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Stud Or Dud: Looking Forward To Ricky Rubio In The NBA

Now that Ricky Rubio‘s European career has most likely come to an end, it’s time to look at his NBA potential. Other international talents have stirred similar controversy when their overseas careers ended and the NBA horizon loomed. Take a look as we debate the potential of the No. 5 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Stud by Kevin Zimmerman

Growing worries of Ricky Rubio’s last few seasons of Euro ball have developed into doubt that the fifth pick of the 2009 NBA Draft will become irrelevant when he finally steps on and NBA court. Though there’s a lot of uncertainty behind the 20-year-old, there’s a number of reasons why he shouldn’t be discounted as a successful NBA talent.

Maybe it begins with his lack of pure athleticism and unappealing NBA build. Look at it this way; one of the league’s best point guards over the past few years, Steve Nash, isn’t much of an athletic specimen himself. Nonetheless, his basketball IQ has made him one of the most skilled and creative passers in the game, and there’s no reason Rubio, despite his lack of pure explosiveness, can’t mold himself into the same effective point guard in a similar way as Nash has done for himself.

After all, the youngster proved that NBA size and speed wouldn’t hamper his abilities in the 2008 Olympics. In two games against Team USA, Rubio played 46 total minutes and tallied 14 points and six assists.

Sure, he had six turnovers as well, but then a teenager, he didn’t wilt under the spotlight and wasn’t afraid to take the ball to the basket, hitting 9-of-10 free throws through two games against an athletic American squad. And defensively, Rubio ripped USA six times in those two outings. So is his athleticism that much of a concern? Clearly the USA defense didn’t keep him out of the paint, and clearly his own defense was decent enough to make plays.

Why then, did he struggle these past few seasons in Europe? It’s a more constricted game, the closer three-point line and available zone defenses constraining to a point guard who would be better suited in the pick and roll happy NBA. For a savvy ball-handler like Rubio, the NBA can only help his game.

Look at Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings and his brief European career as proof. Jennings also put up sub-par stats that made GMs do a double-take. But when he came to the NBA, while his numbers aren’t especially extraordinary, Jennings has shown just how different – and how misleading – overseas production can be.

Dud by Michael Aufses

The flashy, floppy haired point guard from Spain tasked with rescuing the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise from the dungeons of the league has finally decided to bring his talents to the NBA. T-Wolves GM David Kahn and All-Star Kevin Love are hoping that Rubio plays as well as his city’s soccer players did in the UEFA Champions League Final – although the last two years of Rubio’s career have revealed some of his weaknesses as an NBA prospect. This has even led some to believe that the team may try and trade him on Draft Day.

Unfortunately, Rubio’s grainy CCTV highlight tapes from Barcelona will not translate to a successful career in the NBA – at least not right away. These past two seasons with F.C. Barcelona, Rubio averaged a mediocre seven points and four assists. Assuming he sticks with the Timberwolves, his crazy transition game will be road-blocked by guys like Michael Beasley and Love, who are accustomed to the half court setting. Jonny Flynn, the guy Kahn picked as insurance for Rubio, struggled this season at the point as well.

In a 2010 exhibition game between F.C. Barcelona and the L.A. Lakers, Rubio was a non-factor. He had zero points in 18 minutes. Talking to ESPN’s E:60, Rubio’s fellow countryman Pau Gasol said, “I want him to be better. I think the last year or two, he hasn’t really improved as much as I thought he would.” Nevertheless, Gasol is still pulling for the Catalan point guard. Rubio can be a solid NBA distributor, but has not done enough to build on the shortcomings that he had coming into the 2009 Draft – namely his explosiveness, his leaping ability and his jump shot.

Bottom line, if Rubio wants to join the elite ranks of the world’s successful Spanish athletes like Gasol, Rafael Nadal and Xavi, he will need to work harder this summer to make a splash as an NBA rookie.

What do you think? What will Ricky Rubio do at the next level?

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