Ricky Rubio: 2015-16 Timberwolves Player Preview


It was an off-season full of questions for Ricky Rubio.

Will he fix his shot? Can he be the team’s leader? Would the Wolves actually trade him? to name a few. We know the answer to one of those questions as the trade rumors involving Rubio were largely bogus, but what about the other two questions?

Rubio will attempt to answer them in 2015-16. He’s been working on his shot with Mike Penberthy and it has reportedly improved, but more on that in a bit.

It is crucial that Rubio becomes a leader on this young Wolves team. Believe it or not, he is one of the more tenured Wolves, only behind Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic in terms of seasons played in Minnesota. That, along with being a point guard, calls for Rubio to become a leader.

Let’s dig deeper and preview what we can expect from Rubio this season.


Rubio has the ability to be an elite on-ball defender. Right now, you could categorize him as underrated defensively, and while he takes some risks gets burned on those risks from time to time, he can be a real pest on that end of the floor.

Not too many people know that if Rubio played enough games to be statistically eligible, he would have been in the top-five in steals per game in 2011-12 and 2012-13. In his only full 82-game season in 2013-14, Rubio was second in steals per game at 2.3 and first in total steals with 191 on the season.

The numbers tell the story that Rubio is already a great defender with the ability to become an elite one. This is crucial to a Wolves team that is not good in terms of team defense, and Rubio sets the tone defensively.

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Some might say Kevin Garnett is the backbone of the Wolves defense and while that may true in a sense, Rubio has to be a close second and maybe even ahead of Garnett in that respect, especially when age and the future are considered.

I’ll also mention Rubio’s durability; we saw Rubio only play 22 games last season because of an ankle injury. We have only seen him play only one full 82-game season in his four-year NBA career. These injuries could come as problem this coming year, as they have in previous years, but I think we can expect a full season from Rubio in 2015-16.

One must realize that “injury-prone” players don’t play 82-game seasons, and Rubio’s already done that.


Given Rubio’s 2014-15 shot chart you couldn’t be faulted for assuming that he is “offensively challenged”.

Now this the above shot chart is after playing only 22 games last season, but it looks a little better than his 2013-14, 82-game shot chart.

We know that Rubio has gone to great lengths to improve his jump-shot, and as Mike Penberthy cautioned, his shot would get worse before it got better.

This is because when you begin to work with a new shooting form (which Rubio is) it’s not an overnight process. Shooting takes time to perfect, or even come close to perfecting for that matter. Fans should not fret about Rubio’s shooting percentage from last year, it will steadily improve as he progresses. It already looks better based on this video posted on his Instagram page.

That shot already looks ten times better than it did last season even, a lot smoother and a lot more fluent, which is encouraging.

In terms of shot chart analysis the thing that is most alarming about Rubio is his below-average percentage around the rim. He seems to have a tough time finishing near the rim, and for a point guard (or anybody, really) that is not good.

For Rubio to be successful in terms of scoring, he needs to finish those shots around the basket. He has left a lot of points on the table the past four seasons because of his inability to finish at the rim.

Finally, we know Rubio is the consummate teammate and distributor and is always able to find the open man. He does tend to turn the ball over quite a bit, however. Rubio has the passing ability to be something like Jason Kidd, but he just needs to be smarter with his passes at times.


As stated at the top, Rubio needs to become a team leader, especially on the floor. The reason being that guys like Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince, and Kevin Garnett are more off-the-court leaders, with the exception of maybe Garnett. They are in Minnesota to teach the young guys about the NBA and get them accustomed to playing in the league. The on-court output from those three will be limited.

This paves the way for Rubio, along with Garnett, to become the leaders on the floor. On both ends of the floor, Rubio can be the player the young guys looks to for both defensive signals and offensive plays. He’s a “veteran” in terms of his years in Minnesota, so it might be time for him to start acting like a veteran on the floor.

Statistical Outlook

Ultimately, I think we will see a bounce-back year from Rubio this season. I’ll say he plays at least 70 games, averaging 11 points, 10 assists, and two steals per game. Maybe most importantly for Wolves fans, I think we’ll see Rubio crack the 40-percent field goal barrier that has eluded him his whole career.

Other Player Previews:

Andrew Wiggins

Zach Lavine

Gorgui Dieng

Kevin Garnett

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