Ricky Rubio is starting to get ricky-diculous ricky-gnition thanks to his extended minutes in the Olympics.
Here's a recent profile from Pete Thamel in the New York Times.
"He doesn't play like a European," said Jim Boeheim, the head coach at Syracuse University and an assistant with Team U.S.A. "He plays like an American."
N.B.A. scouts and executives are not permitted to talk publicly about Rubio because he is not yet eligible for the draft. But an informal polling of three N.B.A. front office people yielded a consensus that he would be a top-five pick whenever he decided to come to America. What has impressed N.B.A. scouts is Rubio's defensive ability. He has long arms, quick feet and the strength to defend N.B.A. guards immediately, something that few American college players are ready to do.
"He's got the quickest hands that I've ever seen," one Eastern Conference executive said. "And the fact that he plays on the Spanish national team as a senior in high school shows the confidence that he brings to the table."
Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff chimes in:
But it's his defense that had me ready to offer Rubio a contract. You don't usually find defensive precociousness in young guards with show in their games.
He saved Spain's bacon in pool play against China, helping lead his team from 15 points down and somehow prising the ball on a crucial possession from China guard Liu Wei at the end of regulation. It's a sequence I'm still trying to sort out on the QuickTime Player of my brain.
The hoops cognoscenti are still trying to settle on the best "plays like" analogies. Pete Maravich is probably too easy -- too reflective of who he looks like. On defense, think Walt Frazier. On offense, Steve Nash. Or -- if he continues to grow from his current 6-foot-4 -- Magic Johnson, only with Stacey Augmon-ite tendencies.
A look from the San Jose Mercury-News' Ann Killion.
Rubio had four turnovers, eight points, three assists, three steals and three rebounds in 18-plus minutes. More than a decade younger than most of his Spanish teammates, Rubio also made plenty of no-look passes, bounce passes and an up-top pass to Pau Gasol for a dunk.
"I was nothing compared to him when I was 17," Gasol said earlier this month. Gasol was drafted when he was 20. "His maturity and confidence level is extremely high for his age."
Rubio looked as comfortable in the highest level of international play as most 17-year-olds look sitting on the couch watching UFC.
The best ESPN profile of Rubio is probably this one from ESPN the Magazine's Chad Nielsen.
The kid never spoke after games nor gave one-on-one interviews; neither his club nor his parents allowed it. The Rubios turned down million-euro endorsement deals to keep their superstar son's life as regular as possible. And scouts kept quiet about the Spanish Pistol Pete Maravich to avoid the NBA's hefty fine for commenting on underage prospects. Rubio lives in a bubble, but it is decidedly about to burst. As soon as the 2008 NBA draft ended, Ricky Rubio officially became one of the hottest prospects for 2009.
The best look at Rubio is probably this one from awhile back by Slam's Lang Whitaker.
Mr. Whitaker also checked in with this update after yesterday's Spain vs. USA game.
5. I've listened with interest the last year as Blazers fans have drooled over Rudy Fernandez. I saw him play in person last year when I saw Ricky Rubio play in Spain, and while he was talented, I didn't see him as the next Michael Jordan or anything, like some Blazers fans have pegged him. He's all arms and legs, really athletic, but he's also kind of wild. He finished today with 8 points, 4 boards and 3 assists, but I'm very curious as to how he'll fit into the halfcourt NBA game. I do know he looks like Brody from "The Hills."
6. Today was probably the first time many of you had a chance to see Ricky Rubio play. As you know, I've been driving the Ricky Rubio express for a while now. A couple of people at work on Friday told me they were excited to see what Ricky could do, and I tried to keep reminding them that he's still just 17 years old. That said, I thought he acquitted himself very well against Team USA. He played 18 minutes, scored 8 points, went to the line 6 times, had 3 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals. (He also was credited with 4 turnovers, although at least one of those was an alley-oop that Pau Gasol forgot to jump for.)
Ricky's a stat stuffer, a guy who can do a lot of things well. I thought he did a nice job controlling tempo for Spain and running their offense. He completed a couple of great passes, including a one-handed alley-oop off the dribble to Rudy Fernandez in the halfcourt offense. Ricky still needs to muscle up and improve his jumper, but for a 17 year old playing for the first time against the best team in the world, against guys he has posters of up on his walls, I'm not sure what more you can ask for.
(Oh, and for everyone who said Deron Williams would totally eat him up, Deron Williams fouled out. I'm just saying...)
All of this begs an obvious and kind of cheap question for us Blazers fans: Ricky or Rudy?
- A complete, active offensive game.
- Will be able to spell Brandon for stretches immediately and could develop into a Ginobili-style championship role player.
- "Rudy Mania" is already a reality.
- Is 23.
- Coming to Portland in a matter of weeks.
- Has good size, solid d, and pretty much fills all criteria for the ideal PG.
- Long-term, he would fill our biggest roster need.
- When all is said and done, he could be the Yao Ming of Europe.
- Is 17.
- Won't be coming to the NBA until next season.
You, Blazers fan, get one of these two. If you take Rudy, he's on your team today. If you take Ricky, you've got to wait a year. Who you got?
I got Ricky.
-- Ben (email@example.com)