|- Ability to get to free throw line|
|- Decision making|
|- Executes offensively|
|- Offensive creativity|
|- Pick and roll play|
|- Pure point guard|
|- Ability to create w/either hand|
|- Advanced ball-handling skills|
|- Change of gears/Hesitation moves|
|- Ability to contest shots|
|- Ability to get in passing lanes|
|- Defensive awareness|
|- Off-ball defense|
|- Basketball IQ|
|- Leadership skills|
|- Likelihood of reaching potential|
|- Maturity |
|- Mental toughness|
|- Winning mentality|
|- Work ethic|
|- Basketball instincts|
|- High-level productivity|
|- Ability to create for others|
|- Court vision|
|- Excellent wingspan|
|- Size for position|
|- 3-point shooting percentages|
|- Ability to catch and shoot|
|- Mid-range game|
|- Turnover prone|
|- Ability to fight through screens|
|- Can NBA rookie scale compete financially w/other options?|
|- Ability to finish around basket|
|- Average athleticism|
|- Average explosiveness|
|- Plays below the rim|
|- Ability to shoot off the dribble|
|- Low shooting percentages|
|- Slow release|
|DraftExpress2: Things could have gone a lot worse for Shabazz tonight. Ricky Rubio will do him plenty of good.|
|DraftExpress: RT @WojYahooNBA: At his home in Spain, Ricky Rubio misses London with heavy heart but resolves strong return to NBA. http://t.co/RLfPjbRr|
|DraftExpress: Really interesting thoughts here on drafting int'l players RT @Passport_Hoops: Did Ricky Rubio ruin the 2011 NBA draft? http://t.co/XHAt7Pk7|
|DraftExpress: Whenever I watch Kyle Anderson & Kendall Marshall these days, I wonder how much the way Ricky Rubio is playing in the NBA now will help them|
|DraftExpress: RT @WojYahooNBA: Column: As Ricky Rubio pushes past his teen idol stardom, he finally has a chance to breathe again. http://t.co/lutBTl5K|
|Top 25s - Full List|
|Team: Timberwolves College Team:
H: 6' 4"|
W: 180 lbs
(23 Years Old)
|Agent: Dan Fegan |
Hometown: El Masnou, Spain
Pick 5 in 2009 by Timberwolves
Best Case: N/A
Worst Case: N/A
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|Euroleague Final Four--NBA Storylines|
May 5, 2010
The No. 5 pick in last year's draft was unable or unwilling to arrange a NBA buyout with DKV Joventut last summer, and therefore elected to move to FC Barcelona so he could continue to mature physically and come to the NBA as a more finished product. Only 19-years-old, his rights are still held by the Minnesota Timberwolves. If Rubio decides to sign with them before the 2011-2012 season--as is expected, barring a lockout--he could make GM David Kahn look very smart for being patient while the Timberwolves continue to rebuild.
Rubio's per-game statistics are not all that impressive when viewed from the vantage point of a NBA fanóhe plays just 20 minutes per game and has always been more of a distributor than a scoreróbut there is little doubt that he's improved substantially as the starting point guard of arguably the best team in European basketball.
Many would argue that he garnered far better experience playing for championships in the Euroleague and ACB this season than he would have losing 50+ games on a non-competitive team in the NBA.
This Euroleague Final Four likely represents the biggest challenge of Rubio's young career thus far, and it will be fascinating to see how he fares on this stage. Kahn and Rubio's NBA agent, Dan Fegan, will be watching him closely--as will every other NBA team in attendance, and his many fans around the globe.
[Read Full Article]
Situational Statistics: This Year's Point Guard Crop
May 8, 2009
Ricky Rubio doesnít have overwhelming stats, but heís the youngest prospect on our list playing against by far the strongest competition, and thus isnít as weak in some areas as people may imagine.
Considering his frail frame, lack of awesome leaping ability, and level of competition, it would be fairly reasonable to expect Rubio to struggle around the basket. Even though European prospects (and veterans for that matter) tend to have a lower PPP than their NCAA and NBA counterparts, Rubio actually falls right around the average of this group as a finisher at 1.11 PPP. His ability to transition that part of his game to the NBA is going to be very important when you consider that he takes under 2.5 jump shots per game, has made only 5 of his 25 logged pull up jumpers, and is still gaining confidence in his improved catch and shoot ability (1.1 Pos/G, 41%, 9/22).
Always better known for his creativity and playmaking ability, it doesnít come as a shock that Rubio looks good in transition. He is shooting 69% on his transition opportunities on just 13 attempts this season Ėwhich is a bit misleading since he doesnít take many attempts more because he knows when to give the ball up than because he isnít pushing the tempo. In contrast, his limited isolation possessions are indicative of some issues, as heís not going to produce a ton in pure one-on-one situations. Fortunately, Rubio, like most European point guardís weíve evaluated, is effective on the pick and roll. With 27% of his touches coming from the two-man game, Rubio could have a mutually beneficial relationship with the post players he is teamed with in the NBA, since theyíll likely make his life just as easy as heíll make theirs.
Obviously our sample size is a bit limited for two reasons: Rubio simply doesnít use that many possessions as a scorer (9 Pos/G), and he missed a good portion of the season with a wrist injury. We were on hand for one of his first games back in December, and while heís shaken off some of the rust as the season has continued, his wrist is still limiting his production, but not to the extent that it was initially. Evidence for that can be found in the observation that Rubio drives left nearly 74% of the time he looked to go to the rim, the most of any player on this list by over 5%. His injury is also partially accountable for the fact that he turned the ball over on 28.5% (1st) of his halfcourt possessions. The team that drafts will need to make sure that they get him back on the right track as a shooter and help open up the floor to get him back in the swing of things to make up for all the time he lost this season.
[Read Full Article]
Word on the Street: Whoís In and Out of the 2009 NBA Draft
April 7, 2009
Back on the DraftExpress 2009 mock draft, after a four month stint where he was projected for 2010. Sources close to the situation indicate that Rubioís family is now in favor of him entering this year, and that will almost certainly be on the early-entry list when itís released on April 27th. His buyout still needs to be negotiated, which is easier said than done, but a final decision on whether to stay in likely wonít come until very close to the pull-out deadline, on June 19th. Unlike college players who are bound by the more restrictive NCAA rules, International players can enter the draft up to three times, which gives him plenty of wiggle room.
Also announced todayóRubio has accepted an invitation to the Reebok EuroCamp, which will be conducted from the 6-8 of June in Treviso, Italy. Joventut may have to lose in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to make that a reality, though. They are currently in 6th place in the league.
[Read Full Article]
Blogging through the Copa del Rey, Part Two
February 22, 2009
Lest we forget the amazing performance delivered by Ricky Rubio in the quarterfinals, which unfortunately wasn't enough to avoid the upset by the local Madrid team Estudiantes. Rubio put together some of the most impressive moments of his career thus far in the second half, finishing the game with 16 points, 7 assists and 6 steals.
What was ironic is that he was quite awful in the first quarter, being burned repeatedly by the very experienced Corey L. Brewer (Arkansas), while turning the ball over on some very risky passes. He sat for that reason for most of the second quarter ,only to emerge midway through the third to give his team a huge shot in the arm that got them right back in the game, immediately scoring two consecutive layups going coast to coast by himself.
The biggest improvement we've seen from Rubio this year has to do with his incredible passing skills. Slow to recover from the wrist injury that kept him out of the first 11 games of the ACB season, and still sporting a heavy bandage on that same right hand, Rubio has been forced to become more of a playmaker to provide maximum value for his team. He's averaging a ridiculous 11.5 assists per-40 pace adjusted, tops in the league and by a wide margin. Based off what he showed here at the Copa, it was very easy to see why.
Rubio is one of the best pick and roll players you'll find in basketball today, NBA or not. According to Synergy Sports Technology's quantified report, an astounding 62% of his offensive possessions come in this fashion. His ability to deliver crisp, perfectly timed passes directly into the hands of a cutting teammate for an easy basket is uncanny, as he makes the game so incredibly simple, doing everything but put the ball into the net for them. It's exactly this type of court vision and feel for the game that has produced comparisons to Steve Nash, even if their perimeter shooting and defensive skills couldn't be any more different. He has a similar ability to change speeds with the ball and simultaneously see every inch of the court, not hesitating for an instant to deliver a bullet pass underneath the rim for an easy layup.
What made this particular game more noteworthy than the previous times we saw him was Rubio's willingness to put Joventut on his back and carry them with his scoring. With the shot-clock running down, Rubio put his ball-handling skills on full display, slashing apart the defense with a beautiful crossover and finishing strong around the basket in traffic, sometimes with a nifty floater. Unable to use his right hand for the first few weeks following his wrist injury, Rubio has improved his ability to create with his left, which has made him a more dangerous player. One NBA scout we spoke to after the game astutely pointed out that Rubio could develop into an even better scorer in the NBA than he is here, as the improved spacing and strict rules about hand-checking on the perimeter will greatly favor his style of play.
Rubio's perimeter shooting remains very much a concern, as highlighted by the 0-4 he shot in this particular game. He is shooting 42% from beyond the arc on the season thus far, but that's on a very small sample size (8/19). His mechanics still look poor, and he's especially dreadful shooting the ball off the dribbleówhich is a big reason why he was forced to pass the ball in the game's decisive possession (resulting in two free throws for Eduardo Hernandez Sonseca, one of which he fatally missed) rather than try to score himself. Rubio has become fairly decent spotting up with his feet set, but NBA scouts will want to see more to be totally convinced.
A part of his game we've discussed time after time, but continue to take great delight in, is his uncanny knack for getting in the passing lanes. Needless to say, Rubio leads the ACB in this category at 3 steals per-40. One of the most fun parts of seeing Rubio perform is watching him off the ball defensively. As the opposition moves the ball around the court, you can see Rubio anticipating their next move, closing down angles just as a pass is about to be made, pouncing at just the right moment, getting his long arms on the ball to create the deflection, and taking the ball the other way. At one point he had three consecutive steals in three possessions, all of which finished with a basket for his teamóhighlighting the way he can change the complexion of a game in his own unique way.
Speaking of which, you're going to find a lot of differing opinions about Rubio's ability to translate his style of play to the NBA. Some scouts still question his athleticism and perimeter shooting, with one GM we spoke to recently going as far as to say that he would ďnever draft a white guy.Ē Another NBA scout pointed out his incredible natural talent and basketball IQ, saying that ďit's impossible for a player this smart not to end up being successful.Ē
|Rubio's Custom-made Shoes / ACB.com|
The news out of Spain last month was that Rubio's team DKV Joventut had unilaterally decided to double his salary on the year, from 80,000 Euro to 160,000. This is obviously an attempt to get his pay closer in line with what his value is to the team, as he's clearly their most important player. There's been some talk that Rubio's contract would not hold up in court if challenged, as a 6 million Euro buyout is obviously not proportionate to an 80,000 Euro contract. It's highly unlikely that it would get to that, though.
According to David Carro, the Spanish partner of Rubio's NBA agent, Dan Fegan, who we spoke with here at the Copa del Rey, there is ďstill a chance that Rubio could find his way into this year's draft.Ē Negotiations are reportedly underway to lower his buyout to more manageable proportions, possibly 3-4 million Euro. A solution could come as early as ďthis monthĒ Carro told us, and in that case, Rubio would be able to afford getting out of his contract if he were to be ďa top-3 pickĒ (which he very likely is), as long as he could pay off the buyout over the course of his rookie deal. Asked why Joventut would have any reason to even negotiate considering the leverage they hold in this situation, Carro responded that Rubio is the ďimage of the teamĒ and that they ďwould not want to have a mad player.Ē
Obviously the door has yet to be completely closed on Ricky Rubio and this year's NBA draft, so we'll have to stay tuned.
[Read Full Article]
Blogging Through Europe 2008 (Part Five: Spain)
December 13, 2008
Having sat out the entire season thus far, besides a short 2-minute spurt last weekend in the ACB, this obviously wasnít the best time to evaluate Ricky Rubioís progress. Regardless, there were a couple of things to take away from watching him play (briefly) against Rome and in practice the following day.
-His impact extends far beyond his ability to score:
We always knew this, but watching him play with only one hand (in practice it was almost painful to watch him shoot two-handed layups, air-ball mid-range jumpers and brick free throws) only amplified this point. Rubio got his hands on every ball even remotely in his area in the game we saw the moment he stepped out on the courtócausing deflections and turnovers on a couple of occasions. His knack for getting in the passing lanes is nothing short of amazing, and heís an absolute nuisance playing defense on the ball.
In addition, he was able to display his terrific court vision repeatedly, as he is simply unable to score with his right hand being in the shape itís currently in. He was able to beat Brandon Jennings off the dribble badly on two separate occasions, and repeatedly delivered incredibly creative passes to teammates that surprised even them based on the way they reacted. They apparently either didnít understand his brilliance or just arenít used to being fed that way. A play at the end of the first half did a great job demonstrating his outstanding instinctsóas he corralled a rebound with about two seconds remaining, and immediately whipped a full-court outlet pass to a streaking teammate for an easy layup just as time expired.
-Heís a natural born leader, and extremely likable on top of that
The moment Rubio came into the game, he immediately began directing traffic and instructing them where to go. In practice, he quietly demonstrates to players close to twice his age where they should be on the floor in a certain set or drill. During shoot-around, he jokes around in English with the foreigners, and in Spanish with the local players. As they are going through a certain drillóthe team runs until Coach Alonso claps, at which point the players must begin to sprintóRubio shows his playful side by clapping himself mid-stride, which the players must have seen before, as no one fell for it. He has a special quality about him, there is no doubt about it, and itís pretty obvious that heís extremely well-liked by his teammates. The fact that heís even playing right now is a testament to how much he wants to help his team win.
Even prior to his injury, it would have taken some pretty special circumstances to get Rubio out of his contract, which currently sports a seven million Euro buyout.
With that in mind, and considering everything we've heard during our time in Spain, we now expect Rubio to stay at Joventut for at least another season, if not two, which is when his contract expires.
It's possible that Joventut decides to up Rubio"s salary from the laughable sum of 80,000 Euro he's currently making-which probably makes him the most under-paid player in Europe- but it's unlikely they will shorten the contract or accept an NBA affordable buyout prior to 2011.
All things considered, why would they?
Rubio himself reportedly told Brandon Jennings (possibly in a photo shoot for Slam magazine?) that he expects to wait until the 2010 draft, at least according to Jennings himself.
[Read Full Article]
2008 Olympic Power Ranking
August 3, 2008
One of the main attractions on the Spanish side will be Ricky Rubio, the clear-cut most interesting player in the Olympics draft-wise. Heís actually claiming some meaningful minutes with his excellent showings during preparation games, and will likely receive them. Coach Reneses will likely take advantage of him whenever he wants to change the rhythm of the game with more aggressive defenses, perhaps even a full-court press, where Ricky is a master at terrorizing opposing ball-handlers. Besides, heís shooting the ball surprisingly well with the National Team for the moment. If he keeps it up Ėit wonít be easy- we could regularly witness some outstanding performances against any kind of rival.
[Read Full Article]
Roundup: The Rubio Show Marches On
March 6, 2008
Rubio has netted yet another Player of the Week award with his amazing game against Lagun Aro Bilbao. The best point guard in the ACB League (youíve read right, heís already the best and itís not even close) just delivered another lesson about how to play this game. Heís everyday a better playmaker, more creative for his team, as well as for himself-- more able to invigorate the offensive flow, by taking controlled risks to disrupt the opponentís defense in order to facilitate the scoring production for his team.
Rubio produced 18 points and 9 assists that nicely reflect his offensive efforts, rounded out with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. His efficiency production (a stat similar to the NBAís EFF) is off the charts, ranking fourth in the ACB League overall, falling only behind the 1985-born standouts Marc Gasol, Rudy FernŠndez and Tiago Splitter (again, props for the teams selecting these three guys in the past draft).
Incisive as always, the personal foul is the only resource his opponents enjoy in order to prevent him from stepping into the lane, and heís not even trying that hard on a regular basis. His potential in this regard is monstrous, and if Rudy leaves the team this upcoming summer, expect Rubio to emerge more aggressive and completely fearless to take over the offensive initiative. His jumper continues to remain steady, and even if he lacks elevation (something in which he should definitely work on), he shows some off-the-dribble shooting ability as well.
Against Bilbao, Ricky particularly shined dishing the ball. He put on a passing clinic that included transition passes in traffic, drive and dish plays (a typical pass for him is to drive all the way under the rim and them hand the ball back to a teammate from behind his defender), deliveries from the perimeter finding his teammates under the rim, while cutting or open to release a jumper. He enjoys that perfect timing to known when itís the right moment to send the ball.
Super smart, part of Rubioís game relies on anticipation. He has that knack to foresee whatís going to happen on the court. Thatís why his decision making looks so great, thatís why he finds his teammates so easily, and it particularly explains his ridiculous ability to steal the ball. Itís interesting to describe the two steals he collected in this game. The first one is a classic move he delivers, unexpectedly attacking the passing lane from the weak side (that is, going between the opponent and the sideline to intercept the ball the instant before it reaches its destination). It usually comes when his match-up is cutting towards the perimeter, or in defensive rotations working off the visual angle of his opponent. The second steal came to him in the form of a loose ball that his superb hands just lodged free against two opponents. The slightest touch with the ball for him means establishing control and deciding where to send it.
His defense itself often works on anticipation, as his lateral quickness, even if very solid, still might lack that last degree of explosiveness that he will likely gain as he keeps maturing physically (although he already shows a pretty good frame).
I have to be honest: I never liked the idea of having Ricky Rubio in the first spot of the 2009 mock draft. Indeed I still firmly think that he wonít go there once everything is said and done (heís a point guard after all, and not that incredibly athletic). But everyday that looks like less of an impossible outcome, and I hardly doubt that anybody else can claim that predicted spot as much as him at this point (regardless of the fact that his contract will likely prevent him for declaring for that particular draft).
[Read Full Article]
Scouting the NBA Draft Prospects at the 2008 Copa del Rey
February 18, 2008
Joventutís shaggy haired 17-year old point guard played an indispensible role in his teamís Copa del Rey triumph. Coming off the bench in two of three games, but always seeing significant minutes, particularly in crunch time, itís amazing to see how much trust his coaching staff has in this precocious youngster.
Rubio is a point guard and a point guard only, standing 6-4, with a skinny frame that should fill out decently in time, long arms, and very nice athletic ability. Heís quick, and has excellent body control and ability to change speeds, which helps him get basically everywhere he needs to on the court.
Offensively, heís primarily a slasher when it comes to his scoring ability. His footwork is a thing of beauty, and this, combined with his terrific ball-handling skills, creativity, and feel for the game, allows him to put constant pressure on the defense in a style that is somewhat reminiscent of Steve Nash. Heís sometimes a bit too weak and not quite explosive enough to finish all his drives in traffic, though, which forces him to get a bit cute around the rim. He does know how to draw fouls, actually looking wise beyond his years in his ability to bait a referee into making a call that might otherwise have been borderline. There is actually already some behind the scenes grumbling going on that the men in stripes are protecting the Spanish wonderkid excessively.
Rubio can hit a 3-pointer, a static jumper he shoots with no elevation off the floor and somewhat ugly mechanics, but this is not a reliable enough weapon in his arsenal at this point, even if itís shown big improvement over the last year or two. Expanding his mid-range game will be another area he can work on to continue to progress offensively. His ability to become a consistent perimeter shooter will probably play a big role in deciding whether or not he reaches his full potential.
As a playmaker is where Rubio is probably at his best, though. He pushes the ball up the court extremely well, and shows incredible timing and instincts being able to create shots for his teammates. Heís poised, mature and extremely confident here, not being afraid to attempt the unexpected, like making a no-look pass against the grain at top speed for example, a full-court skip pass or a behind the back look in one fluid motion without hesitating for even a second. Heís a flashy guy, but there is always a rhyme and a reason behind his madness, heís not just trying to get on a highlight reel. Sometimes his creativity ends up costing his team in the form of a turnover, which is unavoidable considering his style of play and the high-risk nature of many of his passes. With that said, the experience heís gaining right now against some of the top defenses in the world outside the NBA at such a young age will prove invaluable down the road as he continues to progress as a point guard, and should help him cut down on these types of mistakes.
Ricky wouldnít be getting the minutes heís seeing if he wasnít able to hold his own on the other end of the court, though. Itís here that he earns his keep, and already is able to hold his own against the best of the best in the ACB as he showed us this weekend, as the feature piece of his teamís outstanding zone defense. His long arms gained his team a huge amount of extra possessions throughout the tournament, as his activity level, toughness, awesome hands and incredible anticipation skills makes him a menace in the passing lanes, as well as hitting the glass. He also showed the lateral quickness to stay in front of most anyone he went up against, which allows him to play outstanding on-ball defense as well.
Late in games, Rubio seems to elevate his game even more, proving himself as the winner he was made out to be when he first truly burst onto the European basketball scene by scoring 51 points in the Final game of the U-16 European Championships. He took plenty of responsibilities in both of the close games Joventut had to get through to advance through the semi-finals and finals, knocking down clutch free throws, grabbing big rebounds, showing poise as a playmaker, and not looking rattled at all even after making a questionable decision, of which there were a few in late game situations. As much as he amazes you sometimes, he still reminds you of the fact that heís extremely young at times, as his lack of experience showed in a few select moments that ended up luckily not hurting his team too much. To his credit, though, Rubio realizes that this is not his team, and therefore knows when to defer to his teamís true superstar Rudy Fernandez when he feels like he might want the ball.
As you have probably already heard, weíre talking about a truly special talent. After having the pleasure to watch him three times in three straight days here in Vitoria, itís safe to say that Rubio was pretty much worth the long trip to the Copa del Rey all by himself.
[Read Full Article]
Roundup: Markoishvili on Fire
November 27, 2007
When Ricky Rubio scored 51 points in the finals of the U-16 European Championship, collecting tournament top-scoring honors in the process, you couldnít help but wonder yourself how much of that massive performance was due to the quite average level in the tournament, both because of the obvious youth of the participants, but also because of the relatively weak competition. As obvious as his amazing talent and potential was, Rubio basically scored layups at will against inexperienced, underdeveloped, usually undersized and often unathletic kids.
Itís been only 15 months since that memorable game, since that unforgettable championship. Thatís not even a year and a half.
When he drives to the basket now, Rubio can eventually face a 7-1 massive center that statistically tyrannizes the strongest domestic league in Europe and answers by the name of Marc Gasol. No big deal for Ricky. He has learned to shoot the ball, even increasingly better in off-the-dribble mode, has adjusted his slashing game in order to sneak between any kind of defense, and has figured out how to finish around the basket against serious opposition. This weekend, he came up with 25 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals against Gasolís Akasvayu Girona, to lead his team to another victory that secures Joventut another week leading the ACB League.
Yes, you could say heís a leader on the leading team, which makes him pretty much a leader in the whole league. And actually, besides being a leader on the floor by taking decisions and stepping up when things get ugly, his stats tell a similar story. At the tender age of 17, he ranks third in efficiency ranking in the ACB (only behind, precisely, Marc Gasol and his teammate Rudy FernŠndez) despite playing only 25 minutes per game. Of course that feat at that age is something completely unheard of in the competition, and nobody has ever come close. In the end, every stage of Rubioís career is so far a piece of basketball history.
[Read Full Article]
Roundup: Happy Birthday Ricky
October 24, 2007
Itís been a long time since we ran out of adjectives for Ricky Rubio, but he stubbornly continues to force us to keep talking about him. Although Rubio made his debut in the ACB League in the 2005/06 season, 2006/07 was his first professional season at full speed. It usually happens that, after making a first great impression, and certainly Rubioís couldnít have been better, itís easy to get caught in the ďsophomore slumpĒ. The rivals know you better, the expectations and pressure are higher, and itís hard to keep the same level of motivation. Ricky is a different breed of player, though, and he proves it every single time. Not only is there no trace of a sophomore slump, but heís off to a superb season start.
On Sunday, the same day he turned 17 years old, he led a Rudy-less DKV Joventut to a very comfortable road victory against ViveMenorca. He only needed 18 minutes to produce 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. We were talking last week about his increased role on the team (heís actually averaging 13.5 points, 2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3 steals, again leading the ACB League in this department, in 21 minutes per game), but this weekend he was even able to take an extra step ahead to make up for Rudyís absence. As we had repeatedly stated, his degree of maturity is just scary. He always seems to know what his team needs out of him, and heís able to provide it. The kid is ready to compete.
The major area where Ricky has gained importance on Joventut is his offensive commitment, either playing aggressively off the dribble or cashing in off his improved perimeter stroke. Rubio is now taking more responsibilities creating game on the offensive end, for him and his teammates. Whenever he used to defer to his teammates last season, almost always looking for the pass, this season heís attacking his rivals more often, trying to split defenses in order to create easy baskets for himself, or, if thereís a defensive rotation, for his teammates. The guy is an amazing slasher, particularly thanks to his crazy right-handed dribbles and his superb footwork, while he has terrific court awareness to find his teammates off the drive.
Regarding his perimeter stroke, heís knocking half of his three-point attempts, and you can bet it doesnít look like a fluke. It just goes in line with what he showed during the summer, and in preseason. The fluidity and quickness on his release have noticeably improved, and he shows a nice ability to launch the shot as he receives a pass without having to lower the ball in order to prepare for the shot. His confidence is high as always; even last season he was rarely scared to take a shot ever since been given the green light to try from the perimeter, despite showing poor accuracy.
We canít forget the scenario where heís putting a show: his team DKV Joventut leads the strongest European domestic league, the ACB. By the way, the leagueís official web page has published an excellent compilation of his plays so far this season. Be sure to take a look.
[Read Full Article]
U-18 European Championship: The Playmakers
September 8, 2007
This time Rubio wasnít able to top the headlines. Spain didnít get past the qualifying round, and the super-talented guard himself didnít deliver any of those unbelievable stat-lines he gifted us with last summer at the U-16 stage. Obviously, the competition he faced here was stronger, and also he wasnít forced to assume as much responsibility considering the teammates surrounding him, even if he again was in charge of catalyzing an enormous amount of his teamís offensive flow. Anyway, if we focus on his development as a player, we canít feel anything but intrigued about what he showcased in Madrid, particularly regarding the evolution of his shooting stroke.
Thereís no need for a descriptive introduction with Rubio. You know, incredible feel for the game, amazing talent, a point guard with good size for his position, a terrific wingspan, excellent court vision and decision making, great defensive potential, an incredible ball thief, an almost unstoppable slasher, we all know the drill by now.
Still we can focus on a few departments of the game worthy to talk deeper about. Rubio has proved again that heís not only a drive-and-dish passer. He sees cutters extremely well and throws passes across the paint with outstanding accuracy. He also looked steadier running the point, looking much like a natural point guard than he did a couple of years ago, better controlling the gameís rhythm and involving his teammates, even if heís still mostly about definitive passes and gaining advantages for him and his teammates through one-on-one play. Actually, weíre yet to see the regular playmaking version that should arise between the do-it-all offensive performances he delivers in youth categories and the deferring role he plays with DKV Joventut in the ACB and the Euroleague, although we might have the answer as soon as this upcoming season.
Focusing on the most intriguing part of his performance, his much improved shooting ability, we have to stress that for some time now Rubio is not shying away when it comes to shooting the ball if heís fully open. And that includes his last months of the past season with Joventut. Even more aggressively this time, sometimes he dared to go for timidly contested shots, also in off-the-dribble mode, although it takes him time to come off the drive and balance to release his jumper effectively. Although his final stat-line sounds terrific in terms of accuracy (50% inside the arc, 48.3% outside of it), he still was pretty streaky. Besides, as often happens with players that are not really natural shooters, when Rubio misses a shot heís often not even close to making it. Anyway, his mechanics look everyday more fluid and natural, and I donít think he left any doubt about his future ability to keep defenses honest through his shooting stroke.
One of the best strengths in Rubioís game in youth categories is still his ability to beat his opponents off the dribble. However, his ball-handling ability with his left hand is still a flaw in his game, looking really far from what he shows with his right. He displayed multiple impressive direction changes that left his defenders virtually on the floor, but it was mostly using his better hand. You could often see him with his electric behind the back dribbles in transition from right to left, not contested by any opponent, but as soon as he advanced a couple of steps and dribbled once or twice, he just avidly looked for his right-hand dribble again. Anyway, heís yet to consistently display the ability to split defenses against veterans the way he does at this level, although heís obviously a lot less aggressive trying things in the Euroleague or the ACB..
Continuing with his slashing skills, Rubio has showcased an improved ability to score with complicated lay-ups. Heís particularly effective when shooting lay-ups high off the glass or above the rim. He often seems to be in a dead-end situation right underneath the basket, against heavy opposition and virtually no angle for the release, but somehow manages to sneak his right arm out to get the lay-up off. Heís also more effective finishing with his left, and in general shows a nice ability to give finish under control. even if heís moving pretty fast. He still needs to work on his floaters.
There isnít much to say about his defense. He was awful against Germany, being beaten time after time, but he was suffering a couple of minor injuries that slowed him down. Anyway, he has again shown his terrific ability to come up with steals. He has continued exerting his leadership role in the team, and despite being over a year younger than most of his teammates, he was the one doing the talking, often gathering his teammates before the tip-off and the third quarter to give them a chat. He certainly shows some noticeable qualities in this area.
All in all, despite the final outcome (everything was set for Ricky to lead Spain to the gold and further enhance his reputation, so finishing fifth was a huge disappointment at home), Rubio showed very positive stuff that only provides more optimism regarding his future as a basketball player.
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U-18 European Championship: Colossus Koufos
August 10, 2007
Perhaps there will be some people highly disappointed with Rubio's performance in this tournament. While he certainly hasn't looked his best, anything close to what he achieved last year at the U-16 category was out of reach here, with a greatly superior competition to face.
First, it's important to note that Rubio has suffered some physical problems in one finger and in an abductor muscle. Still, on the negative side we have to remark his questionable defense at times (particularly in the game against Germany, which was also exactly the moment when he physically looked his worst), his left-hand dribbling struggles, his yet to completely develop playmaking abilities or his sporadic problems to score against closed defenses. Anyway, none of these things look particularly important when you see the general picture of his development and how he plays with the veterans.
On the positive side, besides his well-known abilities, Ricky at times looked like he can really shoot the ball with nice range. In consecutive games against Germany and Lithuania he combined to go 8/11 from the three-point line, and currently credits a terrific 47.6% for the whole tournament from that distance. His mechanics look everyday better, with a quicker and more fluid release of the ball, also more natural in off-the-dribble fashion.
In terms of how we should value Rubio as a basketball prospect, the general outcome is very positive given the importance of a perimeter stroke for a guard like him.
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Roundup: Majestic Gallinari
May 17, 2007
Ricky Rubio has finally spoken! It was during a presentation ceremony for the ACB playoffs, an exceptional occasion where he broke his rule of not speaking to the press. Here are some interesting quotes:
I donít feel like a media star. I donít feel that way.
I play basketball and go out to the court to enjoy; the age I have doesnít matter. Either people care or not about my birth date, I donít care. I still will be enjoying the game, which is what makes me a better player. The day I stop enjoying, it will be the day Iíll give up basketball. I never feel under pressure.
My horizon is right now the ACB playoffs. I donít look beyond. In the summer I will be, I guess, with the Junior National Team. After the summer, Iíll come back again with DKV Joventut. Right now, the future is too far away.
The key to getting so many steals is the intuition, but even more the eagerness and ambition. Itís instinctive, but the ambition is what makes the difference.
As I grow old I want to study and play basketball. When I finish high school I will think about a degree to study.
At first I used to look carefully at who was my rival, especially against important players. Now Iíve already lost the fear.
I think itís a successful measure not to attend to the media, because I canít handle everything: to attend to the media, my studies, practices, playing the gamesÖ
I have to improve everything. If there was an aspect of my game that I didnít need to improve, then I would be the best player in the league. Thereís always something to learn because when you think you know everything, then you donít improve anymore.
I donít even play in the National Team, so go figure (how far is) the NBA.
By the way, according to the El Mundo Deportivo, Ricky already has an NBA agent, Dan Fegan.
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Roundup: Yi Jianlian Strong in the CBA Playoffs
February 27, 2007
ÖRicky Rubio, with yet another impressive performance in the Euroleague, becoming the key factor for DKV Joventut to beat the powerful Olympiacos and remain alive in the Euroleague Top-16. He had 5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 7 steals.
Sometimes, itís hard to believe the immediate impact Rubio has on a game whenever he enters the court. But itís true: suddenly strange things start to happen on the floor. This time was no different. With Joventut taking an early lead in the score, coach Reneses didnít play Ricky until a few minutes into the second quarter, right when the Greek team was completing the comeback. On the first play, veteran Greek PG Christos Harissis is ready to inbound the ball and Ricky is in front of him waiving his 6-9 wingspanÖ for a five-second violation.
You donít usually see this kind of violation in a game, much less in the second quarter. And while itís true that Ricky is an excellent and unorthodox defender, or that coach Reneses puts more emphasis on pressure defense whenever heís on court, there has to be something else, perhaps a psychological factor.
Anyway, it was particularly interesting to see that his shot appears to be making some strides. He still doesnít look completely natural, but his mechanics do seem a bit more fluid, his release quicker and his confidence bigger. He missed a couple of jumpers, but looked good in both; the first one was a catch-and-shoot jumper, grabbing the ball right in front his face and just igniting the release from there, without lowering it to take impulse or rhythm; the second one was a long three-pointer, near NBA range and again in catch-and-shoot fashion, and he did look very solid here, with a fluent and quick release, and the ball almost making it through the rim. Itís a pattern lately, as he looks more confident and shoots when left open.
|Rubio aggressively guarding ďScoonieĒ Penn off the ball|
Actually Ricky didnít score a single point until the last quarter, when he emerged to lead Joventut to the victory with his aggressive defense and by cashing in off fastbreak situations. Paired with James ďScoonieĒ Penn in that decisive period, he did a terrific job on him, particularly off the ball, denying passes to him and therefore hindering Olympiacosí offense. Indeed he got a couple of steals in that period while Pennís teammates tried to give him the ball, by coupling with a teammate in doubling the ball with a trap in the corner over Penn, or while ďScoonieĒ was in-bounding the ball. Also Ricky didnít suffer as much as expected in one-on-one situations against such a small and quick point guard. Penn finished the game with a season-high 8 turnovers.
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Euroleague Prospects: Stock Up
February 15, 2007
After a sensational performance at the European Cadet Championship, it was expected that 16-year old Ricky Rubio would get some minimal playing time for Joventut. But few could have predicted that Ricky would emerge as an essential part of his team's success, becoming roughly Badalona's first guard off the bench. Rubio leads the Euroleague in steals per game at an amazing 3.5, even though he plays only 18.1 minutes per contest. His ability to steal the ball from opponents is truly unique, never giving up on a play and putting consistent pressure on ballhandlers with his length and terrific hands. Ricky anticipates what his opponent will do with astonishing results, seeing plays before they actually happen. He is already among the premier defenders at the point guard position in Europe. His defensive potential is really scary and down the road he could became a true game changing force on that end of the floor.
On the offensive side, Rubio shows the poise and decision making of an accomplished veteran, improving all the time at running his team and being a pass-first playmaker with very good court vision and ballhandling ability. He is good at slashing to the basket thanks to his technique,excellent length and decent quickness, showing patience and intelligence once in the lane to dish the ball off to open teammates or finishing by himself. He has some troubles finishing in traffic though since he doesn't get great elevation off the floor and is weak physically. His lack of a productive pull-up jumper is also a notable weakness, since once he gets separation from his defender, it is quiet predictable that he will go all the way to the basket looking to score by himself or passing the ball to a teammate. Rubio's major weakness at the moment is his shooting ability, he doesn't excel from any range, showing questionable motion on his shot and a real lack of consistency.
There is a certain excitement every time Rubio steps on the floor, as he has been producing remarkable results despite all the pressure from the fans and media. Ricky is certainly an unbelievable talent-- his competitiveness, intelligence and maturity is brilliant for a 16-year old. While he might not have the physical tools of some other European players, Rubio is currently a top prospect in the Old Continent and with the level he currently shows it would be a real surprise not to see him developing into a star player in one form or another. By the time he will be eligible to enter the draft, Rubio should be among the top players in European competitions and a very likely lottery pick, possibly the first European guard ever selected in the Top 5.
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2007 Spanish King's Cup: NBA Draft Prospects
February 13, 2007
We finish with the youngest player of the Cup. Heís still not eligible, and wonít be for some time, but he was arguably the draft prospect who fared the best. Ricky is back to the tournament that made him famous. Yes, it was three years ago when he took part in the Minicopa, an U-14 tourney held during the Kingís Cup that his team Joventut won, with Ricky stealing the show every minute he was on court. Being only 13 years old, he became a well-known name among basketball fans and even was penciled in by some people as the next great European guard after Drazen Petrovic.
Fast forward to the present, and Rubio is meeting all the expectations of his young career, not disappointing in his first big event at the senior stage. The fact that a Euroleague team such as DKV Joventut needs a 16-year old kid so desperately should be reason enough to give him all the props in the world. His ability to change the momentum of the game is just flat-out impressive and his team certainly took advantage of it. In the quarterfinals against Girona, Rubioís provoked two comeback runs for Joventut right off the bench, one in each period of the first half, helping his team stay close in the score and ultimately get an overtime victory. In the semifinal against F.C.Barcelona, he also led a comeback in the last quarter, but this time Joventut couldnít finish the job.
Itís truly amazing the kind of immediate impact he has once he hits the court. Itís not only a matter of his own defensive skills, that incredible ability and voraciousness stealing the ball, denying passes or forcing offensive fouls, but also the psychological effect on the opposing team that never feels comfortable with the ball in its hands and starts committing mistakes. Coach Reneses takes advantage of these situations using full-court pressure when Rubio is on the floor, and actually Joventut is one of the very few teams (if not the only one) that regularly forces five-second (for in-bounding situations) and eight-second (to cross the half-court) violations. However, Rubio did eventually suffer in this Cup staying in front of some matchups, particularly Jaka Lakovic and Roko-Leni Ukic.
On the offensive end we saw a more aggressive Rubio than usual. He wasnít afraid of attacking his rivals off the dribble to look for layups or assists, usually with excellent results (even if his teammates Andrew Betts and Robert Archibald spoiled some of his terrific passes right under the basket). Itís obvious that sooner or later, itís going to be extremely difficult to keep Rubio out of the paint. His handles, quickness and footwork are too much to deal with. Ricky also tried some shots with discrete results, as he knocked down a three pointer, but looked extremely inconsistent in easy mid-range jumpers off the dribble.
Rubio had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals against Girona, and 4 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists against Barcelona. What kind of player will we see in the next edition of the Kingís Cup? The answer will come one year from now. Personally, I canít wait to see it.
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Roundup: Europe Hails Ricky Rubio
December 26, 2006
After an incredible summer where he delivered unprecedented performances in leading Spain to the gold in the U-16 European Championship, heís become one of the most effective U-22 players in the Euroleague this season - and the kid is only 16 years old. You can see him improving week by week, and in this last one he enjoyed a couple of superb showings.
In Wednesdayís Euroleague massacre(DKV Joventut beat Unicaja 105-52), Rubio finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 steals in 21 minutes of playing time. He started the game on the bench, but Joventut only really increased their lead once Rubio stepped on the floor to lead a very aggressive (often full-court) defense. Ricky was all over the court, fighting for every loose ball, terrifying his opponents with his stealing ability, making good decisions on the offensive end, passing the ball extremely well, and even netting a three-point shot. Rubio leads the Euroleague in steals with 4.3 per game and he doubles his follower on the per-minute leaderboard. Nobody has seen this kind of voraciousness before. But it doesnít stop here, as he also leads the competition in assists per minute. Not only does he display excellent court vision, but the kid is incredibly smart on court, almost always sending the ball to the appropriate teammate - whether he is on the perimeter, feeding a cutter, delivering an entry pass to a big man, or on the drive.
The weekend brough a tougher game, with Joventut facing Winterthur FC Barcelona in the ACB League. Still, Joventut prevailed with 6-point victory, built thanks to a 21-5 partial score to open the third quarter, of course with Rubio on the court. Itís no coincidence, as Joventut's best stretches take place when the teenager is playing. He currently ranks fourth in the whole league in plus/minus stats (according to PlataformaSedena.com). Obviously, he leads Joventut in this department, as his team is +91 with him on court and -67 while heís sitting on the bench.
Back to the game, it was remarkable to see Rubio defending and actually stopping Juan Carlos Navarro (top-3 scorer in the ACB League, top scorer in the Euroleague). His offensive tricks were mostly useless against Ricky, who has a terrific knack for anticipating his opponentsí moves, in addition to superb natural tools with his excellent lateral quickness and great wingspan. Heís already an incipient master forcing offensive fouls, as he knows how to place himself and fall to the ground (he could remind a bit of Ginobili in this).
There was a particular play that speaks for itself in putting his defensive skills into perspective. He had been whistled for a foul after attempting to draw a charge on Navarro (it was a questionable call, anyway). In the next Barcelonaís possession, he fell to the ground after being hit by a screen while following a Navarro cut. Was he flopping?, itís hard to say, but he really understands that refs tend to compensate after doubtful calls. Still he didnít get the call, and while Navarro hadnít received the ball on that first cut, Rubio quickly rose to follow his next cutting move. He was very aggressive trying to anticipate the pass, and as Fran VŠzquez (the passer, who was about 10 feet far from the pair) saw Rubio reaching the passing line, he opted for an elevated and easy pass over the youngster. However, Ricky unexpectedly reached out with one of his long arms and tipped the ball to ignite a fastbreak play.
Another area where heís lately looking more effective is grabbing rebounds. He doesnít get them with a terrific vertical jump, and it definitely isn't because of his strength, either. But he does display intuition, position, activity, wingspan and a pair of incredible hands. Against Barcelona, Rubio found himself battling Michalis Kakiouzis for a rebound. It was a even tussle, as they were close to each other and the ball fell right between them. Despite the Greek being 6-9, it was Rubioís rebound. He did the same with Kostas Tsartsaris (6-10) the previous week in the Euroleague. Once the ball touches his fingertips, itís his.
We could go on and on. Letís just say that we were expecting to see him next week in the LíHospitalet Junior Tournament (we will be there), but thatís pure fiction now. He has already become a terrific Euroleague player and only the fact that Spain already enjoys four quality point guards (Jose Manuel Calderon, Raul Lopez, Sergio Rodriguez and Carlos Cabezas),and that the world junior and European Junior Championships are taking (the Spanish Federation is trying to organize every single European Championship Rubio takes part on) will likely keep him out of the Spanish National Team for the 2007 Eurobasket.
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Roundup: Impressive Joventut Duo
December 4, 2006
You surely remember that he scored 51 points in the final of the European Cadet Championship; on Thursday in the Euroleague he didnít make even a single field goal, and still was a key player for Joventutís victory in the top European competition, joining Rudy FernŠndez in a terrific guard-combo exhibition.
Once again his defense and decision making on the offensive end made the difference for him. Rubio perfectly combines an excellent ability to stop his matchups (heís everyday a more reliable defender on the ball, showing very nice lateral quickness and anticipation) with his incredible knack to steal the ball. He did a terrific job on both Jerry McCullough and Davor Kus, while coming away with 5 steals. Itís becoming so ridiculous that Rubio already leads the Euroleague with 3.5 per game (he also leads the ACB League with 2.45). Of course, heís also the leader per minute steals, getting one every five minutes heís on the court. Truly staggering.
On the offensive end, heís passing the ball really well. He drives and effectively dishes, and he also perfectly executes the extra pass, which is pretty logical since he rarely takes the shot unless heís given plenty of space. He got 5 assists this way against Cibona. Obviously, shooting remains the main concern; he could only score 3 points from the free-throw line. We also have to mention his rebounding effort, as he averages 2.3 per game, not bad at all for a 16-year old kid who plays 17 minutes per game and stands 6-4. He pulled down 2 against Cibona.
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Ricky Rubio: An American Perspective
November 22, 2006
Rubio entered the game around the 3:30 mark in the first quarter, and his team had only scored 3 points thus far. Right away he displayed poise in running the offense, moving the ball quickly around the perimeter, and controlling the tempo of his team. Rubio displayed his ability to see the entire floor from the start, and would have had 2 assists in the first quarter had his teammates converted. One of the near misses came on a drive to the left where he drew an extra defender, and threw a perfect pass to a cutting teammate, who couldnít gain control of the ball.
Throughout the second quarter, it was easy to see that Joventut was a much better team with Rubio running the point. He penetrated into the lane on the first possession, and passed out to an open man on the perimeter who missed the jumper. Rubio played excellent defense on Will Bynum, and was able to stay in front of him by using both his length and lateral quickness. He was able to knock down a three pointer moving to the right off the dribble, and then stole a ball from Bynum. After the steal, he dribbled the length of the court himself, making a nice behind the back dribble to get around a defender and to the hoop for an easy layup. Rubio was then given a rest for two minutes at the 4:20 mark in the second quarter, and made a beautiful play upon reentering. He drove to the left side, hung in the air, and at the last second, dished the ball to an open cutter who almost made the basket while getting fouled. He followed that up with another drive into the lane almost to the hoop, and a pass off to the open big man on the weak side. With a couple seconds left, Rubio was given the ball off an inbounds pass, and he nearly made an off balance three pointer from 30 feet. Behind Rubioís control of the team, Joventut managed to cut a lead that was once 21 points to 12 going into halftime.
In the second half, Rubioís effectiveness was limited by foul trouble. He came out with the starting unit in the third quarter, but picked up a couple quick fouls while switching onto big men. After fouling Nikola Vujcic while bodying him up, Rubio left the game at the 5:37 mark in the third quarter with 3 fouls. He re-entered at the 3:22 mark, and immediately displayed maturity by calming a teammate down after pulling him away from an argument with a ref. He continued to control the tempo and make plays, but picked up a third foul with 25 second left in the third while applying full court pressure on the ball handler. In the fourth quarter, he didnít enter until the 6:40 mark in the quarter, and picked up his 5th foul 20 seconds later. Though his impact on the game goes much further than the box score, he finished with 5 points, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 rebound, and 0 turnovers.
Rubio displayed many of the tools that make him the best young prospect in Europe. His control of the offense and command of the team is well beyond what youíd expect from a player his age. He made nothing but good decisions, and didnít take any of the immature shots youíd expect out of a 16 year old. Rubio uses his length very well in defending the ball, and is usually in the right spot to help out if a teammate gets beat. He also creates a lot of turnovers, and is currently ranked third in the ACB in steals.
Rubio possesses many ideal physical attributes for a point guard. He stands 6í4Ē and has a 6í9Ē wingspan, similar to that of Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics. Rubio has good quickness, and a first step that allows him easy access to the lane. Heís not a great vertical athlete at this point, but uses his quickness and length to the fullest. At the age of 16, itís clear that his physical development is nowhere near complete. He will need to fill into his body, but has a good frame right now. It will be interesting to see how much more Rubio grows, and how he fills out physically.
The biggest weakness in Ricky Rubioís game right now is perimeter shooting. While watching him shoot in practice, itís noticeable that he releases the ball differently every time, and doesnít follow all the way through with his stroke. Against Maccabi, he did use a nice quick release to make a three point jumper off the dribble, but this appears to be an aberration at this point in time. He has displayed the ability to hit mid-range jumpers at a decent clip, but he will need consistency in his stroke to become a threat from behind the 3 point line. He also needs to work on finishing inside against taller players. Being that itís his first year in the Euroleague, Rubio is still adapting to going against bigger and physically developed players. He still releases the ball too low when trying to score inside, and it will cause some of his shots to be blocked until he adjusts. This happened on a fast break layup against Maccabi, where he tried to lay the ball low off the glass and was blocked. When finishing inside, Rubio must also use his body better to absorb contact, but his will come as he further develops physically.
In trying to find more out about Rubio, I talked to Luis Fernandez, the Director of International Scouting for DraftExpress. Fernandez covered the U16 championships over the summer, where Rubio was dominant throughout. There is a play made by Rubio in the final game that really speaks to his maturity and basketball IQ. The final game went into two overtimes, and Rubio finished with 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists, and 7 steals. With 28 seconds left in the first overtime, Rubio was told in the timeout to hold for the final shot. As the ball was inbounded, there was no pressure coming from the Russian team, and Rubio let the ball bounce off his chest and onto the ground. The shot-clock didnít start because no possession was established, and Rubio picked up the ball with 24 seconds left. His coach had not informed Rubio of the rule; it was the imagination of a 16 year old that led to such a veteran play.
Ricky Rubio is in a very controlled environment with DKV Joventut, and his family is determined to keep the early success from going to his head. Joventut rarely allows him to do interviews, and he politely declined my request for an interview after the game. Everyone weíve talked to says Rubio is very mature and unselfish.
In Spain, players arenít allowed to sign contracts until 16 years of age. Ricky Rubio just turned 16 on the 21st of October, and signed a 6 year deal with DKV Joventut with a buyout rumored to be around 6 million Euros. He becomes draft eligible in 2009, so a buyout must be negotiated if Rubio wants to declare in his draft eligible year. It seems with the maturity of Rubio and the people around him, he wonít declare until the time right to do so.
It will be interesting to see how Ricky Rubio develops between now and the time he enters the NBA draft. He could become the feature guy at point guard for DKV Joventut as soon as next year, and he will continue to fill out physically as he ages. In the three years remaining before he becomes draft eligible, Rubio can only improve, and it will be intriguing to see how he stacks up against his American counterparts.
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Blogging Through Israel (part five)
November 18, 2006
This was a nice opportunity for teen sensation Ricky Rubio of Joventut to log some quality Euroleague minutes at age 16.
The game started out in blowout fashion, with Nikola Vujcic scoring 6 of the teamís first 10 points. Joventut tried to play a halfcourt game, but rarely saw a clean look in the offense, and when they did, their shots just werenít falling. Lior Eliyahu and Will Bynum also started fast, and by the end of the first quarter the score was 26-5 in favor of Maccabi. In the second quarter, Joventut decided they needed to play a transition game if they wanted a chance to win, and behind the play of Ricky Rubio, they were able to cut the lead to 48-36 going into halftime. Forward Lubos Barton, and U.S. big man Charles Gaines started the third off strong, allowing Joventut to get the lead down to 52 to 48 with 5:07 remaining in the third. With Rubio on the bench in foul trouble, Will Bynum helped Maccabi go on a little run to close out the third, making some nice passes, and moving the gap back up to 72-58 at the end of the quarter. In a team effort, Maccabi Tel Aviv was able to keep a double digit lead throughout the fourth quarter, and won the game by a score of 92-75.
As far as we can find out through research, a 16 year old has never played 21 minutes in a Euroleague game before, but Ricky Rubio played well beyond his age. His performance deserves its own article, so all I will say now is his presence on the court completely changed the game.
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Euroleague Preview: NBA Draft Prospects (The
October 27, 2006
Fresh off his 16th birthday just a few days ago, Ricky Rubio will make his debut in the top international league at a stunning young age and with an even more shockingly significant role on his team DKV Joventut. Rubio has managed to surpass Marcelinho Huertas in the point guard rotation, and is basically splitting minutes with veteran starter Elmer Bennett. His coach AŪto GarcŪa-Reneses is well known in Spain for having trusted other gems early on such as Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Gasol or Rudy FernŠndez.
While his coach might not be afraid of playing youngsters (heís obviously not), Rubio has earned his minutes with surprisingly solid outings. Ricky is a player with an incredible feel for the game. Everything comes natural to him (except the shooting), and he has some kind of special relationship with the ball. He can perform some unbelievable stuff, like crazy dribbles or flashy passes, but heís also a super smart kid that perfectly knows what his place is at Joventut. Itís just as impressive how quickly he has adapted to a distributing role, playing very sober basketball, not abusing the ball at all, while perfectly knowing when he can ignore the script and try something different by himself, usually attacking the basket to enrich his teamís offense and make it less predictable. His self-confidence seems off the charts at this point.
Rubio has the tools to stay on a Euroleague court. Heís a skinny player that will surely grow into his body, but heís ripped for his age and not afraid of contact at all. He has terrific ball-handling skills to keep himself ahead of the rivals that try to take advantage of his tender age. Heís also a very decent defender, superb if we take into account his youth, showing good lateral movement and an incredible ability to steal the ball. Nobody is safe dribbling near him; he has a great wingspan (reportedly around 6-9) and very quick hands to come up with the ball. Keeping the ball and being able to defend his assignment are minimal requirements for any point guard to play, but he brings more to the table.
A great passer, as mentioned, Ricky takes very calculated risks, which means that for the most part he sticks with the distribution game trying to make the ball flow with easy passes. Sometimes heíll attempt show off his excellent court vision, and from time to time he tries something more vertical, looking for the definitive pass, or using his slashing skills to split defenses and feed the open man. Itís remarkable how he drives in traffic, looking like a snake in the water.
Rubioís shooting is the biggest question mark. He can regularly knock down short-to-mid open jumpers, even in off-the-dribble fashion, but these are difficult to come by. From the perimeter, things get a lot uglier, and his inconsistency is exposed. To make things worse, his team Joventut actually lacks perimeter shooting, which doesnít help his cause. Also, he suffers finishing around the rim, as he still misses an extra degree of strength to get up off his feet after his slashing slaloms. This all means that scoring is not what he will consistently deliver this season.
Anyway, if he manages to keep his current rate of playing time throughout the season, it will already be a major success. What else could we ask from a kid like this?
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U-16 European Championships: Unbelievable Rubio
August 22, 2006
Weíre running out of adjectives to describe what Ricky Rubio has achieved in these Cadet Championships. After his terrific run leading Spain to the semifinals with a perfect record, he saved his best for the last and decisive games, a couple of ridiculous performances that included a quadruple double in the semifinal and a 51-point game in the double-overtime final that handed the title to the Spanish squad and the MVP award to him.
A PERFECT TOURNAMENT
When we found out that Rubio decided to play in the U-16 European Championships this summer (apparently, the Spanish Federation wanted him in both U-16 and U-18 tournaments, but he picked to play with generation mates), we felt something big could happen. Heís not only a super talented player, but a guy with experience in the ACB League. Weíre not talking about an anecdotic showing in garbage time or an appearance just to fill the record books, but having played some meaningful minutes in a few games in the playoffs, including an excellent showing in quarterfinals against Gran Canaria, helping his team DKV Joventut with his terrific defense to make a comeback and ultimately win the game.
As much as the preliminary and quarterfinal stages completely met our most optimistic outlook, his final display exceeded any reasonable expectation.
Croatia was a dangerous but affordable rival for Spain in the semifinals. They had a big size advantage in the frontcourt, but nothing that couldnít be battled with a physical game, and their backcourt frequently worked based on individual inspiration. Spain got an early lead that they never lost, and Ricky only need 28 minutes of playing time to put up a quadruple double, finishing the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and 11 steals in 33 minutes.
Russia in the final was a tougher match in advance despite the deceiving 15-point differential that Spain got in the preliminary round against them. It was so much tougher that Spain needed virtually a miracle to come up with the victory. But Rubio had an appointment with destiny, and had no intention to miss it. Russia had taken what looked like a definitive 3-point lead with under 2 seconds to go on the clock, and it had to be Ricky, a mediocre shooter, who nailed a mid-court bomb with the buzzer to send the game to the first overtime, which ultimately gave the victory to Spain and an unbelievable stat-line of 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals for Ricky.
It was much more than a mere lucky strike. Itís about being a winner.
THE CHARACTER OF A WINNER
ďAs Babunashvili hit an incredible fade-away three-pointer with 1.4 seconds to go, the Russians exploded with joy while the Spanish shank in despair. Nobody had any hope left, even the Spanish coach had given up. Nobody seemed capable of reacting, even to inbound the ball for that final second. Nobody but Ricky Rubio, who was asking like crazy for the ball. Finally a teammate reacted and sent the ball to him; a couple of strides and, sneaking between three rivals, he threw that bomb from the mid court, hitting the board just before going down through the net.Ē
Unfortunately, DraftExpress.com wasnít there for these final games. Rafa Santos, who has been covering the tournament for ACB.com, was one of the fortunate witnesses and those are his words, priceless words indeed to show us Rubioís amazing winning character.
According to our research, Rickyís 51 points seems to be an unheard of mark in FIBA Europe youth competitions during the last decade at least. Only two players have come close, being both well-known guys with NBA experience: Turkish star Ibrahim Kutluay (who had a brief stint in the Sonics) scored 50 points in a preliminary round game in the 1996 U-20 European Championships, an amount matched by Luol Deng in the qualifying round of the 2002 U-18 European Championship while playing for England (that was a very preliminary stage actually played a few months before the real championship).
Of course, none of them comes close to getting that amount in a comparable stage of importance such as a Final of a championship, although to be fair, we canít forget that Rubio needed two overtimes to achieve it.
Regarding the quadruple double, we donít remember any similar achievement in the last years.
With those last two statistical efforts, Rubio finished the tournament leading the ranks in points (23.3 per game), rebounds (12.8), assists (7.1) and steals (6.5). We have only found one precedent in the last decade; once again Luol Deng, this time in the qualifying round of the 2001 U-16 European Championships (29.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 6.5 steals). Again, this is not the actual Championship, but a very preliminary stage played months in advance that starts the process to decide the 12 participants in the final tournament.
HANDLING THE HYPE
How can a 15 year-old kid handle this kind of hype and huge accolades when we ourselves still havenít been able to recover from the shock produced by his incredible display?
That will be one of his biggest challenges, to come back to earth and continue working hard on his game, which is not that easy when he is constantly under the spotlight.
But we canít forget that this is just the Cadets stage, which is a world of distance away from real top competition. Most of the advantages he gains now playing against kids will be gone facing veterans...unless he keeps improving. Actually, Rubioís effectiveness will be dramatically shorthanded unless he manages to develop a reliable shooting stroke. At least, according to Rafa Santos, in these last games he showed a rather effective off-the-dribble shot from the short-to-mid range area, a nice step in the right direction of developing a complete offensive repertoire.
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U-16 European Championship: Rubio Rules
August 19, 2006
Arguably, this super talented playmaker was already the most hyped kid (meaning 15 years old or younger) in European basketball history. However, if you're already tired of hearing about him, well, it's only really started. Let the hype roll!
The expression ďat willĒ comes quite close to describing what Rubio does on court. It's not only a matter of stats. Yes, he currently ranks first in assists and steals, and second in points and rebounds. But it's also a feeling of domination, of having everything under control, of being capable of taking over every game and just sending it home. And its all served in spectacular fashion too. He's flat-out impressive, as simple as that. He's only a solid shooting stroke shy of being directly outrageous.
Still, nobody seems capable of stopping his drives. He's a quick guy, but he doesn't particularly rely on his athleticism; on the contrary, he breaks everybody down mercilessly with his crazy ball-handling skills and outstanding footwork. Actually, Rubio is capable of enchaining a number of direction changes and fakes almost without moving from his place, completely unbalancing his defenders in the process.
It's true that Ricky needs to learn how to better distribute the ball; at this point he's not a pure point guard by any means. More than a playmaker that tries to circulate the ball, he's a player of definitive passes. Regardless, he's showcasing terrific court vision here, easily finding his teammates off the dribble, from the perimeter or on the break. He's also improved the way he controls the tempo of the game from the last time we saw him in youth categories.
On defense, it's a matter of how good he wants to be. He has looked like a terrific defender whenever he has been really intense. However, most of the time he just hangs around saving the effort for the offensive end, for example always going underneath the screens. Anyway, he enjoys excellent lateral quickness to stay in front of his man and he's a ridiculously dangerous ball thief. He has impressively quick hands, and the instincts to know where to be in order to come away with the ball.
It's these same instincts and activity he shows looking for rebounds. Twenty against Serbia and Montenegro! The guy is 6-4 and very skinny; forget about any kind of physical dominance. He does have good leaping ability, but it's mostly about positioning, quickness and superb hands. Well, also about the Spanish team being very undersized.
If only he could shoot the ball... it's the big knock on Rubio's game. He lacks a lot of accuracy with his perimeter stroke, displaying a bit of a mechanic and slow release, even if he looks a bit improved from the last summer, while he shows little signs of off-the-dribble jumper in slashing situations. He doesn't suffer nearly as much trouble finishing near the basket, and even if he might miss a bit of a soft touch on his layups, he has improved his ability to use his left hand. Given the chance, he will dunk the ball, but he needs space to gain speed and impulse for the jump. After all, Rubio is not a mature player physically speaking, and he will only improve his explosiveness in the future.
Rubio is the big story of this championship, and will likely be showcased all over Europe when he plays in the Euroleague with DKV Joventut next season. However, as good as he is, without serious work, especially on his shooting, he might still become a serious disappointment.
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Marquee Matchup: Rudy Fernandez vs. Juan Carlos Navarro
January 14, 2006
Coming into the game, the main attraction was the matchup between FernŠndez and Navarro. However, about one minute before the end of the first quarter, reserve point guard Marcelinho Huertas got injured. Coach AŪto GarcŪa-Reneses called a skinny boy off the bench to enter the game: 15 year old Ricky Rubio.
Only two days after facing kids one or two years older than him in L'Hospitalet, the Spanish wunderkind was asked to take over the playmaking duties on one of the toughest courts in Europe. The thing is, anyone who has seen Rubio in action knows that he isn't a player that shies away from a challenge.
Ricky delivered what he was asked to. He avoided complications on the offensive end, feeding the wings to start running plays. Of course, he didn't hesitate to score, finishing a coast-to-coast play himself where he might have opted to pass the ball if he wasnít confident about putting in to the bucket. All in all he stayed pretty cool in the set offense.
Rubio had to matchup with a pair of Euroleague stars in former NBA player Shammond Williams and Italian national team guard Gianluca Basile.
Williams made Rubio lose his balance by attacking him in one play, getting an easy assist as a result. But Ricky answered back by blocking his shot from behind the arc. However, Williams got the last laugh by stealing the ball from him later on.
Basile, who is a very good defender with an excellent wingspan, was a tougher bite. Early on, Ricky pressed Gianluca while he was taking the ball up-court, almost getting a steal. On the same situation in the opposite direction, it was Ricky who provoked a defensive foul by Gianluca. Not a bad start for the kid. Nevertheless, Basile had his revenge in the second half, as he forced Rubio to foul him on a penetration, scored a three pointer on him and pressed him defensively while he was bringing the ball up the floor, resulting in a poor pass and ultimately a turnover for Joventut. It was at this moment exactly when coach Reneses thought it was about time to bench Rubio.
The 9 minutes Ricky spent on court resulted in a 15-12 run for DKV Joventut, scoring 2 points (1/2 from the field) with 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 1 block, 1 personal foul committed and another received.
As we have told you in past occasions, Ricky usually holds his own against veterans despite his tender age. Perhaps the main factors for this are his quickness, ball-handling, solid defense and fast mind. All these combined allow Ricky to not be a liability on the court, and coach Reneses to put him on the floor without fearing a disaster for his team. Rubio stays cool and doesn't feel intimidated, even benefiting from situations where veteran rivals want to take quick and easy advantage of playing against a 15 year old, over-defending or over-attacking him.
Another different matter of discussion is whether it's the right time to start playing such a young boy against top European competition. He already plays in the junior category (U-18) despite still being a cadet (U-16) age-wise, and also plays U-20 tournaments periodically. Besides, there are a number of areas where he needs to significantly improve (shooting, game direction or left handles for example). The rumour says that there might be some other interests concerning Ricky's future besides what's strictly his development as a player. However, it's just speculation at the moment.
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2006 LíHospitalet Tournament: the Top 5 prospects
January 11, 2006
Not everything was rosy about Ricky Rubioís performance at LíHospitalet, but you canít feel anything but amazement considering what he showed and how he dominated for certain stretches despite being the youngest player at the tournament at the tender age of 15. Only a strange semi-final against Crvena Zvezda, where his coach inexplicitly left him on the bench for a large chunk of the fourth quarter stopped his run from a very expected appearance in the final.
Rickyís biggest flaws, poor shooting and game direction, were effectively exploited by the Serbians who placed a closed zone defense to enable him from comfortably slashing into the lane to create offense, which is the foundation of his game right now. Rubio still needs to learn how to play the point guard role. He enjoys excellent court vision and delivers very good passes on a regular basis, but heís not a good distributor when it comes to keeping an accurate offensive flow and involving his teammates, struggling to recognize the proper game rhythm that his team needs.
Still, he was able to keep Joventut in the game aggressively by attacking the zone with complicated penetrations using his quickness, excellent footwork and ball-handling skills (although he needs to work with his left), while trying to find the open man. He was almost as important on defense as well. Ricky is a nightmare for any rival when heís focused and willing to defend (it wasnít always the case during the tournament). His lateral quickness, great wingspan, quick hands and intelligence are the perfect recipe for being a fantastic ball-thief. He doesnít lose that much effectiveness in this department when facing veteran competition either. Thatís why benching him in the decisive moments came as a big surprise, as Ricard was virtually the only player capable of overcoming the situation.
Unlike what happened in Leůn with the Under-16 National Team, Rubio played the point guard position full time at LíHospitalet. Thatís the position that Joventut is developing him at, where he has played in the ACB League and FIBA EuroCup and where he enjoys the best potential. Although at age 15 heís very young and probably not done growing, Rubio is undersized for the shooting guard position, even perhaps when he reaches his maximum size. Besides, heís not really a scorer, and chances are he will never be a great one. Rickyís shot is still a work in progress. He hasnít been prolific at all in this department, looking fairly erratic, but he did net a few long distance shots, although showing rather slow mechanics. He will improve for sure; for starters, heís very reliable from the free-throw line. On the other hand, he doesnít show a particularly soft touch finishing near the basket when it comes to anything much different than an orthodox layup.
All in all, Ricky Rubio keeps making strides way ahead of schedule; in an edition without huge dominators, nobody would have been surprised if he had been named MVP. Itís scary to think how good he could be in two years, when he will be a junior sophomore competing with kids his age at this tournament. That is, if heís not a full-time pro in the ACB League by then.
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The European Cadet Championship: Final Report
August 9, 2005
The hype might be out of control with this Spanish kid, but heís still a very intriguing basketball project. He was clearly the most interesting prospect born in 1990 seen here, regardless of the problems he faced delivering the premiere skill in basketball: to score.
Surprisingly for a player who seems as if heís born to play the game whenever he has the ball in his hands, Rubio right now shows a horrible stroke from anywhere on the court. The only way heís able to consistently add points is through open layups under the basket. Against the least opposition, he doesnít show a soft touch to net any of his unorthodox layups, while he can be fully open to fire a jumper that most likely wonít go in. Besides limiting his scoring production, this issue makes him much more predictable and easy to defend, as he usually looks for driving and dishing.
At this point someone could ask himself how in the world is this kid a top prospect. Well, as a matter of fact, Rubio can do many things on the court better than almost anyone his age.
Letís first state that heís a 6-3 guard who is extremely explosive for a 14 year old kid even if heís still very skinny. Just checking his rebounding numbers can give you an idea about this, as smart as he in positioning himself in these situations. He can play both guard positions, but his team Joventut Badalona is wisely playing him as a point during the season, a position for which he already has the size and the tools, and where he might become dominant. In the Spanish Cadet National Team, that sadly seems to worry first about winning rather than developing players, heís primary used as an off guard.
Back to his skills, Rubio is a terrific ball handler, which considering his quickness, excellent first step, footwork and ability to change gears, makes him really hard to stop whenever he decides to step into the lane. Heís also a great passer, enjoying excellent court vision and nice decision making. He can deliver from the perimeter, feeding cutters, but his most typical play is to dish after beating his matchup. He can be quite flashy.
Ricard has gifts not only for the offensive end, but also which are quite valuable on defense as well. Although he didnít always deliver his best effort, he has awesome potential as a defensive stopper. With quick legs, a good wingspan and quick hands, heís already an awesome ball-thief (second in the tourney only behind Diot), terrifying any rival here driving the ball.
In our first report from Astorga, we suggested that some of the hype might have gone to his head. Well, in spite of his improvable defensive effort, considering the tournament as a whole, it didnít seem that way, at least not as clearly. Rubio looks serious about the game, of course from his particular game style, and he's reportedly rather a mentally mature kid for his young age. Indeed he took over the leading role on the team, not only on the floor with his actions, but also vocally, despite being one year younger than most of his mates. All this looks extremely important right now, because if thereís something Ricard canít afford itís the luxury of being content with his game, particularly due to his scoring flaws. Right now he can do a lot of things on the court that simply wonít work against superior competition if he doesnít improve his shooting, even if he keeps developing the other parts of his game.
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The 2005 European Cadet Championships: To Hype or Not to Hype?
August 1, 2005
Thereís one guy here for whom we need not worry about the degree of hype we might throw at him. Heís no other than Ricard or Ricky Rubio. I donít think any other player in Spanish basketball history--and I wouldnít be surprised if we said in European basketball history, has drawn so much attention so soon in his career.
He became a very popular name amongst basketball fans early in 2004, when he amazed in a youth tournament organized by the ACB League, parallel to the Kingís Cup. It became so out of control that even the President of the Spanish Basketball Federation irresponsibly compared him with the all-time greatest European guard, Drazen Petrovic, in an interview. Thatís a huge load for a kid to carry, and it remains to be seen how everything turns out for him.
For the moment, Rubio is a 6-3 combo guard who already shows far superior quickness and explosiveness than most players in this tournament, being at the same time one year younger than the majority of them (heís a 1990 player). Rubio stands out as a very good slasher, featuring excellent handles, while being a great passer, who is easily able to play the point. Indeed, thatís the position he would be headed towards if he didnít grow anymore. Besides, he enjoys terrific hands on defense, which makes him a public enemy for any player dribbling the ball.
On the other hand, Ricard is not much of a shooter, reaching a point where he doesnít even try. This flaw needs to be addressed as soon as possible, or his potential as a player will be condensed dramatically. Also, weíre not sure whether the player is displaying the right attitude. From a distance, it could be thought that some of the hype has indeed gone to his head.
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