Rubio 2014 Resolution? Shoot More, Shoot Better

VIDEO: Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio reaches an assist milestone

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Hitting the new year a game below .500, the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16) know the work facing them in 2014 dwarfs whatever they accomplished in 2013. Father Time hasn’t been kind in recent seasons to that franchise, and that New Year’s Baby will get whiny awfully quick unless the Wolves get busy and get better, fast.

The same goes for their point guard, Ricky Rubio.

Like his team, Rubio still gets talked of more for his potential than his production or overall play. In fact, the plateau onto which Minnesota appears to have settled owes much to the Spanish plain on which Rubio’s game rests these days. Were he playing better – specifically, posing more of a scoring threat to the opponents that are loading up on Kevin Love and Kevin Martin – the Wolves would be, too.

It’s disappointing enough that Rubio’s offensive game hasn’t grown. What’s worse is that it seems to be regressing. After making a mere 35.9 percent of his field goal attempts in his first two (partial) seasons, Rubio is shooting 34.5 percent in 2013-14. His 3-point accuracy (33.9) is about where it was as a rookie (34.0), after last season’s 29.3. But that means his 2-point prowess (34.7) is in decline.

And here’s the worst part: Rubio appears to be shying away from the very thing he needs to improve. As a rookie, he put up 9.5 shots per game. That dipped to 9.0 after he returned to the court in December 2012 following his ACL/LCL knee rehab. Now? The 6-foot-4 playmaker is averaging 8.1 FGAs, including just 17 in his last four games prior to Wednesday’s contest vs. New Orleans. (Per 36 minutes, the drop is greater: from 10.9 last season to 9.1.)

Look, most of us tend to avoid things we’re not good at or confident about. But this cries out for some sort of resolution for Rubio and the Wolves, maybe an intervention. It’s an impediment to his game individually and it’s a missing link in their attack.

Historically so, actually. Get a load of the NBA’s worst shooters of the past 37 years. Is it merely a coincidence that five of the 10 biggest rim-denters, per basketball-reference.com, played for the Wolves (Rubio, Keith McLeod, Eddie Griffin, A.J. Price, Darrick Martin)? Probably, sure. Then again, Martin was Minnesota’s player-development coach for a couple recent seasons.

The Wolves still cite Rubio’s knee injury in March 2012 for the hiccup in his improvement. He has played only 129 games in parts of three seasons.

“I think physically he’s OK. It’s just trying to get a feel for the game,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said last weekend. “He’s a young player who’s figuring out how to be effective in this league. People talk about how he’s not scoring and he’s ‘not doing this.’ But he’s in the top five in assists and in the top five in steals. Y’know, you’ve got to give him some time to get into the other things. It’s just going to take him a little bit longer, I think, because of the layoff at the end of the first year and the start of the second year.”

Adelman knows there is much work to be done. In the summer for Rubio, before and after practices, even in games. Assuming the coach is OK with some on-the-job shooting work.

“Definitely, any guard in this league, you’ve got to be able to knock down shots,” Adelman said. “If he can start knocking down shots from 15 or 17 feet… He’s actually shooting the ‘three’ better than he did last year but he’s got to be able to make that mid-range shot.”

Rubio’s ability to see teammates and make highlight passes ranks near the top in the NBA. But he admits he hasn’t been as aggressive as he needs to be in seeking his scoring chances.

“It’s something that I’ve been working on my whole career,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not. But it’s something that I have to keep my confidence up. Maybe it’s bad because I’m thinking more, as a point guard, to pass first and then my shot is the last thing I think of. It’s something that I have to do better and I’m trying to do that.”

In the chicken-or-egg dilemma between shooting better-and-shooting more vs. shooting more-and-shooting better, teammate Corey Brewer is a believer in the latter. Brewer’s no Kevin Durant but in his first three NBA seasons, he took 8.2 shots per game and made 40.8 percent. Since then, he’s attempting 9.7 and hitting 42.9 percent.

“You start learning how you can score and how you can’t score,” Brewer said. “Especially him, with the ball in his hands, it’s going to make him that much better.”

Rubio won’t turn 24 until October. He has time. But his PER of 15.0 means he’s merely average these days, not the franchise guy for whom Minnesota might have been reserving that special fifth year in a contract extension.

And just as the Wolves aren’t content with being League Pass darlings anymore – entertaining across 82 but done when the networks take over in the postseason – Rubio can’t be satisfied by the highlights he logs on NBA arenas’ videoboards. The points he puts next to them, on the scoreboard, matter too.

21 Comments

  1. patrickmarc says:

    Rubio can make 200 steals in a season.
    He is so fast with his hands.

    He is able to score 30, but Love and Pekovic are doing it perfectly.

  2. jdub455 says:

    ricky, spend more time in the gym man!! start with the midrange jumpshots! you would be up there with the best if only you had an effective perimeter game. not only would it help your game, but also on how the other team defends you guys,,, its up to you my man… help Mr. Love! =)

  3. Lushie says:

    Ricky need to improve his shooting to become a big threat from the outside. Once he established that he can be more and more effective with setting up plays and creating spacing for his teamates. This does not guarantee a better winning % though as their problem is more than his shooting.

  4. Gauloises says:

    Ricky almost got a trip dub + 3 steals and 2 blocks last game (Vs New Orleans Backcourt), in 32 mins of playing time, but still this author feels the need to point out a rather obvious fact, like Ricky’s shooting.
    I think it’s amazing that he still gets 14 pts with his flawed shot at the moment, that only means (in my humble opinion) that once his shooting gets better, he could become an amazing all-round player.
    He’s like what, 23? Give him some props instead of these kinds of articles.
    I think there are a lot of players that should/could be working A LOT harder on their shot, not to mention free throws, so why not call out on all of them.
    I’m not a Minnesota fan, but I think they can be a great team with Klove killing it, even in this tough Western conference.

  5. CoachingGnome says:

    The thing with Ricky is, that he would perfrom practically the same stats on a different team (better or worse, doesn’t matter).
    He’s no scorer, but a very skilled, pure Point Guard. Making plays so that other players can score more easily is his absolute strength. I call it a “glue player”.
    Averaging 8.9PPG; 8.3APG; 4.7RPG and 2.8SPG is very all-round (not a Sixth Man, come on jake s.).
    His shooting is lacking, true, and it’s a working point for him to become a major Point Guard in the NBA.
    But the problem with the Wolves, as was pointed out by other people here, isn’t Ricky’s shooting, It’s the roster that is not balanced enough to support a .600 or higher ambition (if they want to aim for a Playoff spot).

  6. wolvesatm9 says:

    Some people here have no idea about basketball! Of course Ricky needs to improve his shot, but there is no way that anybody says that JJ Barea is better than him, he is going to prove to all the haters how wrong they are. This kid is going to be an All-Star, you´ll see

  7. J4CK Nicholson says:

    Time to recruit Pau Gasol, he’ll be a big lift and show Love the way.

  8. jake s. says:

    Traditionally, the Spanish players coming into the NBA are phenomenal. I wish i could say the same about Rick. He is a Sixman.

    • Bomba says:

      Slow down, look at Calderon´s shooting stats in his firts seasons and at same age that Rubio. Calderon was a poor shooter. Now is one of the best in the league. He was a horrible freethrow shooter and now is a recordman at the line.
      Rubio is more talented than Calderon and when he can threat with hs shooting he will be a top five guard.

  9. RR9fan says:

    dustydreamnz! his not weak link in the line up he actually makes more plays on the fastbreak that is why they trade ridnour because rubio can set plays, and that is why pek and love can score inside and outside on the court..

  10. OKC says:

    The sad part is the same year you drafted him you drafted Ty Lawson at 18th and traded the rights to him on draft night.

    • Bigmatta23 says:

      NO! The sad part is the same year they drafted Rubio…Golden State took Curry two spots later.!

  11. v says:

    It seems like the author of this article knows nothing about basketball. The problem of the wolves this season is not Rubio´s shooting, the main problems of the wolves are their lack of defense in the paint, their inability to win close games and their unproductive bench.
    Rubio needs to improve his game, there is no question about that, but him taking more shots per game is not something that would benefit his team.

  12. dustydreamnz says:

    I rate the Wolves a bit but Rubio is the weak link, they’d be better off starting with JJ Barea.

  13. Bob Slydell says:

    Being a lifelong Timberwolves fan is tough.

  14. jimmy says:

    rubio needs to stop answering on kevin love’s dial a love hotline and needs to shoot more!

  15. jim says:

    He’s my favorite player to dislike, after collapsing on Curry’s extended leg.

    Bottom line he’s never worked on finishing or fixed his shot. He came from Spain fully-formed and doesn’t have the will to improve. When you think about it it’s mildly reprehensible.

  16. AK says:

    What happened to Ricky Rubio? Nothing, he always was like that. Euroleague, NT, NBA same Ricky.

  17. okc2014 says:

    What happened to Ricky Rubio?

    • Brazil says:

      He could never shoot accually… so much talented tho

    • JeSuns says:

      Same as in Spain. It’s all about confidence and being agressive.
      He started to dazzle us when he was between 14 and 16, then he went down.
      He started good at your league, now he’s coming down.
      This kid needs to believe he is a truly leader or he will end up back in Spain being a regular point guard.