Ricky Rubio is a basketball rock star.
At 19 he just led Barcelona to the Euroleague championship Sunday, making some shots but mostly creating for others with natural gifts that have NBA Scouts drooling. He is the best point guard in Europe. Last summer — at 18 — he held his own against America’s best for Spain in the Gold Medal game in the Beijing Olympics.
Rubio was drafted last year by the Timberwolves, but he couldn’t work out an affordable buyout with his old team DKV Joventut (by NBA rule Minnesota couldn’t pay much of it), so he blew off the NBA to play for Barcelona for at least two years.
He told the Star-Tribune that was the right move.
“To be in the Final Four of the Euroleague, this is where I want to be,” said the recipient of the league’s Rising Star Award, given annually to the best young player. “I’ve worked hard to make it to this goal. And this shows me that I chose the best option. I am so happy on this team. These players help me improve every day and so do the assistant coaches and other staff.”
Rubio made the right call.
He will gain more leading a team in Europe’s top league than he would losing 50 games with the Timberwolves. Rubio needed work on his shooting mechanics — European teams practice much more than NBA teams, the quality coaches at Barcelona have spent far more time revamping his shot than Kurt Rambis and team could have.
Plus, the direction Minnesota has chosen with the triangle offense was always a poor fit for Rubio. The offense does not want a strong, playmaking point guard well (think of Phil Jackson’s points through the years: Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, John Paxson). The T-Wolves already ran some non-traditional triangle sets to accommodate Jonny Flynn. Rubio would have blown the thing up.
Still, after next season he has an opt out of his Barcelona contract, and he may well come to the United States. Although that is not a sure thing — Barcelona has deep pockets, while Rubio would have to risk a lockout and receive rookie-scale salary to play in the NBA. Meaning he may well have to take a pay cut for a few years.
Barcelona will fight to keep him, he is a rock star.