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Stop Hating on Ricky Rubio

In a July ESPN survey of 20 NBA coaches, executives, and scouts, the Suns’ signing of Ricky Rubio to a 3-year $51 million contract was voted the worst move of the 2019 offseason, tied with the Knicks’ entire free agency period. To be tied with the Knicks in anything is distressing.

Receiving less votes than the Rubio signing was Charlotte’s acquisition of Terry Rozier for three years and $58 million. Now THAT’S scary, Terry. Rozier infamously claimed he sacrificed his talent playing with the Celtics in the 2018-19 season, and voiced his opinion that he was one of the top point guards in the league. The Hornets bit that hook, and took him in to replace Kemba Walker.

Rubio has long been my #2 “STOP SLEEPING ON HIM” NBA player (major shoutout to my #1 Jrue Holiday <3). He led the league in steal percentage three times (the league really let Rubio steal the ball 4.2 times out of every 100 possessions. Geez.). He dropped a triple-double on Russell Westbrook in the 2018 playoffs. HE WAS THE FIBA WORLD CUP MVP. Rubio is a facilitator of beautiful basketball and the game will lose one of its best artists when he leaves.

The ESPN survey shattered my Rubio-praising heart into a million pieces and left me hoping he would disprove it. And did he ever.

Rubio is 3rd in the league is assists per game and 13th in steals per game. He’s posted a career high FG% and the fewest turnovers per game since his rookie season. He’s also a hundredth of a percentage point off of his career high 3P%, shooting 35.1% from behind the arc (For reference, James Harden is shooting 35.2%. Maybe it’s time for Rubio to start chucking too.).

Looking at $ per WS, or essentially how much a team is paying for each estimated win added by a player, among the Suns’ main six rotation players, Rubio sits ahead of Booker, Ayton, and Oubre, and behind Saric and Bridges, who are both on rookie contracts. And sure, you could make the argument that if the season finished Ayton probably would have ended up with a lower $/WS seeing the tear he’s been on since he started playing. But hey, who took the drugs?

Player $/WS
Mikal Bridges $1,014,878.05
Dario Saric $1,289,624.44
Ricky Rubio $3,948,896.59
Deandre Ayton $3,984,550.00
Kelly Oubre $4,340,277.78
Devin Booker $4,541,666.67

Oh, and compared to Rozier?

Player $/WS
Ricky Rubio $3,948,896.59
Terry Rozier $6,631,579.00

The Suns were significantly better with Rubio on the court than off, as Rubio became the NBA-caliber point guard they had been severely lacking ever since Eric Bledsoe declared, “I Dont wanna be here”. Damn hair salons. Along with Rubio, the only other regular point guards to have positive impacts on/off impacts on their teams’ offensive and defensive ratings: Eric Bledsoe, LeBron James (get over it, he’s a PG), Patrick Beverley, Jamal Murray, Ja Morant, and Lonzo Ball. And yes, I also have no clue how OKC had a better DRTG with Chris Paul off the court.

Player ORTG difference w/ player on court vs. off court DRTG difference w/ player on court vs. off court
Ricky Rubio 6.9 -3.4
Eric Bledsoe 3.9 -1.6
LeBron James 8.1 -3.6
Patrick Beverley 3.3 -2.6
Jamal Murray 5.3 -2.1
Ja Morant 0.8 -1.0
Lonzo Ball 1.3 -2.4

Oh, were you still wondering about Terry Rozier?

Player ORTG difference w/ player on court vs. off court DRTG difference w/ player on court vs. off court
Ricky Rubio 6.9 -3.4
Terry Rozier -0.9 6.7

By adding Rubio and ending the horrid Devin Booker Is A Point Guard Experience (which was a striking transition from the Dragic-Thomas-Bledsoe Let’s Play Three Point Guards Experience, a concept which OKC mastered this season), Booker was finally freed to add a new dimension to his game: playing off the ball. Devin Booker was FREED. Rubio allowed him to curl off screens and make cuts to the basket. The percentage of his shots with the closest defender at least 4+ feet away shot up from 46.8% the previous season to 52.5% this season. Last season, Booker dribbled 7+ times on 23.9% of his field goal attempts. This season? 15.7%. Booker’s FG% from within 5 feet of the basket ballooned from 60.9% to 69.0%. Rubio has opened up Booker’s game in a way that the front office could have only dreamed of.

The $51 million signing has proved to be a large win for the Suns, even if the results aren’t showing up in the win column. At times Rubio has looked like their most valuable player, especially with his impact being on both ends of the floor. Rubio may not play a part in the future of the organization, but they have him for two more seasons to facilitate the offence for Booker and Ayton until they acquire a younger talent to join them.

And thank Christ they didn’t sign Terry Rozier.

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