What's wrong with Ricky Rubio

Wolves' point guard can't score, which limits his extraordinary passing skills

Updated: February 1, 2013, 11:22 AM ET
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider
Ricky RubioBrace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireRicky Rubio is a gifted passer, but he must improve his shot to take full advantage of those skills.

Based on some trends going back to last season, there is cause for concern for the Minnesota Timberwolves regarding their injured point guard because right now, Ricky Rubio is probably the worst one in the NBA.

Those are not easy words to write, especially from someone who has admired Rubio's game for years (and who watches tape of Rubio with his 11-year-old son to teach him about vision and passing angles). And without a doubt, any examination of Rubio must mention that the aftereffects of a torn ACL and the subsequent surgery last in a player's mind far longer than the physical problems with the knee.

My brother is board-certified in diagnostic radiology and specializes in musculoskeletal radiology. He reads MRI scans for hundreds of professional athletes every year. He has long told me that from the day of surgery it can take a year for full recovery. And my experience with injured players suggests the final stages are mostly mental. So it is understandable Rubio has struggled so much this season.

But the facts are pretty ugly. As Rubio made his long-awaited NBA debut after starring in Spain for many years, the one thing most talent evaluators watched closely was his jump shot. Tellingly, Rubio's shot disintegrated as the season progressed. In his last 17 games last season, Rubio took 165 shots and missed 114 of them. That's 51 for 165, or 30.1 percent.

In his 17 games this season, he is playing 11 fewer minutes per game. He's taken fewer shots per game, but he's missing even more than he did last year, going 23-for-83 (27.7 percent). In fact, Rubio is in the bottom eight among all NBA players in true shooting percentage at 41 percent, just above rookie bust Austin Rivers and the notoriously poor-shooting Jared Jeffries. No point guard who gets the kind of minutes Rubio does has a worse true shooting percentage. And as we delve further into his problems, we will see they mostly stem from the fact that he is not only a bad shooter and finisher, he is a reluctant one, too.


To read more of what David Thorpe says is wrong with Ricky Rubio, become an Insider today.