The Minnesota Timberwolves will open up their preseason schedule with a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday at Target Center. There are many intriguing storylines for the Timberwolves this year, but perhaps none more so than point guard Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves took Rubio with the 5th pick overall in the 2009 NBA draft, just 5 picks ahead of Bucks starting point guard, Brandon Jennings. One cannot help but wonder if Rubio has some of Jennings’ criticism in his mind as he prepares for his first NBA action.
Jennings is a pioneer in the sense that he is the first high school player to opt to head to Europe, and forgo going to college. Much like Rubio, Jennings did not light up the stats board. Jennings only averaged 7.6 points and 1.6 assists in Euroleague action during that season. He had the chance to play against Rubio, who in my opinion, put up a little bit better overall statistics. Last season, Rubio averaged 6.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals in Euroleague play. Euro stats are tough to analyze when trying to predict how they translate to the NBA game. Jennings went on to average 15.5 points per game, and 5.7 assists. However, he shot a terrible 37% from the field, and didn’t improve much his second year. He is famous for scoring 55 points in a game during his first month as a rookie. Hopefully, Rubio can make the same successful transition.
Prior to the 2009 NBA draft, Jennings had quite a bit of criticism for Rubio. Jennings was quoted by S.I. at the time on Rubio being overhyped: “Yes. Because he played in the Olympics, he’s been playing pro ball since he was like 14. So there it is right there,” Jennings was quoted as saying. “I can’t wait to play him, though, in summer league. I’m just letting you know that now. I can’t wait.
“Yeah, I think I’m a better player than he is,” Jennings told reporters. “I just shoot the ball better than he can. The only thing I’ve seen him do sometimes is when he has a home run pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype. I can’t even front. I’m just going to be real with you guys.”
I have been waiting to see these two match up since that time. Keep an eye out for when they match up; see if there is any animosity from either of the two. Here is some footage of the two when they matched up in Europe, Rubio seems to be handling himself just fine. And he was only 18 at the time.