Top 50: Ricky Rubio, no. 46

by Franklyn Calle /@FrankieC7

He doesn’t have a jump shot. He’s too slow. He’s soft. It’s all hype.

That’s what the so-called “analysts” were saying before Ricky Rubio had ever even played a single NBA game. That’s all I kept reading and hearing.

But it only took him three games to claim his first career double-double—12 points and 12 assists. And it happened to be against the NBA champs Miami Heat. And, yes, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did start that game and all played over 35 minutes each.

Oh, and by the way, Rubio came off the bench in that one.

Minnesota lost the game by only one basket, but for Timberwolves fans, it was a night called for celebration. Their beloved team had finally found their franchise point guard. It was worth the two-year wait.

Let me elaborate on that a little bit more.

In the month of January—technically the first month of the season due to the 66-game post-lockout year—the 6-4 point guard averaged 12.0 points and 9.1 assists. Yes, just about a double-double in his first complete month in the NBA. The Rookie of the month title was an obvious one.

In fact, Rubio finished with a double-double in 11 of his first 23 NBA games. That’s 48% of the time! Mind you, the Timberwolves did not start him until the 11th game of the season. So, for the first ten games, dude already had four double-double performances, and all coming off the bench—including a 14-assist outing and a couple of 12-assist nights.

In the two-and-a-half months he played before tearing his ACL, Rubio finished averaging 10.6 pts, 8.2 asts, 4.2 rebs, & 2.2 stls. I wonder if we would have seen a different ROY had he not gotten hurt.

Yeah, he only shot 35% from the floor. So what? If he’s almost averaging double-digits in points and assists on a nightly basis despite the low percentage, then that speaks volumes on how good he is. I mean, the guy is only 21 years old. He’s will only get better.

As for the criticism, I remember clearly when two of the elite point guards in the NBA right now, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook, first came into the L, there was all this talk about how neither could really shoot the ball well and how they wouldn’t be able to reach all-star status without it. We’ve all witnessed how that turned out.

At the end of the day, if you’re a guard that’s savvy, crafty, can get defenders off you and create space, then you’ll always eat in this League. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

He’s got excellent point guard skills, court vision, can handle the rock and just seems to make it all look easy. Wade has compared him to Steve Nash, and so have many others. Rubio probably just has a little more flashiness to his game.

I’ll admit. I wasn’t too sure if I should believe the hype surrounding Rubio at first. After seeing all these overseas players come into the L, who were supposedly stars abroad, and become non-factors in the NBA, I started becoming skeptical about the majority of them. But the Barcelona native proved to be special from the start.

The question isn’t can he play and shine in this League. I think he’s answered that already. The real inquiry here is can he come back from injury without losing a step, and live up to the high expectations he has set for himself after a superb debut season.

You’ve seen the highlights. You’ve seen the stats. Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.