If Pistol Pete Maravich fathered a Spanish son it could possibly be Ricky Rubio. That's my take after watching Rubio perform on the NBA stage so far this season.
He's averaging just over 9 points, 7 assists, and about 4 rebounds per game heading into tonight's match-up between his Minnesota Timberwolves and your Cleveland Cavaliers, but more than that he's just been simply wizard-like in his ability to handle the basketball so far on the NBA level. A mesmerizing NBA ball-handler was another way I was going to describe him before I decided to go with wizard-like.
I shouldn't be surprised about this, but admittedly I am. I didn't really think Rubio was going to be all that good for some reason. Maybe it was his initial unwillingness to play here after he was drafted, who knows.
But even after I talked with former Cleveland Cavaliers SG Trajan Langdon about Rubio back in June of 2010 and he told me Rubio would be good, I was still skeptical. Trajan was right though.
Playing for CSKA Moscow, Langdon had competed against Rubio in the Euroleague each season that Ricky played for Barcelona since he was 16-years old. I think he would've probably had a better idea than I did.
Below is that exchange from a SLAM Q + A we did about a year and a half ago:
SLAM: You mentioned that Barcelona team from this year, after competing against Ricky Rubio recently, how do you think he’d do in the NBA?
Trajan Langdon: We played against them three years ago when he was 16, and now playing against him at 19 I think he’s made strides as a player. I think just being 19, its amazing the poise he has on the floor.
Playing at such a level, with such good players, he’s able to run the show, he doesn’t force a lot, he has poise, he has composure, and he has an amazing ability to see the floor and make plays.
I think there’s definitely some things, like anybody who’s 19, that he’s going to have to work on in order to play at the next level – in terms of the NBA – but can he play there? Absolutely.
Whether he chooses to or not we’ll see, and how good he’ll be, we’ll see. But in terms of helping a club at that level, there’s nothing even to think about there, definitely he can.
After a lot of back and forth, Rubio eventually did make that decision to join these Timberwolves. They're pretty stoked in Minnesota about it too. Besides performing at a high level himself, Rubio's also probably helped Kevin Love take that step forward from being a good NBA Power Forward to maybe the League's best Power Forward right now too. Seriously, I'm not kidding about Love being arguably the best PF in the NBA right now.
That said, I'm going to come in real early on this debate and say that I still definitely don't think Rubio is better than, or will be better than, Kyrie Irving as a player and / or a point guard. Rubio is just very good in his own right, and specifically special as far as his ball handling and passing are concerned. It's going to be fun to watch these two young PG's on the floor together tonight in Minneapolis though for sure.