Time for Ricky
The NBA will finally get a taste of Ricky Rubio aka Young Spain this season. Ready or not 6-3 185lb Rubio will have the franchise of Minnesota on his back right from the start.
Ricky took the basketball world by storm in ’06 as a 16 year old. He dropped a pair of triple doubles and a quadruple double in the FIBA under 16 tournament. He scored 51 in the final game against Russia and was named tournament MVP. The hype machine got warmed up.
At the young age of 17 he played for the Spanish National Team. This team was bursting with pro talent like the Gasol brothers, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Jorge Garbajosa. Spain made it all the way to the gold medal game in the ’08 Olympics to take on the likes of Lebron, Kobe, Wade and the rest of the United States all-pro roster. Rubio was the youngest player ever to play in a gold medal game. Spain lost by 11 points and took the silver. Ricky got the gold the next summer at the ’09 FIBA Eurobasket where he put in 23 minutes a game.
The hype machine exploded. Everyone from Coach K to Derrick Rose to Kobe had something good to say about Rubio and his potential. He was so young but played a very mature pure point guard role and held his own against the best guards in the world.
…And with the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft the Minnesota Timberwolves select… Ricky Rubio out of Spain. The Timberwolves got the coveted lead guard and Harry Potter look-a-like. And with the sixth pick the Wolves select point guard Johnny Flynn out of Syracuse. What!? David Kahn was out of his head to make this pick. 6-7 shooting guard out of Compton, CA DeMar DeRozan was who they should have selected. It’s bad enough that they missed on DeRozan or bigs like Psycho T Hansbrough or Taj Gibson but there were handful of PG’s left on the board better than Flynn. Brandon Jennings, Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor are all better and were all still on the board. This will go down as one of the biggest blunders by a GM on draft day in NBA history.
Ricky went back to Spain for the 09-10 and 10-11 season and played for FC Barcelona. The hype machine got put in sleep mode. Rubio did nothing to show anyone that he had improved at all from the summer of 08. He played 20 minutes a game off the bench in 10-11 and averaged 5 points and 4 dimes a game. Doesn’t sound like a top 5 pick at this point, does he? Tell that to Brandon Jennings who went and struggled in the Italian league only to drop 55 in a game as a rookie in the NBA the next year.
Johnny Flynn turned out to be a complete mop. Kahn shipped Flynn out of town to get veteran big man Brad Miller. The Wolves went 32-132 during the Flynn era.
FC Barcelona made Rubio play in a strict militantly style half-court offense. He is the type of player that needs to be able to run and distribute in the open court. The court vision that he possesses is why everyone was so high on him in the first place. The Wolves have been bad, terrible, awful, garbage, flat out the worst in the last couple of years but with that comes lottery picks. They have some real young athletes and a big man in Kevin Love that led the NBA in rebounding in what would have been his senior year in college. 22-year-old Love averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds last season and played hard every single night. With Rubio on board his offensive product should increase.
Mr. 31/31 Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wes Johnson, Martel Webster, and #2 overall pick Derrick Williams should all be the recipients of amazing dimes. He will have to beat out Luke Ridnour and Sebastian Telfair for the starting job… but that’s unlikely to be a problem.
Prediction: Rubio flourishes and the T-Wolves are in the 30-35 win range in ’11-’12. The team will be great in the open court and Ricky-mania will ensue in Minnesota. If they can keep Rubio and Love together they will be a serious threat in a year or two. He is the point guard everybody thought he was after the Beijing Olympics not the average player that the experts are trying to make him out to be now.