What is it about Europe that tends to overhype teenage prodigies? Ricky Rubio reportedly inked a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday that’ll have the Spanish 20-year-old playing in the NBA next year. Rubio first played professionally at the age of 14 and was long hailed as the first truly great European point guard, with NBA size and sufficient skills to make it in America.
Rubio put it all together in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he dazzled NBA scouts with impressive maturity and ball control. He was so impressive that the Timberwolves made him the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft despite the very real possibility that the kid would stay in Europe.
And stay he did. He may be regretting that decision, as his stock has slipped considerably since the time he was drafted. He managed an unimpressive 6.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in the Euroleague this year while playing 22 minutes per game. This led journalists to ask if Rubio was already over the hill.
So with his stock sliding, an NBA lockout possibly on the way (and a possible change in the rookie salary scale), and a potential-filled Timberwolves team, Rubio was backed into a corner and really had to make this deal now. A lot of old-guard NBA analysts will be rubbing their hands together, waiting for a lackluster, unprepared kid to fail on the biggest sports stage in the world. A Rubio disappointment will “prove” to the old guard the softness of Euros and the folly of drafting on potential.
Many people still think that Rubio has the tools to succeed in the NBA. Now we’ll finally get to see if he can.