Ricky Rubio has been in the spotlight since he was 14 years old.
YouTube was lit up with the highlights of his passing exploits and his dazzling ball handling. Here was a baby-faced kid diming in every sense of the word. There was unadulterated joy in his game and how he played. NBA fans could not wait to see him.
NBA fans still cannot wait to see him. His control with the ball and his ability to pass are among the best in the league. His teams have struggled to get him over the top and into a more national NBA consciousness — not just the obsession of hardcore fans and FIBA nuts.
Rubio has been good — 9.5 points and 8.6 assists per game last year in his first full 82-game season — but not great. Not the transformational point guard everyone hoped he would be as they awaited his arrival from Spain.
Now with Kevin Love gone, Rubio is carrying a heavier load — and playing for a contract.
That means Rubio has to improve not on his passing. That will always be there. Rubio has to show that he can lead a team and take pressure off everyone by scoring. That can sometimes be a difficult thing for a point guard to do.
Rubio does not have a scorer’s mentality. He will drive into the lane looking to pass and pass up scoring opportunities on occasion to make the pass. He is not a great jump shooter either. Rubio is a 38.0 percent shooter on 2-point shots for his career — a number that has improved in each of his three seasons.
Most of those attempts are still coming at the rim. According to NBA.com, 47.7 percent of his shots came within 10 feet last season. He shot 46.2 percent on shots of this type and less than 30 percent on pull-ups and catch-and-shoot situations. Like with gifted passers such as Rajon Rondo, teams can hang back on him and prevent him from getting a head of steam and moving the defense with his dribbling.
What made Rubio’s performance Wednesday in Minnesota’s loss against Memphis was how he kept the team in it with the threat of his jumper.
OK, so Rubio shot 5 of 12 in scoring 12 points. A 45.0 percent true shooting percentage does not scream anything close to efficiency. Rubio still is not a great shooter. He looked confident with his shot though and pulled up at the right moments. It gives hope that Rubio is getting it.
According to NBA.com, Rubio was 3 for 5 on shots outside the paint. He found a nice groove, making 3 of 4 shots from the right elbow area. Many of these shots were off-the-dribble shots where he pulled up and fired.
The shot will go down as he gets more repetition. What was clear though was Rubio was confident taking those shots. He was looking for his own points.
This is a good sign for Minnesota.
A confident Rubio willing to take that shot means there is the possibility for continued improvement. And a better Rubio will mean a better Timberwolves team. And more YouTube highlights of Rubio.