Is Rubio worth the risk for the Thunder?

Monday, June 15th 2009, 12:15 pm
By: News 9

Just how good is he? Is he athletic enough? Will he fit in with the Big Three? Will he like OKC? Will he be bring a good attitude?  Does he want to come? What do his parents think? Will he even be available with pick three?  Or, is he too big a risk?  Maybe.

Some of those questions and more must be bouncing around the brain of Thunder General Manager Sam Presti.  The June 25 NBA draft looms and time is running out to do the due diligence and to make hard decisions.  Specifically, do you draft point guard Ricky Rubio with your precious third overall pick of the draft? Do you have better options?  Is the risk worth the reward? 

  Ricard "Ricky" Rubio i Vives became the youngest player ever to play in the Spanish ACB League when he was 14 years-old.  He is 6 feet 3 ¾ inches-can't tell you if that's barefoot, in basketball shoes or on stilts, although my money is that no listed heights are legit and taken without shoes.  Rubio is playing point guard for DKV Joventut in the ACB and the ULEB Eurocup. The flashy but not-pure shooting Rubio is regarded by some as the best European guard prospect since Drazen Petrovic.

One quote from a former Eurocup player turned scout:"He's a freak of nature, being so young and being so skilled and also so cool all the time. You can see that he knows what he's doing." The best evaluations I've read have him with an extremely high basketball IQ, great instincts, vision, and understanding of the flow of the game.  The negatives mostly point to his not being on par with the NBA stars athletically and average shooting range.

Predictably, there are non-believers. Brandon Jennings is a 19-year-old point guard draft prospect who played last year against Rubio in Italy. He's completely unimpressed. Even though his comments may be somewhat exaggerated, it has to scare the dickens out of Presti if he's planning to draft Rubio.

After working out recently for the Kings, Jennings was quoted as saying, "Well, put it this way, if he was in a workout with me, Johnny Flynn, Jrue Holliday, Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry, he probably wouldn't be at the top. " Jennings said he played one game against Rubio last season in Italy and said, "when I played against him, he had zero points, two turnovers, and two assists...the only time I've seen him do something is when he'll have a home run pass....I think the dude is all hype...."

Wikipedia's summary reads in part that..."Despite his notability, he has been carefully shielded.  Both his team and the Rubio family agreed not to make him available for interviews until he reached his 18th birthday on October 21, 2008.  Rubio held his first press conference in early June 2008.  During the event, he criticized what he saw as the NBA's emphasis on individual play and blamed poor team play for the recent struggles of the US national team, saying in his native Catalan, "Basketball isn't one-on-one.  It's five-on-five, plus the bench."

Commenting on subjects such as his competitive nature-"If I'm losing, I'm going to do everything possible to win.  I do the same thing on the court"-and how he practiced moves that he saw in videos of Pete Maravich-"If I can do some magic, I do it."

So is Ricky Rubio the guy? Is he all hype? And even if he the guy Presti wants, will he pull the trigger? I kind of hope the answer is yes. But as draft day nears, my gut is beginning to tell the answer will be no. Just too many unanswered questions for a franchise that cannot afford to get it wrong.