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Rubio's Impact On The Wolves Is Real

Todd Barin
Web Editorial Associate
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In Saturday night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Ricky Rubio passed Pooh Richardson for sole possession of second place on the Wolves all-time assists list.

Rubio finished the night with 15 points and 12 assists in only 29 minutes of play to lead the Wolves to their second win in the New Year.

To the average sports fan, statistics mean a lot. People pick up the paper in the morning, look at the box scores and immediately decipher who played well based off of numbers. 

Well, when it comes to dissecting the performance of the 25-year-old point guard from Spain, statistics only tell half the story. Take Saturday’s game for instance. In the second quarter, Rubio tallied 11 points, four assists, four rebounds, two steals and shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Due to Rubio’s performance in his five minutes and 26 seconds of second quarter action, Minnesota went on a 24-8 run and the young Spaniard scored or assisted on 20 of those points. 

“That was so much fun to play in,” Shabazz Muhammad said about the second quarter. “I know it was fun for everybody to watch, too. Ricky running the point, me and Wigs (Andrew Wiggins)… If we do that we will be a really dangerous team. We can both run and we’re both athletic and strong. We can finish in transition. That’s something we’ve been really trying to do. Coach is finally satisfied about that. We have to continue to do that throughout the rest of the season.”

Many fans give Rubio grief for not being a good shooter. Yes, the numbers don’t lie. Rubio has a career 36.4 field-goal percentage and has never averaged more than 11 points per game in a season.

But what if people just accepted that fact and moved on? I know it’s hard to do, but here are a couple of examples as to why the fifth-year point guard is indispensible:

  • When Rubio is on the court compared to off of it, Minnesota scores five more points per game on offense and limits their opposition by a little less than five points per game on defense. Overall, when Rubio is playing, he gives the Timberwolves a 10-point advantage.
  • Rubio is second in the league amongst starters when it comes to Assist Ratio - the percentage of a player's possessions that ends in an assist. At 41.2 percent, only Rajon Rondo (42.6) creates more for his teammates than Rubio does.
  • True Shooting Percentage (TS%) is what a player's shooting percentage would be if we accounted for free throws and 3-pointers. Rubio has the same TS% as Kyrie Irving, and has a better percentage than Derrick Rose,  Rondo, Ty Lawson and Michael Carter-Williams.

“I know it’s frustrating for the fans and certain people to see we keep getting close and don’t always win it, but they’re young,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said after Saturday’s win. “The thing that I’m proud of and the thing that I feel very confident about going forward is that the more opportunities they keep giving themselves to learn how to win, eventually we’re going to learn it.” 

One thing is for sure. Minnesota has the best opportunity to win when Rubio is on the court. Rubio won’t ever be considered a scoring threat and he may miss a few jump-shots here and there, but his defense and playmaking ability make him an irreplaceable piece in solving the Wolves puzzle on how to win.

Tune in tonight at 6:00 p.m. to see Rubio and the Wolves take on the 30-12 Cleveland Cavaliers. 

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