Ricky Rubio has finally agreed to join the Minnesota Timberwolves. I, for one, am excited. In fact, I guarantee if there is basketball next season I will be making the trip to the Cities just to watch Rubio play. And I’m not sure there’s another player for whom I would do the same.
To me, the most exciting and entertaining NBA players are ball-handling and passing wizards. Most fans, I know, favor the dunkers, the throwdown artists. But to me the dunk has basically played itself out. How many times can you watch the same basic ESPN standard flush. I think I’ve seen the cradle dunk about 4 million times. Admittedly, it was sweet the first time I saw it, but after about 1.5 million, it gets boring.
Of course, the problem for teams employing such players is that their high risk play is not generally conducive to winning basketball. For every sweet behind the head pass that works, or underhanded halfcourt bouncer that produces a layup, six similar moves produce nothing but unnecessary turnovers.
So there’s a downside. Nevertheless, I believe I am higher on Ricky Rubio than others. Others tend to focus on his low shooting percentage and turnovers. Yes, those will hamper him. But he is an outstanding rebounder (as he showed against Team USA in the Olympic Gold Medal Game), and an assist and steal machine.
Using Jon Nichols Euro stat conversion system, and adjusting it according to my own observations, I project Rubio will produce a Win Score per 48 average of something like 6.48. That would be slightly below the average point guard, but if Rubio plays shooting guard, as I expect, that is slightly above average.
The problem will be defense. The reports out of Europe suggest he’s a bit skittish on the defensive end. The larger concern is the Timberwolf defensive system run by Coach Kurt Rambis. Its horrible. Therefore I cannot find compelling evidence that would allow me to conclude Rubio would be anymore successful than the average Timberwolf guard, which would place his defensive Win Score somewhere around 8.89.
That would make his Marginal Win Score somewhere in the neighborhood of -1.22, which corresponds with a winning percentage of 0.295%.
That sounds bad, but its a definite upgrade over what they have been getting in their backcourt, and I expect Rubio will improve with time.
At this point the more important thing for the Timberwolves franchise is they have just added a player to their roster who will make them interesting, exciting, and relevant again.
Now, on the other hand, if they are serious about winning, they must fire Kurt Rambis. That would be step one. His philosophy and system have proven disastrous.