Ricky Rubio is clearly a talented facilitator and an important team leader, but where does he rank among the top point guards in the league?
After Rubio signed a four- year contract extension worth $56 million this past november, many fans and analysts began wondering if Rubio is deserving of such a lucrative deal.
Nick Guenther of Rant Sports did not hold back when criticizing the Rubio extension:
"Washington Wizards point guard John Wall got a max contract this offseason. Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are also signed to max contracts. Rubio is simply not in their league. While his skills are valuable, he is not a superstar capable of leading his team to the championship or even the playoffs."
While I disagree about Rubio’s alleged inability to lead a team to the playoffs, Guenther does have a point about Rubio not being in the top echelon of point guards. According to ESPN Hollinger stats, Rubio ranks 30th in the league amongst all qualifying point guards with a 15.23 player efficiency rating. In Rubio’s defense, player efficiency rating has been criticized to rule in favor of offensive players and Rubio’s biggest flaw is obviously his lack of scoring production.
Over his career, he’s never shot over 39 percent from the field. His career high came in 2012-13 when he shot a horrid 38.1 percent and only averaged 9.5 points per game.
To make matters even worse, he’s has shown no signs of progressing (as seen in the info graphic below, courtesy of NBA.com).
Even with his lack of offensive firepower, Rubio’s impact on the court is evident. Per 48 minutes, the Wolves are 4.8 points better offensively, and 10.8 points better defensively when Rubio is on the floor, according to 82games.com. In other words, Rubio’s most underrated talent is his defense. And while steal totals don’t necessarily equate to “good defense” Rubio has ranked second in steals per game over the past two seasons.
However, according to ESPN’s Real Plus or Minus, Rubio ranks 14th in the NBA amongst all qualifying point guards. This stat is better suited for judging Rubio because Real Plus or Minus takes into consideration the player’s impact on both offense and defense.
Understandably, several factors come into play when judging Ricky Rubio’s play. He’s obviously a pass-first guard, which means his stats are heavily dependent on the players around him and their ability to score. With Nikola Pekovic out for most of the season with ankle and wrist injuries, Kevin Martin has been Rubio’s only offensive weapon.
Mar 7, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) dribbles the ball and looks over Portland Trail Blazers guardDamian Lillard
(0) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Over the years, it has become quite evident that Rubio is one of the best facilitators in the league. Using the 2013-14 sample, because he’s only played sparingly this year, Rubio ranked third among all 337 qualifying NBA players in Assists ratio, better than Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Not to mention, over the first three years of Rubio’s career, he ranked in the top 10 in assists per game.
Rubio’s ceiling will always be limited due to his incapability to score consistently, but that may not be the end of the world. Thinking back, when was the last time a great point guard won an NBA title? Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs won last year, but Parker spent most of the finals laboring with a bad ankle. The Dallas Mavericks won with Jason Kidd, but by then he was 36 years old and way past his prime. Even looking at those Heat teams led by LeBron James, or those Kobe-Lakers teams, neither one had a top-tier point guard.
Realistically, Ricky Rubio will probably never average north of 20 points per game, nor shoot over 45 percent from the field, but his ability to create for others and play lock-down defense could be enough to lead this Wolves team to success.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN, unless otherwise noted
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