Was Ricky Rubio's Opening Night a Sign of Things to Come?
The 2015-16 season couldn't have started much better for Ricky Rubio. 28 points, 10 of 17 from the field, 2 of 4 from three-point range, 14 assists, and a comeback win on the road over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rubio has always been a good facilitator, averaging 8.2 assists for his career, so the 14 assists weren't completely out of line, but his shooting numbers were completely out of character for him.
Rubio is a career 36.9% shooter, a percentage which dips to 31.6% beyond the arc. Can we simply chalk this shooting night as a one-game outlier? Maybe so, but if this game is a harbinger, and he can make significant improvement this season in the shooting department, Rubio will vault to elite status among fantasy point guards.
A Closer Look at Rubio's Debut
Just how good was opening night for Rubio? Based on our nERD scores, which indicate how many wins above or below .500 a completely average team would expect to finish after 82 games with a given player as a starter, Rubio registered an 18.7, which ranks fourth among all guards for the first two days of the season.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Rubio had a Usage Rate of 29.5% and assisted on a whopping 91.3% of his teammates' field goals while he was on the floor. Besides the gaudy assist numbers, Rubio also led the Timberwolves in points, field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts, free throws made, and three pointers made. All of this while committing only one turnover. In short, he did everything but fly the team plane back to Minnesota.
Can the Shooting Continue?
Four seasons of statistics lead us to the conclusion that Rubio isn't going to be mistaken for Stephen Curry anytime soon when it comes to outside shooting. We should be at least entertain the possibility that the opener indicates that Rubio may be at least be a more willing shooter. Only two times in his career has Rubio attempted more than the 17 field goals he attempted on Wednesday, and for what it's worth, he has been working extensively with shooting guru Mike Penberthy.
We should keep in mind that Rubio's performance on Wednesday came against the Lakers, a team that allowed its opponents to shoot 51.8% from the field last season, second worst in the NBA, and also gave up the second-most points per game to the opposition in 2014-15. He'll face stiffer defensive tests in, well, just about every game from here on out.
The Arrow Is Pointing Up
Even though it seems as if Rubio has been in the league forever, he's still only 25 years old, and in his fifth season. He's had trouble staying healthy throughout his short career, only playing in 22 games last season, and just 41 in his rookie season. In terms of total games played, he's only played two and a half seasons (204 regular season games, and nary a playoff game).
So before we dismiss Wednesday's performance as nothing more than a player getting hot, consider that Rubio is young enough that his game still has opportunity to grow.
Our preseason projections for Rubio were 12.7 points per game, 8.4 assists per game, and a field goal percentage of 39%, a little higher than his career average to date. We ranked him as the 30th guard overall in fantasy formats.
If Rubio can continue to show improvements in the shooting and field goal percentage departments, he has a real shot at blowing those projections away and being a boon for his fantasy owners and a high-upside play for those playing daily fantasy basketball.