Ricky Rubio’s never gonna turn into the player he was supposed to be, and that makes him the perfect fit in Phoenix.
The Suns quickly addressed their biggest need at the onset of free agency, signing Ricky Rubio to a three-year, $51 million contract.
Rubio will start his ninth season in the NBA on his third team. It’s been quite the journey for the Spaniard, who doesn’t turn 29 until October. A baby-faced Rubio set basketball imaginations ablaze when, at 14-years old, he became the youngest to ever play in the Liga ACB then won the league’s Most Spectacular Player award as a 19-year old.
As so often happens with foreign prospects, their intrigue grows through mystery and myth. A few drool-worthy box scores or through-the-grapevine scouting reports spread like high school sex gossip and build exponentially with each passing of the rumor. By the time the Timberwolves imported him, the only legend bigger than his in Minnesota was Paul Bunyan’s.
Rubio’s playmaking flair, scoring and telekinetic passing ability conjured delusions of Catalonian Pete Maravich. Maybe those expectations were unfair to begin with. Maybe coming into non-ideal basketball situations pulled down his ceiling. Whatever happened on that trip across the Atlantic and near-decade since, a now-bearded and hardened Rubio’s never gonna turn into the player he was supposed to be — and that makes him the perfect fit with Phoenix.
Rubio, almost unselfish to a fault, doesn’t take a ton of shots. As a career 38.8% shooter, he knows his limitations and defers. For a championship contender, this profile of a starting point guard would be problematic. For an adolescent team like the Suns, he represents the ideal table-setter — someone who will stabilize an unsteady position and help develop their abundant youth.
Phoenix rode a carousel of meh at point guard over the past two seasons. In that time, starters included guys like Isaiah Canaan, Josh Gray, Shaq Harrison and Mike James.
The Suns’ lottery talents keep coming up short. One wonders how much of that stalled development hinges on lack of a consistent point guard to make them better. The franchise’s top priorities should be nurturing the growth of DeAndre Ayton, Josh Jackson and 2019 draft pick Cam Johnson.
Phoenix already has the face of the team in Devin Booker, but he’s hardly a complete star. Fortunately, Rubio’s strengths dovetail with Booker’s weaknesses. While Booker is fun and can light up a scoreboard, he’s not the type of player making others better and his defense is, um, lacking.
According to Defensive Player Impact Plus-Minus, Booker ranked LAST IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE this past season, per BBall Index. While Rubio’s overall rank of 92nd and 14th among point guards don’t exactly stand out, they’re at least positive.
Suns fans should find solace in this signing. Rubio won’t magically catapult them into the playoffs, but he’ll provide the foundational elements to winning basketball they’ve lacked ever since the Seven Seconds or Less circus left town. And maybe, just maybe, coming out to the desert will rekindle those flashes of a Catalon Pistol Pete.