Many U.S. basketball fans have not had the opportunity to see some of the international players who are available in this year’s NBA draft. I’m one of them, I guess. There has been a lot of talk about point guard Ricky Rubio of Spain, who would have gone high in last year’s draft and could conceivably go as high as #2 this year.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to see some video tape on Rubio, and these are my humble observations:
Rubio has a little bit of Pete Maravich in him. He has a lot of creativity to his game. He seems to have great vision; the kind that is instinctive. The kind that can’t be taught. He’s a little like a running back who can see two or three defenders ahead, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will bring a pass-first playmaker who can improvise to any offense.
This kid is going to be a killer in transition. That’s where I see his true strength – once he gets into the open court. In the settings that are more half-court in nature, however, his jump shot may prove to be something of a liability. First of all, the statistics demonstrate that he is not very accurate with it; he hit about 39% of his shots this past season. He doesn’t get a lot of elevation on it either. I guess at first glance he kind of reminds me of Larry Bird in the way he shoots it. Of course, one key difference is that when Bird shot the ball, it also went in more often. The problem there is that while Bird was 6’9″ and was able to get off his perimeter shots, Rubio may find a hand in his face more often than not.
In terms of his ability to go into the lane, he definitely looks as if he knows what he’s going to do with the ball once he gets there, and there isn’t anywhere on the floor where the defense can relax if Rubio is on the move.
I can see him getting to the foul line a lot, and he’ll have to post figures consistently in the 80%-85% to maximize his effectiveness in that regard.
Defensively, it’s a double-edged sword. At 6’4″ he should have the ability to contest a lot of shots that his counterparts are able to put up. The questions will linger about his ability to stay with the likes of Chris Paul or Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo, because ultimately those are the guys he will have to defend. Does he have the quickness? How fast can he be schooled on help defense? And can he put a few pounds on? At 180 pounds, he could get pushed around a bit.
Let’s not forget something here. Rubio has not been playing against a lower level of competition than most of the other entrants in this draft. He’s actually playing at a higher level, so evaluating what he can do, to some extent, is more of a real-world experience for scouts.
I see him as the kind of player who’s going to fit in really well with any team who wants to get out there and run. Also, if a team has people at the other positions who can score and can afford to have more of a pure point in the game, without having to rely on him to put points on the board. Because of the fact that he has a quality that is hard to school a player on; that is, the pure basketball instinct, it is likely that he will be a quick study in any system, although it may be best to let this kid take the ball and run with it, becoming a “rich man’s” Jason Williams in the process.
Charles Jay, a long-time sports columnist and handicapper, enjoys helping people pick sports winners at http://totalactionextra.com If you are in need of top-quality sports information, from an insider’s perspective, come and check out what’s available at http://totalactionextra.com