Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
After an incredible performance on Monday night that saw him set the franchise-record for most assists in a single game (19), Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio is playing like the team's point guard of the future.
“I'm just glad I was here to watch history, to be a part of it. It was just amazing to see him play out there," Karl-Anthony Towns said, speaking about Rubio's performance against the Washington Wizards Monday night in which the 'Wolves guard added 22 points to go with his franchise-record 19 assists. "It was like watching a movie and you never get to hear the stats you just hear the same person keep making the play and you wonder how many stats you got…Ricky was just throwing dimes. I don’t know in my career if there will be another better time for me to be in foul trouble so I got a front row seat to watch.”
And it wasn't just Monday night's game either. Rubio has been playing the best basketball of his career since trade rumors swirled around him only to see the trade deadline come and pass with Rubio remaining in Minnesota.
In the nine games since the deadline, Rubio is averaging 14.8 points, 11.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals and, more importantly, the Timberwolves are 6-3 in those nine games.
As great as Rubio's stats are, they are leading to wins for Minnesota, something Timberwolves Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said is far more important.
"The best thing about [Rubio playing well] is the winning. You know, the impact that he’s having on winning," Thibodeau said Monday night after team's 119-104 victory over the Wizards, the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. "The individual stuff, I felt the same way about Karl getting recognized for player of the week. It’s a great honor, but it’s the contributions to winning that’s important and when we do that, good things are going to happen.”
One final and important note on Rubio's recent stretch, particularly the last two games, with his 22 point, 19 assist performance Monday night, the Spaniard became just the fourth player this season to notch multiple 20+ point, 15+ assist games this season. The other three players are LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook; that's very impressive company.
With improved play, particularly in the scoring department - the area that many believed would continue to hinder Rubio for the entirety of his career - one must ask, can Ricky Rubio be the future point guard of this Timberwolves franchise after all?
I believe the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
The 20+ point, 15+ assist performances are nice, especially when they lead to wins, but by no means should they become the expectation for the former first-round draft pick.
Rubio is a pass-first point guard with SOME scoring prowess, an ability that has admittedly become dramatically better as the season has progressed, but that's not what makes Rubio great. To find his greatness, one must look at how he runs the offense and how smoothly it flows with him at the helm. One must also look at the players surrounding Rubio.
Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine (when healthy), even Shabazz Muhammad off the bench, are all very ball-dominant players - meaning they thrive when they have the ball - but they are also incredible scorers.
Wiggins is averaging 22.9 points per game, Lavine was averaging 18.9 points before the devastating knee injury cut his season short, and Muhammad is averaging 9.3 points per game. Once you include the team's leading scorer in Towns (maybe you've heard of him) who is averaging 24.5 points per game, you realize that this team would seemingly be most successful with someone who can delegate and spread the ball to all these great scorers.
Rubio is not done developing his game, far from it, but he is playing very well right now and deserves to be recognized for such. Rubio's play of late is arguably better than one could have hoped for when he was originally drafted.
If this is the Rubio that the Timberwolves are going to see on a consistent basis then it's seemingly quite obvious that Rubio is the point guard of the team's future.