New Ricky, Who Dis?

Mar 30, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) points to a teammate after making a three point shot in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) points to a teammate after making a three point shot in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since the trade deadline passed, Minnesota Timberwolves lead guard Ricky Rubio has improved his numbers more than almost any player at any position in the league

I know that it’s almost playoff time, and all the emphasis is going to be on half the league that will still be alive come April 12th. Let’s let this be the last time we talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves falling short of the playoffs for the next 10 years or so, however.

A huge chunk of the reason why Minnesota’s viewed in a promising light (with a ton of upside for years to come) is because of their two young studs – Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

But, if they can get the Pretty Ricky Rubio, who has showed up for the last 18 games, in 2017-18, the Minnesota Timberwolves could be a serious problem next season.

Right before the trade deadline, Rubio was in midst of serious trade rumors, some of which had him being shipped to the New York Knicks. Perhaps those rumors scared Rubio so much that he decided to ball out the rest of the season?

Do you have a better explanation?

Before the All-Star break, Rubio was averaging a very pedestrian 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. Teams were constantly going underneath ball screens to force Ricky to beat them with his outside shooting, which only went in 28 percent of the time. This also made defenses sag to the middle of the lane, shrinking the court, throwing off spacing, and hurting the chances of Towns being able to create in the paint.

Since the All-Star break, which apparently included a near death experience of being shipped to the Knicks, Rubio has nearly doubled his scoring. In 18 games, he is averaging 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 10.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.

Not only are those numbers eye-poppingly more productive, but his efficiency is also through the roof. Defenses can no longer go underneath high pick and rolls, because he is shooting 41.2 percent from distance. This forces defenses to go over the top of screens which puts the defense in a bind. Ricky’s No. 1 offensive attribute has always been playmaking and with the defender now trailing on his hip, Rubio is able to meander through the lane with much more space. His 2.3 more assists per game bump is a direct correlation to his increased three-point percentage.

Not only is his three-point shooting better, but his overall field goal percentage is up from 38 percent to 44.7 percent. Watching him night-after-night on league pass, he is taking better shots. He looks more comfortable running the pick-and-roll, and pulling up to hit a mid-range jumper when the big switch sags off too far.

If you take Ricky’s numbers from the last 18 games after the All-Star break and stack them up against the league averages, it’s a totally different monster at PG for Minnesota. He would be 14th in the league in three-point percentage ahead of Bradley Beal (40.7%) and Steph Curry (40.4%). He would be tied with Isaiah Thomas in free throw percentage and 3rd in the league shooting 91 percent.

Him and John Wall (5th in MVP voting) would be tied throwing the 2nd most dimes per game in the entire NBA (10.7). Ricky would sit content at 9th in the entire league in steals per game while being a top 50 scorer, averaging more points than Nikola Jokic, Victor Oladipo, and Eric Gordon.

Must Read: NBA Draft Prospects That Saw Their Stock Soar In The NCAA Tournament

Although this recent takeover is too little too late, this very well could be the last time the Minnesota Timberwolves fall short of the playoffs. Post-All-Star Break Ricky Rubio is yet another bright spot in the future of Minnesota basketball.