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Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  86 responses

Top 50: Ricky Rubio, no. 48

The TWolves’ success in ’13-14 will be in Rubio’s hands.

by Rodger Bohn / @rodgerbohn

The extraordinary legend of Ricky Rubio appears to be writing itself another another chapter. The ’13-14 campaign has the chance to be Rubio’s first injury-free season since arriving in the States, and the success of the Timberwolves franchise will ultimately be in the hands of its 22-year-old playmaker.

The legend of Rubio actually began when he made his professional debut at the age of 14. While most players were just finishing up middle school, he was hooping in the ACB League, the top league outside of the NBA. And during the following season, while playing next to Rudy Fernandez for DKV Joventut, a superstar was born.

Rubio led the ACB League in steals at 15 years old. He then won the FIBA’s European Young Player of the Year award three times during his veteran seasons of 16, 17 and 18 years old, respectively. Eligible to enter the 2009 NBA Draft months before his 19th birthday, Rubio tossed his name in the hat and found himself paired with one of the more infamous GMs of recent memory: David Kahn.

Immediately after Kahn selected Rubio, the TWolves’ GM picked Syracuse lead guard Jonny Flynn with the sixth overall selection. Making things even more bizarre, Kahn then selected Ty Lawson with the 18th pick.

The two years that followed kept Rubio in Spain playing for Spanish power FC Barcelona. Expectations were high, endorsements were plentiful, and the team won. Capturing both a Euroleague title and ACB title in consecutive years, Rubio left the club as one of Europe’s most accomplished young stars. Statistically though, he was somewhat of a disappointment. Averaging just 6 points and 4 dimes per game throughout his two years with Barcelona, Rubio appeared to have regressed. But all of the questions would be answered in 2011, when after a two-year standoff, Rubio finally made his NBA debut.

From the second the ball tipped in Rubio’s first NBA game, he captivated every person who watched him play. The NBA’s more open, free-flowing style of play enabled him to captivate the crowd with his no-look dimes and dazzling dribble moves. Like in Barcelona, he didn’t post huge numbers as a rook (10.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per night), but he made much more of an impact than the box score reflected. Minnesota was on the verge of making the Playoffs, and the young playmaker was making strides. That was…until March 9, 2012.

In the final seconds of a TWolves’ loss to the Lakers, Rubio was guarding Kobe Bryant and came down awkwardly on his left leg, tearing his ACL in what was an incredibly disappointing end to a promising season. Going more along the lines of Adrian Peterson than Derrick Rose as far as his return, Rubio was back on the hardwood just 10 months after suffering the injury. The passes were still there, but he was far from 100 percent, especially on the defensive end.

Always known for utilizing his quick hands and length on D, Rubio was just a step slow throughout last season. The shots that he usually contested became open looks. He struggled staying in front of more explosive point guards and fighting through ball screens. The 22-year-old was inconsistent with his J (shot 29 percent from beyond the arc) and was turnover prone at times. Minnesota finished with a 31-51 record, leading to what many feel will be a make or break year for Rubio.

It will be another season dealing with the Kevin Love contract extension drama, but if Kevin Martin brings his ridiculously efficient style of play up north, then he could provide a boost big enough to silence their superstar. Shabazz Muhammad and Lorenzo Brown give Minnesota a pair of rookie guards with size, but neither will substantially help the worst three-point shooting team in the League, placing a lot of pressure on Rubio to shoot the ball better.

Rubio has won at every level he has played, and when adversity comes at him, he has responded—through the Ws for his team. The ’13-14 season will give him the same opportunity to do it in the League.


Where should Ricky Rubio rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Grasshoper Funk

    Way better than No. 48.

  • Junior Taylor

    I would like to be the 1st to apologize for ever doubting that Rubio would be a success in the League. If healthy, the Rubio/Love combo could be the best in the L but ‘Sota isn’t going anywhere (in terms of the playoffs) until their best player (Love) becomes a better and more willing defender.

  • Caboose

    I will resist an “I told you so.” But yeah, Rubio + Love could be so deadly, similar to Williams and Webber back in the day…

  • LLC#12

    Really looking forward to seeing what Minnesota can do this year, the West is so competitive, the race for the 7th and 8th spots will be one of the most heated I can remember. If Ricky can continue to improve, when its all said and done, he could go down as one of the best international players ever.

  • RKJ92

    Can’t wait to see this kid play again, he’s added some life into the league!

  • spit hot fiyah

    i like this spot, if the team as a whole stays healthy he could end up higher after the season is over.

    “Shabazz Muhammad and Lorenzo Brown give Minnesota a
    pair of rookie guards with size, but neither will substantially help the
    worst three-point shooting team in the League” budinger will though.

    lazy write up in general, didn’t really make a case for why ricky will have a top 50 season. more like a career recap

  • shockexchange

    “Healthy” and “field goal percentage” are two key words for Rubio. When he first broke into the L there was a debate about who was the best between him and Brandon Jennings. Seems like SLAM will have to break the tie.

  • Junior Taylor

    Good comparison but I’m leaning towards the Nash/Dirk combo as a better comparison. Rubio is not quite the shooter Nash was but their playmaking and ball-handling are similar. Love/Dirk are quite similar except that Love is a superior rebounder and Dirk the better post player/defender.

  • meloman234

    yaya enough about this… Toronto got the 2016 all star game!!!

  • Caboose

    If only Jason Williams and Dirk played together at some point…

  • Otis

    “Not quite the shooter Nash was”? Man, I love Ricky as much as anyone, but they’re not even in the same gym. Nash is arguably the best shooter in history.

  • spit hot fiyah

    there is always chinese exhibition tours

  • Stepfan Raiford

    Fun to watch, just hope he can stay healthy.

  • Saleem Rainman

    Give me Rubio every day of the week.

  • The Fury

    Put this guy on any roster in the League and THAT team will be watchable, win or lose/blowout.

  • Mike Gilbert

    Kevin Martin is going to have a great shooting year playing next to Rubio, Love, and Pek

  • Ismael

    Yup! He should be higher than 48. WTH Slam?

  • shockexchange

    To be fair to Jennings, his FG% last season was poor (39.9%) but not as poor as Rubio’s (36%). There isn’t much difference between their assist-to-turnover ratios either. Jennings has a perception of being a “shoot first” point guard though. In SE’s opinion, it will take both guys being healthy and seeing how their respective teams to in order to truly decide.

  • The Philosopher

    It is about preference.

  • danpowers

    at least for the games these guys manage to stay healthy

  • shockexchange

    But the rankings are designed to be more scientific and remove personal feelings from the equation, no? Some people on here like average chicks while the Shock Exchange prefers Lola Falana, Pam Grier and Jayne Kennedy, but that doesn’t mean comments from the “basic chick” crowd should carry less weight.

  • Saleem Rainman

    Keep goin Shock. we’ll act like we know what you’re on about.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Had him at 47, I got no complaints again.

  • shockexchange

    ^^ This, the unkindest cut of all. *Welp*

  • Mike Gilbert

    deadly team in 2k though…

  • danpowers

    just a little thin between pg and pf

  • LeroyShonuff

    Watched about 25 games of Pretty Ricky and I think this is fair. He’s offensive command along with improving defensive instincts makes him intriguing. The biggest question and even before his injury is can he defend his position. I think Minny slides in the 8th seed and with his passing ability helps Shabazz win R.O.Y

  • Dundler

    I’d be happy with him being a few spots higher, but this is in the right area, mainly just because of shooting percentage last year. He was missing open lay ups. His rookie year was dazzling though, I hope he gets to that again, and I hope him and Love do mesh and make the playoffs

  • Dundler

    No-one kind of see it as a Williams/Webber? Know Webber and Love are fairly different, but they seem to have the same ceiling. They can be good together but will probably fail at becoming ‘great’ (but I hope they don’t)

  • monkeyball

    Rubio and Williams are similarly flashy and similarly bad shooters. But Rubio is a much smarter player. Webber was abetter passer than Love (obviously), but I can see it. However, Webber’s teams went deep in the playoffs when JWill was replaced by Bibby…

  • Dundler

    Rubio has the much better defence too (or did, at least). Yeah thats what Im thinking, how long do they go without making playoffs before they just try something else?
    If they don’t make it this year the pressure is on

  • Dundler

    Its not even close

  • Dundler

    14 PGs, are we allowed to guess now? We have Rubio, so other 13 must be Westbrook, Rondo, Rose, Conley, Paul, Holiday, Williams, Parker, Wall, Lillard, Kyrie, Curry, Lawson
    (No order, btw)

    So Jennings, Nash, Lin and Dragic all not making it I’d guess?

  • ctk

    Shouldnt be on the list …he more like top 75

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Holiday will be left off for Jennings

  • Dundler

    That makes me laugh. Do you agree with that?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Hell no

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    His defensive abilities have never been a question…..

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    The nbk has sayings for situations like this,
    “The truth hurts”
    .
    Yeah idk how you talk like that.

  • Darksaber

    His current national team coach sure as hell didn’t think he’s top 50 material, benching him for the last 7 minutes of the Eurobasket semis against France in favour of Sergio-irrationaly confident-Rodriguez.
    His lack of shooting and whining when he doesn’t get calls on drives to the rim were his undoing.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Just because I’m bored, I predict Serge Ibaka and Brandon Jennings for tomorrow

  • Dundler

    I’m going to be annoyed if Rudy Gay makes this list

  • danpowers

    that would be fair. i see deng at least better than jennings while ibaka and rubio will mean more to their teams upcoming season.

  • JibbsIsBallin

    One of my favorite PG’s to watch in the League. He’ll only get better with time.

  • danpowers

    where da hell is 47? this is taking way too long!!

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    12 and 3 eastern time. So, 45 minutes. It’s not taking any longer than 49 did.

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    Dat FG%.

  • Harlem_World

    Webber’s ceiling was higher than Love’s before he got hurt. In terms of potential, he could have been one of the greatest PF of all time. He was potentially that good.

  • Harlem_World

    Nash Lin and Dragic are not top 50 in today’s NBA.

    They may struggle top 100.

  • Harlem_World

    Rubio can run a team and plays to win.

    Jennings is talented but…

  • danpowers

    for me thats 5.03pm over here. i cant stand living in the wrong time zone anymore. nbk, will you marry me for a green card? no homo

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    sorry, already taken there sugar britches

  • danpowers

    dayum lol

  • Dundler

    Which NBA are you watching?

  • Dundler

    I agree, I love Webber. I was just more thinking bout Williams and Rubio each being paired with a premier PF

  • Harlem_World

    The one post 2010 (Nash), where Lin plays in Houston not NY and Dragic has yet to prove himself for a full season as a top tier pg.

  • Dundler

    Nash I understand through injury, but when he’s on the court he’s top quality still.
    Lin had a bad first month and a bad final month but was solid for the rest of the year.
    Dragic has his moments. I’m not suggesting he’s top quality, but he’s decent at least, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him at number 50 or so

  • Irfan

    He shouldn’t be in the top 50…

  • Harlem_World

    50 players isn’t that many when you’re talking about the overall depth of talent in the NBA right now.

    Which one of your 3 pg’s are better than any of the following 10 pgs (in no specific order): CP3, Westbrook, Rose, Deron, Parker, Kyrie, Curry, Rondo, Ty Lawson, Holiday?

    That’s just looking at PG’s…

    None of your 3 crack that 10 as of today.

  • Dundler

    ? I know. That was my original point. Thats exactly what I said. Those guys are all better, hence the 3 I listed not being in the top 50.

  • retrobat

    Definitely arguable…and I think Ray Allen would be the first to debate that claim.

  • retrobat

    Love is going to have a spectacular offensive rebounding year grabbing all those bricks Martin throws up.

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    If Pam was Nash, Lola was Jennings and Jayne was Lin which one most likely plays like a top 50 player again and SE goes out and buys the jersey?

  • shockexchange

    That’s brain teaser. The Shock Exchange thinks Nash is too old, Lin is only above average. Jennings is probably Top 50 but he shoots too much and is not committed to defense. SE wouldn’t buy either player’s jersey.

  • danpowers

    now that its conley and jefferson i wonder if they actually let jennings in at all (i see holiday as a better pg). jefferson btw is a guy who i would rank worse than deng. its great to have a low post scorer but his relatively inefficient scoring and lack of mobility on defense dont really let me buy on him.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I have him below Deng as well

  • danpowers

    one of your 51ers ?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Went back through, made more changes. Jefferson got pushed out. Joe Johnson and Luol Deng got put in

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Rubio should ware floppy socks!

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Better than Paul/Griffin?

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Say what?

  • Interdico Scriptor

    What’s NBK stand for?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Nothing anymore lol. It was created when I was very egotistical. Whatever it was has lost its meaning.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    I’m guessing Bledsoe isn’t on here but it’s safe to say he’ll be top 10 next year (valid contender for most improved) & also Bledsoe is already a better defender than Conley. Hands down

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