Sports Illustrated runs a cool series called, “Enemy Lines” where they have opposing scouts anonymously assess each NBA team. In the Timberwolves edition, there was a remark about Ricky Rubio that stood out:
The difference between having Ricky Rubio [who is expected to miss the first two months of the season while recovering from knee surgery] and not having him is huge. Everybody likes Rubio and still I think he’s underrated — he’s that good. I honestly think he’ll be better than Steve Nash.
Obviously, he needs to improve his shooting and some other things, but, man, he can dominate a game and get easy baskets in a way that very few people can. Just dribbling down the floor, if his man is sealed, he makes eye contact with his guy — and if Rubio has any advantage, any angle, he’s able to find the guy and it’s two points. He makes his teammates so much better. You could see it last year, when they were on their way to making the playoffs before he got hurt. If Rubio becomes a good shooter like Nash did, you can forget about it.
Defensively, he’s better than Nash. Even though he gets a lot of steals, it isn’t because he’s gambling. It’s because he’s able to use his length and size and great feet while he’s playing solid defense.
Rubio is one of the few players I would pay to watch play. If he’s able to stay healthy and his shooting improves, [Timberwolves president] David Kahn is going to look like a genius for waiting the two years for him to come over from Europe. We’ve all seen a lot of international guys who were overrated in the draft, but this guy is for real, and in a couple of years they could have a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs because of him and Kevin Love.
Rick Adelman is the right coach for this team and for Rubio in particular. Rick lets his players play and he gives them confidence. He gets them to do it his way and it’s very successful. Maybe Rubio wouldn’t have been as good right away if he’d been in a more structured offense.
In case you forgot, Steve Nash won two MVP’s. Better than Steve Nash? I hope he’s right. He’s got a million miles to go on that jumper though, and that’s after he recovers from knee surgery. Read the entire piece here. Good stuff in there on Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour, Brandon Roy, Nikola Pekovic, and Derrick Williams.
6 responses to ““I honestly think he’ll be better than Steve Nash.””
Rubio has the unique ability of being able to pass off the dribble without hesitation. It’s seemless. Very right -handed but that doesn’t stop his effectiveness. Teammates get to their spots quickly with eyes wide open because the ball is coming.
He is an incredible passer, maybe the best in the league today (already). But until he becomes at least a serviceable shooter–the way Jason Kidd did, but Rajon Rondo hasn’t–I’m uncomfortable with a “better than Nash” projection. But the scout makes an important distinction in Ricky’s favor: defense.
Is there a point guard today who compares to Nate Archibald. In 72-73 season, he led the NBA in scoring and assists. (The only player to win both in one season.) His one championship came in 80-81 with the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird. “Tiny” was quick and fast in the open court and would penetrate to hoop.
Some are predicting LeBron James to average a triple double this season–it’s possible that he could lead the NBA in points and assists, but not likely. (Of course, he’s a lot different than Archibald, but they have high scoring and assists in common.)
@Dave A.: Based on quite a bit of reading about Tiny Archibald, the guys who would be most similar are ones like Stephon Marbury and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Allen Iverson. Both were bigtime scorers but natural point guards capable of leading the NBA in assists (though neither Marbury nor Iverson ever did). Maybe Russ Westbrook would fit into this category too, but his game strikes me as more reliant on strength and power, and less on finesse and pure passing skills/vision, than Archibald’s.
I did see one move by Rubio on YouTube that really impressed me. He alternated hands while dribbling behind his back. That’s a Pete Maravich level move. I think the kid will get his shot straightened out fairly quickly. He will never be as fast as Tiny, but he’s quick enough and acts quickly, which is more important. I’m not in a position where I can see the games. I’m truly sorry about that, because these guys will be a joy to watch, with or without Rubio.