Rubio still lacks offensive efficiency

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
4:16
PM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN.com
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David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesRicky Rubio is still suffering from many of the same weaknesses that plagued him last season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night (9 ET on ESPN), and it appears that Ricky Rubio is finally recovered after suffering an ACL tear last March. But that doesn’t mean Rubio’s return has greatly benefited the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves have a 2-8 record since Rubio returned to the starting lineup Jan. 17, but during that span he has posted solid numbers, with at least six assists in all but one start, including 14 assists Monday against Portland (tying a career high). He is averaging 8.1 points, 7.0 assists and 2.7 turnovers per game in those 10 games.

In his past five games, he’s been even better, averaging 11.2 points, 8.0 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game while shooting 46 percent (24 percent in the five games prior).

Although impressive, a deeper look into the numbers shows that Rubio is still suffering from the same weaknesses he had last season.

RUBIO HASN’T SCORED EFFICIENTLY

Rubio ranks last in the NBA in points per play among the 296 players with at least 150 offensive plays this season. He is shooting 32 percent, which also ranks last in that group. Rubio’s lack of scoring efficiency shouldn’t be a surprise, as he finished last in points per play last season among the 176 players with at least 500 plays.

Rubio’s midrange jumper is slightly improved. After shooting 33 percent on midrange shots (2-point shots outside the paint) last season, he’s up to 37 percent this season.

But he is still struggling to score at the rim and from beyond the arc. He is shooting 36 percent in the paint and is 1-for-16 on 3-point attempts this season.

The only player with as many attempts as Rubio and shooting worse from within eight feet this season is Austin Rivers of the Hornets.

Rubio is especially struggling to create his own offense off pick-and-roll plays. He has turned it over on 37 percent of pick-and-roll plays this season when he doesn’t pass the ball, which ranks last among the 113 players with at least 50 plays.

As a result, the Timberwolves have actually been more efficient offensively with Rubio on the bench. Over the past 10 games, they’re scoring seven more points per 100 possessions with Rubio off the court while shooting better and committing fewer turnovers than when he is on the floor.

WHERE RUBIO HELPS

Since he returned to the starting lineup, Rubio has helped the Timberwolves get more easy opportunities near the basket. In the past 10 games, 40 percent of Minnesota’s field goal attempts have come in the restricted area while Rubio is on the court. When he’s off the court, only 28 percent of their shots have been in the restricted area.

Rubio’s size and length also benefits the Timberwolves on the defensive end. With Rubio as a starter this season, Minnesota is allowing five fewer points per 100 possessions and forcing five more turnovers per 48 minutes with Rubio on the floor during that span.

The Timberwolves are playing without Kevin Love, who broke his hand in early January. But with or without Love, the Timberwolves’ success could depend largely on how much Rubio, and Minnesota, addresses his weaknesses moving forward.

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