Ricky Rubio is destined to be among the great international players such as Darko Milicic, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and Yaroslav Korolev

on 06 15, 2009

With the 3rd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Ricky Rubio, point guard from Spain. If ESPN’s Chad Ford is on point with his NBA Mock Draft, Rubio will be the 3rd player taken off the board come the night of June 25th, following only the surefire 1st overall pick Blake Griffin (unless the Clippers front office has no idea what they’re doing, which wouldn’t be a shocker) and 7’3 Tazmanian center Hasheem Thabeet.

A number of online mock drafts are in concurrence with Ford (insidehoops.com), while the remainder of the online mocks (nbadraft.net, draftexpress.com etc) have the kid from Spain going 4th overall to the Sacramento Kings. If these forecasts are accurate, the PG from professional Spanish basketball team Joventut Badalona will be the first point guard taken in Madison Square Garden on the night of the draft. I smell a bust!

Well, I’m not the only one who anticipates a Ricky Rubio bust. Brandon Jennings, the highly touted PG who forewent college ball (AKA wasn’t smart enough to pass his exams, c’mon, even Derrick Rose did!) to play in the Euroleague, has played against the shaggy-haired Rubio in International ball, and apparently he wasn’t too impressed (Rubio had 0 pts, 3 asts, 3 TOs). Jennings had this to say about the Spanish point guard:

“I think the dude is just all hype. I can’t even front. I’m just going to be real with you guys.”

Although Brandon Jennings hasn’t exactly played like a stud in the Euroleague (7.6 pts, 1.6 asts), I can’t disagree with him. With a draft class that includes players like Rubio, Jennings, Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague and Eric Maynor, there is certainly no shortage of talent at the PG position. Is Rubio really the best out of this group of players? In regards to the depth at the position and the hype surrounding Rubio, Jennings asserted:

“Well, put it like this: If he was in a workout with me [and fellow point-guard prospects] Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Tywon Lawson, Stephen Curry, he wouldn’t probably be at the top” (SI.com)

I couldn’t agree more. Maybe the kid from Spain fears he would get shown up by the other PGs, which would explain why he has yet to work out for any NBA teams. I mean, why wouldn’t a potential lottery pick work out with some teams? Afraid to step away from International ball? Worried he might get shit on by better athletes?

In recent years, the vast majority of International players taken in the Draft Lottery have struggled significantly in the NBA, it’s no secret. Most casual NBA fans have probably never heard of a bulk of these International players taken in recent Lotteries, that’s how big of a bust some of these foreigners have been. To name a few: Saer Sene (10th overall in ‘06), Yaroslav Korolev (12th overall in ‘05), Fran Vasquez (11th overall in ‘05), Darko Milicic (2nd overall in ’03) and Nikoloz Tskitishvili (5th overall in ‘02). The only International player that has truly lived up to the hype is Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.

There is a lucid correlation between International ball players and their failures in the NBA. The NBA is no child’s play, folks. There is a HUGE difference between International basketball and the National Basketball Association. Making the jump to the league is like stepping into a man’s world, and it is a jump that most foreign players can’t make. Don’t be surprised if Rubio is the next International player to fall victim to this.

One of the main reasons Ricky Rubio’s name is atop the draft boards is because NBA scouts have fallen in love with his basketball IQ. His court senses and understanding for the game are especially rare for a teenager. The game comes easy to him, and he is typically one step ahead, mentally. Keyword: mentally.

Despite his exceptional basketball senses, his physical and athletic limitations will prevent him from being a star in the NBA. Rubio has drawn comparisons to Steve Nash, which isn’t a bad assessment given his basketball IQ and comparable physical abilities, but let’s be real; Nash is a rare breed. It’s ridiculous to expect this teenager from Spain to be the next Steve Nash.

Aside from Stephen Curry, the other point guards in this class are extremely athletic, far more athletic than Rubio. However, Curry makes up for his lack of athleticism with his spectacular shooting. He is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen at the collegiate level. The former Davidson star can create his own shot, doesn’t need much room to get a shot off, shoots well in crunch time, and has a very quick release. Unfortunately for Ricky, he doesn’t have a wet jumper like Curry to make up for his inferior athletic ability.

Bottom line is this; drafting Ricky Rubio in the lottery, let alone the top 5, is an enormous gamble. Given the history of recent International players and their inability to translate the foreign game to the NBA, it would be a big roll of the dice (Yao is the only International player that has succeeded recently, pretty bad odds). He has excelled at the International level, but the NBA is filled with too many athletes. His basketball IQ will be annulled by superior physicality and athleticism. The only reason I would draft the kid from Spain ahead of the other PGs is for marketing purposes.

Do you think Ricky Rubio will live up to the hype? (Comment below)