempts, and averaging nearly 26 points a night is nothing to sneeze at. But right now, it would seem that the Timberwolves would be a better team with nearly any other starting point guard in the Western Conference.
Does this mean that Rubio will never improve? No. I try to be optimistic about things in life, and I would like to see a player like Ricky Rubio play in April and May. It is important to remember that due to injuries, Rubio has only played about 1.5 seasons in the NBA. He has stated that he is still lacking confidence having suffered a major injury, but playing scared is no way for a player like Rubio to play the game.
“It’s a big injury and you always think about it even if you don’t want to,” Rubio said to Jeff Caplan on NBA.com. “I think I have to forget it already and just feel confident out there playing hard, going and running 100 percent.”
Get healthy, Ricky. Watching you play hurt is making us all say, “Woah no.”