Two years after the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted him fifth overall, it appears Ricky Rubio is headed for the NBA. Now comes the more important question: Can Rubio play? Precocious talent made Rubio a lottery pick, but his disappointing 2010-11 campaign for FC Barcelona renewed doubts about Rubio's unique skill set.
While Rubio may be a mystery to most American fans, he already has a long track record of performance as a professional in Europe. In "Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11," we found that the Euroleague ranks second only to the NBA in terms of level of play -- higher than even the toughest NCAA competition.
The same method used to compare leagues serves as the foundation for translating Euroleague statistics to their NBA equivalents, a method very similar to the one used by ESPN Insider's John Hollinger in the past. Based on the track record of nearly 50 players who have crossed the pond in both directions, we know that players coming from the Euroleague to the NBA tend to see their steal rates and usage decline dramatically. But because of stingy European scorers (or their generous American counterparts), they actually tend to increase their assists.
Combining Rubio's translated performance the past two seasons with the average development of players at the same age, and assuming he plays the same 30.4 minutes per game that Timberwolves starter Luke Ridnour played last season, Rubio projects to have the following stat line: