Top 50 NBA Players: #48 Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio
Resume: 10.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists (10th in league), 2.4 steals (2nd in league), 29.7 minutes, 36% FG, and 80% FT… Team record in games played: 18-39 (13-12 without)

I do this very long, detailed, strenuous list not only for the sake of writing material for all of you, but also as a means to sharpen my own knowledge of the current state of the NBA. In my mind, it never hurts to know too much. However, it sometimes hurts my mind to think so much about a players ranking, and overall place in the league. Take Ricky Rubio for example. Here we have a point guard who was billed as the next Pete Maravich, Steve Nash, and member of the Jonas Brothers (a comparison that was too easy not to make back in 2009, when the Rubio and Jonas Brothers hype machines were at their absolute peaks). Rubio marveled in Spain as a teen, got some big minutes in the 2008 Summer Olympics thanks to a Jose Calderon injury (he was only seventeen years old at the time—when I was seventeen I was putting up triple doubles in the Genesee Region; basically the same thing as Rubio), and was drafted 5th overall in the 2009 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves despite the fact that he couldn’t shoot, was an injury risk, wasn’t overly explosive, and as previously mentioned, looked like a damn Jonas Brother.

Apr 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) passes the ball as he is defended by Phoenix Suns power forward Markieff Morris (11) in the third quarter at the Target Center. Timberwolves won 105-93. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After two long years where Minnesota was run by their consolation prize in the 2009 draft, Jonny Flynn (one pick ahead of Stephen Curry… oops), Rubio arrived for the lockout shortened season in 2012 and was exactly what people expected; a pass first point guard whose unselfishness was contagious and fun, but still couldn’t shoot, wasn’t overly explosive, and inexplicably still looked like a Jonas Brother despite the fact that he was two years removed from being a teenager. Still, Rubio managed to be an effective NBA player because when you possess passing genes like Rubio, you’re just good. He sees passing angles that most human beings don’t, and manages to make those impossible passes with flash and incredible ease. When Rubio tore up his knee near the end of the 2012 season it didn’t seem like a death blow for the 21 year old point guard because he never thrived on his athleticism anyway.

Rubio came back from his torn ACL in mid-December and, well, sucked. Sorry to be kind of blunt, but he sucked. In his first nineteen games Rubio was able to build a Gaudi style building in Minnesota with all of the bricks he was throwing up (31% from the field in those nineteen games—5.5 points, 5.4 assists) and looked unusually uncomfortable on the court. Eventually he was able to shake off the rust and start to look like the Ricky Rubio of old; a point guard who still couldn’t shoot but found other ways to be incredibly impactful on the court. In his twentieth game Rubio shook off the rust and posted a 15 point, 14 assist double-double in a loss to Portland, and his high quality play followed. In his last 38 games of the year Rubio boosted his points and assists numbers up to 13.3 and 8.3 respectively while he shooting percentage skyrocketed to 37%.

It remains to be seen if Rubio will ever find a way to score more effectively and more efficiently, but it certainly seems he will always be able to find a way to impact the game even if he can’t shoot a lick (a la Jason Kidd, who shot only 40% for his entire career and nearly stole the 2002 MVP Award from Tim Duncan in a season where he shot an icy cold 39% from the field). His basketball IQ is high enough where he has already become a capable defender (he only trailed Chris Paul in steals per game this year) and he’ll always been one of the very few players in the world whose willingness to pass the ball infects his entire team. For that and that alone, a spot in the Top 50 is warranted.