Worth The Wait

Ricky Rubio. The name evokes debate on the local, national, and even global sports scene. Rubio has finally reached a decision on his immediate future 68 days after the Wolves used the fifth overall pick on the point guard from Spain. His current team, DKV Joventut accepted a $5 million buyout from Barcelona. Minnesota can negotiate a more reasonable deal with Barcelona in two years to bring the Spanish Sensation to the Twin Cities.

"The NBA is the best basketball league in the world, by far. As an 18-year-old man, Ricky would have been challenged on a nightly basis to a degree he has never experienced. In order for Ricky to meet this challenge fully, I believe it is important that his family and other people important to him were comfortable with the move to the NBA and fully supportive," president of basketball of operations David Kahn said in a statement on Tuesday.

"I also agreed with Ricky´s position that two more years of competition in Spain and the Euroleague will only aid his development and that he will be much more ready for the NBA when he joins us."

Kahn understood the inherited risk of drafting the highly touted Rubio in the draft this year. Unlike any player with a contract outside of the NBA, Rubio was handcuffed by a hefty buyout clause. Fans need to focus on one number when reacting to the news on Tuesday morning: 18. Rubio is only 18 years old and will now have time to develop his game, body, and mind on another team's dollar.

On a day that Wolves' fans may feel spurned as the ink dries on Rubio's new contract with FC Barcelona, a quick glance at history proves that the Rubio-situation is not uncommon in the NBA.

In 1999, San Antonio drafted Manu Ginobili but the 22-year old returned to Italy for three years before sliding on the black and silver jersey. Ginobili instantly established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the league while helping San Antonio win three NBA championships. Was three years worth the wait? Ginobili has averaged 15.5 points in seven years for the Spurs. The impact of the left-handed shooting guard is far greater than the listed season averages. San Antonio is a completely different squad with Ginobili in the lineup and one could argue he is the final piece of the championship puzzle.

Top Players Who Did Not Play The Year Drafted
Player
Drafted
Debut
Wait
Larry Bird
1978
1979
1 year
Drazen Petrovic
1986
1989
3 years
Arvydas Sabonis
1986
1995
9 years
David Robinson
1987
1989
2 years
Toni Kukoc
1990
1993
3 years
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
1996
1997
1 year
Peja Stojakovic
1996
1998
2 years
Manu Ginobili
1999
2002
3 years
Andrei Kirilenko
1999
2001
2 years
Remember the Chicago Bulls dominant run in the mid 90s? Chicago stomped over the competition to capture three championships and the best record in league history with a 72-10 record in 1995-96. Toni Kukoc played a significant role as the third leading scorer for the Bulls along side Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. Chicago drafted Kukoc in 1990 and then waited three years before he landed in the Windy City on the heels of Jordan's first retirement.

What about U.S. born players?

The Celtics faced a 1-year delay for Larry Bird, who was selected sixth overall in 1978. Bird decided to suit up for Indiana State in his senior season and officially signed with Boston the following year. As one of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood floor, Bird led the Celtics to three titles in five NBA Finals appearances.

The Spurs were forced to wait two years for David Robinson due to his responsibilities with the U.S. Naval Academy. The "Admiral" redefined the center position and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year after an incredible 14 seasons in the league, which included two championships in San Antonio.

Rubio will have to put together a remarkable career to earn comparisons to these talented individuals. The two years he will spend overseas is essential to his overall growth as a basketball player. Most people would agree the jump from 18 to 20 makes a big difference in maturity level as well.

"The reason leading me to take this next step is to have a period of preparation to better take the challenge of the NBA in better conditions as a player. The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to be my first option and I wish to play with them in the near future," Rubio said in a statement to the media on Tuesday.

The Wolves will reassess Rubio in two years with the hope that he gains strength in his upper body, develops a consistent outside jumper, and builds confidence to play against top-level NBA talent in 2011. For now, fans will watch from afar as the shaggy-haired kid becomes a man while providing endless highlights through YouTube. It's hard to remain patient but assuming Rubio delivers on the hype -- he will be worth the wait.
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