Wolves Twitter has defended their hero, Ricky Rubio, valiantly for years. To go through the on-off metrics and the win-loss record when he’s not playing again would be redundant. But because he is so beloved by the most hardcore fans, they largely go out of their way to never disparage him, because the “other side” (Kevin Lynch, Jim Souhan et. al) consistently brings up his obvious faults while ignoring all the positive things he’s done for the team since he arrived in Minnesota.
It’s time to be real with ourselves now, though; Ricky has mostly been dreadful this year. Of course, it’s been a small sample size and he was hurt for a few games, but his aggregate numbers are down across the board. The worst part is that his defensive rating is sitting at 111, which, if it holds, would be the worst mark of his career. The team’s offensive rating is 2 points worse when he’s in the game and the defensive rating is 5 points worse. Overall, his net rating per 100 possessions is a -2.9 (last season it was +1.1). The team is 2-5 when he’s played, and 2-3 when he sat. Of course, that is largely influenced by the schedule, but the Wolves need Ricky to be a leader and get them through their third quarter woes.
Everyone has been terrible in the third quarter this year, for some inexplicable reason, but Ricky, as the only real vet, needs to be able to get his teammates easy buckets and keep the ship afloat – and, I know this is crazy, maybe even attack the basket once in a while for a layup or to get fouled. He’s never going to be a #ScoringPointGuard and we shouldn’t expect that of him, but he must, at the very least, keep the defense honest. Andrew Harrison was assigned to guard Rubio when he was in the game last night and he largely played those minutes like Draymond Green against Andre Roberson in the Western Conference Finals last year. He was playing center field and making it much harder for anyone else to get something going.
Those are the situations when Ricky needs to assert himself. We’ve seen him make some strong takes to the basket this year and he’s capable of knocking down a wide-open three. We knew that Thibodeau has valued scoring point guards in his past, but thought that maybe Ricky could play a Rondo in Boston style point guard for the Wolves this year, but his -48.2 net rating in the third quarter is unacceptable and by far the worst among the starters (Wiggins is -36, Towns and Dieng are -38, and LaVine is -44).
When Rubio was out, Thibodeau experimented with a little Point Wiggins and Andrew showed off his improved handle and ability to be a play-maker. Ricky is not a useful offensive player without the ball in his hands, so if Thibs continues to trust Wiggins in end-of-game situations, Rubio may play himself onto the trading block for real.
It remains unclear if Rubio would be able to hold his own in a playoff series, but he’s shown the ability to be a solid NBA starter, and that’s what the Wolves need out of him right now, because Kris Dunn has shown that he’s not ready and Tyus Jones looks like he’ll be a fine back-up or spot-starter, but probably never be a full-time starting point guard. It’s time for Ricky to silence the critics, and get back to doing the little things that help this team win.
Thoughts About the Thoughts
Brian: Re Rubio being able to hold his own in a playoff series, I think an equivalent question mark would be if the Wolves could get themselves open enough against the top playoff defenses for four quarters for him to feed them enough times to be effective. Great passes that run into a solid double-team or an unsuccessful pick would go to waste.