"Rubio can pass that rock!" tweeted LeBron James during the rookie's NBA debut. With the Miami Heat off for the night, LeBron was sure to keep an eye on Ricky Rubio's highly anticipated first game, just like many other basketball fans.
After being drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA draft, questions have swirled around the Spaniard. Is he too slow for the NBA? Can he play defense? Will he be able to handle the pressure? Rubio has quickly silenced the doubters in his first handful of games and proves to be a great point guard in the league for many years to come.
Here are five things that young point guards can learn from Rubio:
He Digs In On D
Point guards are the first line of defense for a team. Tough ball pressure on the opposing point guard makes it hard for an offense to flow efficiently.
BasketballValue shows us that when Rubio is on the court, his team gives up fewer points per possessions than when he is off the court. The difference is big enough to demonstrate that Rubio has an impact on the defensive end.
Work on your perimeter defense.
He's Always Aware of the Other Players on the Court
On the other end of the floor, Rubio has great court awareness. His brilliant passing ability tells us that he knows where all nine players are on the court at all times. By keeping his head up when he dribbles and constantly analyzing the court, Rubio is among the league leaders in assists. No one really has eyes in the back of their heads, but Rubio is close.
Work on your passing skills.
He's Ready to Pass at All Times
Rubio can throw any type of pass—bounce pass, chest pass, lob pass, skip pass, over-the-head, and no-look—within a split second. The NBA is a quick league and passing lanes are only open for a small window of time. When Rubio sees the opportunity, he is always there to put the pass on the money.
One way he does this is by using his dribbles efficiently. With all his flair as a ball-handler, Rubio rarely dribbles behind the back or between his legs unnecessarily. That way, he's always in a position to see and hit a teammate for a nice pass.
He Dribbles to Create Openings for Teammates.
This falls under the same trait: Rubio uses his dribbles as effectively as anyone in the NBA. Rubio magically makes shots appear for his teammates throughout the course of the game. How does he do it? The 21-year-old point guard thinks a few moves ahead and uses that to his advantage.
For instance, Rubio will dribble at a defender in order to pull him away from the man he is guarding. When Rubio gets the defender to commit to him with even a half-step, the pass is made. See the video below:
He Makes His Teammates Better
With this magical ability to see the floor and pass the ball, Rubio has already made his new Timberwolves teammates better.
To prove it, what does Kevin Love have to say? "This is the first time in my career, at least in the NBA that I've played with a pass-first point guard -- and a guy that makes scoring passes," Love told NBA.com. "For me to be on a team like that, it's only going to make me more effective and the guys around me more effective. We're going to win a lot of ballgames with him on the team."
Although Rubio is only beginning his NBA career, he's already turning heads of defenders, analysts, and fans around the world.
If you've seen Ricky Rubio play this year, are you impressed?