Rubio is injury prone. Rubio can’t shoot. We’ve heard it before. Ricky has probably heard it too. Ricky Rubio, without a doubt, has the most to prove this season. His season was cut short last season with an ankle injury that only let him play 22 games. The Wolves played way better with Rubio on the court than without. But many people are picking away at his game saying he needs to be able to score and finish around the rim. More importantly, he needs to be healthy. Rubio was given a 4-year $56 Million contract last summer in which gave him the label as a franchise cornerstone. What people want to know is will he be worth that amount of money. With all the talk around reigning ROY Andrew Wiggins, high-flying Zach LaVine, #1 pick Karl-Anthony Town, the comeback of KG, heck, and even the hometown Tyus Jones coming back to Minnesota, many have forgotten the electric play of Ricky Rubio and what he does for this franchise. As Sam Mitchell chose to keep Rubio out of the Wolves’ first preseason game, the chatter began that he won’t be able to handle a full NBA season.
I am here to say, all of the doubters, will be wrong.
I can’t guarantee that Ricky doesn’t get hurt, because you can’t do that with anyone. But Ricky is not injury prone. Rubio tore an ACL and sprained an ankle that needed surgery. They are completely independent. I am sure Ricky wants to prove to himself more than anyone that he can remain healthy. I also want to say I am not saying Ricky Rubio will be a star in this league, but I believe he is stepping up to the plate as this young Wolves team’s leader. He is embracing his role and taking full responsibility. And if there is anyone who has a chance of becoming an All-Star this season outside of Andrew Wiggins, it is Ricky Rubio.
First off, Ricky will need to figure out how to finish around the rim or at least get to the line. That is a criticism that is not used enough against him. Ricky has a 32% career FG% within 3ft of the rim (17.8% last season), and 8.5% between 3ft and 10ft. That is really bad and is better off passing the ball out at that point. The patented Ricky scream when their is contact only got him to the line when he was a rookie. Now Rubio will need to embrace the contact and try to finish regardless. This is merited criticism that needs to be addressed.
I think in due time though, Rubio will figure out a shooting stroke from 3. He has already shown improvements in having a much quicker release and having the ability to shoot off the dribble without it looking like a 4-step process. Ricky has worked tirelessly on his 3 point shot and has shown flashes of his ability to make them when they count. When he played the entire season in 2013-2014, he shot 33% which isn’t the worst. If he can shoot around 36%, I think the chatter will be gone. All that needs to happen is that he hits the open 3-pointers, especially in the clutch when defenders lay off of him.
Lets also not forget what Ricky does great. Ricky is without a doubt one of the most exciting passers in the league and always among the league leaders in assists. Ricky is not stacked with guys who can feed off of his passes around him when he usually just had Kevin Love. A career average of 8.2 assists per game is pretty impressive. I believe Ricky will easily be among the top 3 in assists this season. The alley-oops will be very easy this season and will be coming from every angle. Once the chemistry is developed, its hard for Rubio to not be a league leader in assists. Ricky was 4th in the league last season in Assist %, which I would imagine will only get better this next season.
Rubio is also among the best perimeter defenders in the league. How many people get crossed to the ground and still are able to contest the shot? Yes I turned the James Harden crossover into a positive. But that effort on the defensive end will help the identity that KG and the Wolves are trying to build defensively. Ricky also has a career 2.3 steals per game average. Again, I can absolutely see Ricky being among the league leaders in this category as well. He will be able to play the passing lanes a lot more with some better defenders around him.
After all of that, Ricky is a guy who makes the guys around him better. The Wolves won 7 of their 16 games last season with Rubio on the court. And he only played 22 games. They nearly won half of their games with him! And most seasons, the Wolves had Rubio and Kevin Love. The Wolves now finally have some young talent that can translate well in the win category.
The most important part is Ricky’s will to win, which is needed more than anything. Rubio comes from a background of winning. I had the opportunity to visit Camp Nou in Barcelona where they highlighted the many championships Ricky won while there as a teenager. Rubio will fit well with the mentality of KG and Towns who are brought in to really change the culture. Ricky wants to change the identity of this team and he is the leading agent to do just that.
Ricky has the most riding on this season. And usually when he has his back against the wall, he shows up.