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.