One-sided defence of Rubio with some hopefully-rational conclusions

I think that the discussion about Rubio has really reached the point where it is beyond the boundaries of basketball rationalities (ok, consdiering the current situation of the Kings - probably no wondering there). On one side passionate praise sometimes stemming even from his smile, apparently. On the other hand focused critique on the scale from 'he's overhyped bust' argumets to some more sophisticated arguments.

Truly, I believe that everything on Rubio has been already said. Only not everyone is familar with all that stuff and not everyone is willing to think about all that stuff. If you read some of my comments in past few months, you probably know that I am a fan of Rubio and I really like his game, but I always have been careful of glorifying him and did even prefer Blake Griffin over Ricky in terms of the draft. Now, after few weeks of extended discussion on other prospects that have really helped me extending my own limited knowledge of college basketball, I am positively calling for the Kings drafting Rubio for the 4th pick of this draft. I believe that the fourth pick overall is also fair for his general price on the basketball market. And as pretty much everything on him has been already said, I will just focus on defending his supposed 'weaknesses' as I managed to collect them on internet over last few weeks. I have no ambition to bring any new insights really, just to remind some of the issues that might be lost in the whirl of passion or that some of you might be not so familiar with. I did not really intend to write this piece, so excuse me for missing many points probably, I will be very happy to update it in the case there is something to add.


'Rubio isn't athletic enough'

To be honest, I am not really sure what people mean by that? That he lacks the vertical jump? He's not quick enough? Fast enough? Strong enough? Big enough? Tall enough?

Rubio is often compared to Steve Nash as an example of not particularly 'athletic' point-guard with a high baketball IQ etc. (yes, I ignore his shooting for this point). In my opinion, Rubio could be much better compared to Manu Ginobilli only playing the PG position. No, he has no terrific vertical jump (but can dunk, anyway). They both have very quick first step and are able to beat their defenders, but particulalry, they have very good timing of that step and are able to utilize any disbalance that their defenders get into. This is why Rubio is such good in pick&roll situations. It has also be said many times that Rubio is as quick with the ball as without, which is a highly important issue in basketball, especially for pointguard (see Banks, Marcus). And even more importantly, Rubio can be quick, quicker, very quick, not quick at all. The ability to change his speed is one of his biggest devices and the one thing that makes him the most similar to J-Will in my eyes (yes, more than his passing). Watching highlights of J-Will's penetrations on youtube now, you will not see any particularly fascinating velocity their, just perfect timing, rhytm and co-ordination.

He is not strong enough?

Derrick_rose_4_medium 1244578616-1197669290_0_medium

Alright, on the left, there is a photo of Derick Rose taken in his (supposedly) senior year at high school, that means at the Rubio's current age. Do you think he had a frame to compete with the 'most athletic' pointguards in the league at that time? Was he on the other hand much stronger than Rubio at that time? Rubio probably never spent too much time in the gym with weights but you can hardly convince me that frame is something he cannot gain within couple of years will it be necessary.

Anything else? Size? Wingspan? With his unofficial size 6'5" in shoes and 6'7" wingspan (I took data from pookeyguru's blog and he has refers to Chad Ford's Insider article) he ranks behind Greivis Vasquez and Tyreke Evans and behind Evans, Beauboise, Teague and Vasquez presumably. Only Evans (who is doubted to be a true PG) and possibly Teague are considered as prospects of Rubio's level these days. To make things complete, Rubio's weight is listed as 190 lbs, pretty much an average among this year's crop of PGs (yet, Rubio is the youngest one).

Right, the question of being 'inujry-prone' might seem relevant to someone. I disagree with that. The only serious injury I know about is his wrist-ijnury from the last summer. Besides, he has played between 50-60 official professional games per year in last three seasons (that means since he was 16) not counting his games for national team(s) of Spain. I believe he should be as fine as any other player in the draft. And actually, playing quite a lot and still not having to rely on his physical attributes is something that makes his health future maybe a bit less risky.

Ok, let's get further...


'There's very little evidence he can score at anything approaching an acceptable rate for an NBA point guard.'

In other words - he will not score much.

I agree - partly. Rubio is not a bad shooter from distance. Yes, his style is awful. Do you know whose style is probably even worse and he is still the best scorer (and probably shooter as well) in the current Kings roster? Kevin Martin best shooting percentage for 3 in the college was 38.2%, in his freshman year. Then it got even worse. Rubio shot 43% for three last season in the Spanish league, where the three-point line is further than in the college and yes, I believe that defense is better and harder.

He is not a finisher? I disagree here as well. It is a fairly problematic point, but I argue that the main reason of his falling percentage for 2 points and the increasing number if turnovers this season (apart from the wrist-injury) was the lack of any fair-at-least finisher in DKV's roster. After Rudy Fernandez departed to NBA, the best finisher in Badalona was Jerome Moiso. Actually, he was probably the only finisher. Having watched Rubio's games this year, he was able to get to the box quite easily (especially from pick&roll situations) but - he struggled to finish such action. No, he's not able to dunk over collapsed defense - probably no pointguard in the world is. And too often he found himseld in the situation where he just could not pass the ball to the players who could have finished the action, although the whole defense was collapsed on him and apparently someone should have been free for a spot to shoot/dunk etc. This is indeed where many of his turnovers come from - unsuccesful penetrations under pressure finished by blocked shots, turnovers or unbalanced lay-ins. However, this does not prove that Rubio makes wrong decisions, it is about having to play on his own against the bunch of mature players on regular basis (and I don't want to get to the college vs. Europe debate, but lots of zone defense and lots of system play and experiences of such game is what makes penetrations in Europe much more difficult, in my opinion). Just take a look at some Olympics highlights and you might see what Rubio is able to do against the top competition when there are players who are able to find a spot where he would find them.

Ok, the most serious flaw in his game is his middle-range jumpshot and it is also the biggest mystery to me. It's not about shooting the ball from the middle range badly or about taking bad shots from middle range. Rubio just does not take those. Too many times he will get behind the screen and instead of stopping and taking a middle-range shot without any defender around him, he just goes on to the basket where someone is regularly waiting for him. I believe this is something that can be much improved in NBA as Rubio has intelligence and is willing to learn. You can also take into consideration that he has always playes for one franchise so far, from the secondary school through his junior years in Badalona to his pro-career since 15. He has some experiences from the national team, but the same way as it is probably in the US colleges, there is certain philosophical tradition often linked to one particular club, commonly sharing by all teams from youth to professional first team. And that is why I am not so much worried about Rubio's shoting percentage. He will never be Ray Allen, but with the range of his shots extending, I think he is capable of being a solid scorer in the NBA at least (not saying when this might happen).

Finally, TZ raised a valid point today that Rubio's True Shooting percentage was 'even with Flynn, and better than Evans, Holiday and Mills, and TONS better than that of Jennings' with 57%. Kevin Martin's TS% during the last year in the college was 60% and is generally between 60-61% during his las three years in the league. As TZ mentioned, Rubio's ability to draw a fould is crucial here. During the last season in Spain, he was fouled 6.9 times per 36 minutes (calculated from these stats). His per-36-minutes average for his all professional career (including the Euroleague, excluding national team) since he was 15 is about 6.5 fouls.

'He can't defend/will not be able to keep his man in front of him...'

Ironically, what Rubio had been credited for before the hype over his Olympics performance began was his defense. As barely 16 years old, he led the whole Euroleague in steals/game average with quite a huge difference while playing only 19 minutes per game. Before I go on, take a look at this videohighlights from Olympics. Probably many of you have already seen that. What I want to stress is that much of his highlights (mostly the second half of the video) indeed are about defense. Those of you who have seen Spanish game against China might have remembered what was in my opinion Rubio's best perfromance in the tournament. It was not about scoring or distributing, he just closed down Chinese pointguard and single-handedly started the turn in the game that Spaniards seemed to lose and finally have won in the overtime.

Rubio has some amazing assets - quick  and long hands and very good timing for when to strike the opponents. He is brilliant in doubling the post-players, anticipating passes but also stealing the ball from other pointguards.

Doubts about Rubio are whether he is able to stand in front of his man. One issue is that Rubio might have problems with quicker and/or stronger pointguards, but I don't think that anyone would be able to stop Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo or Tony Parker single-handedly. Or as furious.d mentioned today, 'There’s no such thing as good perimeter defense in the NBA without good interior defense'. The more important issue is that Rubio is indeed what might be called an 'opportunistic' defender who is taking very high risk (stepping back from his player when he does not have the ball  trying to steal the ball elsewhere; trying to steal the ball from dribbling player and being vulnerable to good crossovers...). I believe that this is another consequence of the style he has been taught and with a good coach (and good assistents), the philosophy of his defense can be adjusted and highly developed.

The final thing that might be mentioned in the 'defense' chapter is his (defensive) rebounding. It has been discussed even here at StR that Rubio is fairly good and especially active defender on the defensive end so I will skip this part as such.


'He will struggle with language, with culture, he is immature, he will not be respected by his teammates, he will not be a leader...'

I feel this type of arguments to be the weakest of the group, really. First of all, Rubio is 18-years old Spanish kid who plays professionally since 15 (yes, you have heard this many times) and have more intercultural experiences that probably any player in the college (including 23-years old seniors). There was a bit 'immature' discussion at StR few days ago about whether he would be respected by Donté Greene, Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson etc if he joins the roster in October. Well, I can't see why should not. Whether he would be a leader? He has to deserve it, obviously. As any other player in the league. It might take him some time, maybe two months, maybe one year. I would think there's no need to repeat the following - but I can't see the reason why should not be respected if a) he makes other players better /yes, he does, that's one of his main strengths/, b) is generally a nice, open-minded, pleasant and non self-centred person /allegedly, he is/, c) will give the last piece of him on the court to help his team /he's been doing this for few years, now/. I believe there's a lot in Rubio's history that should point towards his mentality as an advantage rather than deficiency. And I really don't understand why anyone thinks that it would help to have the same Rubio with the same skills but instead of 18, he would be 23 (and that's what arguments about not being a leader for his teammates are).


To conclude - Few months ago, I wrote a fairly boring post here at StR. If you have time, maybe take a look at some of the conclusions there. If you don't - in the principle I argued that Rubio, if coming to Sacramento this year, will not bring too much impact and will be fairly inefficient. One of the reasons why I think so is that in the last decade there has been no efficient rookie pointguard in the league. Further, the rookie pointguard with the biggest impact on his team in the last decade behind Chris Paul has arguably been Derrick Rose. Yes, a very good player (this year), but not an instant all-star yet. Further, Rubio will be the youngest pointguard in the last decade (and probably in an even longer period) drafted so high.

And excuse me a couple of quoted paragraphs from that post, especially for those of you whose hopes on Rubio might have exceeded the rational view on him:

Second, and more important - if you are in the Rubio-camp, don't expect him to come next year, or the year after and immediately redeem this team. Even if Rubio will spend a year in Europe and would come in 2010, even if he will take some weight, even if he will improve his jump-shot, even if will add a more of defensive strategy into his repertoire... He will be still just a barely-twenty-years-old-rookie-pointguard... If he should become a franchise player, superstar, star, role player, bench player or whatever, it will not probably happen in 2010, neither in 2011. Ok, in 2012 the soonest. (Try to think about the peak of Rubio in terms of, let's say years 2012-2022...)

That, however, does not mean he cannot help this team even immediately. Rubio is a pass-first pointguard with incredible passing skills (already) and court-vision (already). Besides that, as a combination of his court-vision, ballhandling and quickness, he is very able penetrator and very confident finisher (though using more of brain than brawn), so he can also score if necessary. His jumpshot is not perfect, but it's far from being hopeless and he can be effective even if forced to middle- and long-range shots. He is aggresive, team-first minded though still confident, purposeful, funny, willing-to-defend, coachable kid with a horrible haircut. Not a 'Next-Magic'.

Do you wish him to join the Kings? If yes, that's fine. But if you actually wish someone else - don't blame Rubio if he's not that one. And also try to rethink if that one actually exists...

In other words: If you want Rubio - it's fine. However, although I understand all the passion that's going around, it might be useful to sit down and carefully reiterate why exactly you want him. And in that case, taking him as he is, as a whole.

And if you don't want Rubio - that's fine either. But the same counts here - except that I don't really understand all that passion that's going around. Still, try to rethink (critically, even self-critically) why you don't really want him and what came first - those reasons or your refusal of Rubio as a whole.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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