Why Ricky Rubio could be BETTER than advertized


It's the current fashion to point at failed European players and say - "Look, there is why Ricky Rubio will not be able to contribute."

"They" have trouble integrating their games into the NBA style. "They" take longer to develop than U.S. College players. "They" are more likely to be a bust than a star. "They" come over too young. "They" are too mechanical. "They" are soft. {edit} "They" are all hype. {edit}


Well if the First Law of Tim Duncan states that the more college basketball experience a player has, the more polished his skills are, the more seasoned his character is and the more prepared for NBA success he will be. - - - -

Then the Second Law should state that the more Professional Basketball experience a player has, in the top European Leagues, the more polished his skills will be, the more seasoned his character will be, and the more prepared for NBA success he will be than a college player.

To compare European players, we need to understand that all European Leagues not created equal.

The best Leagues, with the highest level talent are in Spain, Greece and Italy; followed closely by the Russian SuperLeague and the Serbian SuperLeague . Those leagues all contain talented players, and are considered better (talent wise) than the NCAA Division 1 College basketball system. Other Leagues, like Turkey and Lithuania are very good, but not quite at NCAA Division 1 Talent level. Then there's the French League, and followed by (in no particular order) Poland, Croatia, Portugal, Netherlands, UK, etc...

The top division of the Spanish League is called the ACB (Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto). The Spanish league is rated as one of the three "A" level European domestic leagues in the ULEB League Rankings system. The other two top rated Leagues are Italian League A, and the Greek A1 League.

The reason for the EuroLeague lesson is to point out that players in the top divisions in Spain, Italy or Greece are playing against a higher level of talent than players in the NCAA, or other EuroLeague Countries.

Let's discect the the history of international players drafted in the Lottery, since 2003; and then try to compare their experience and talent level to Ricky Rubio. Nearly all the European Lottery picks, except Andris Biedrins, have been considered failures; or at least, have not lived up to expectations; and even Biedrins struggled for a couple of years, before putting it together.


Darko Milicic , 24 Years Old , Drafted in the 1st Round, Pick #2 in 2003 by the Pistons. An 18 year old player, taken with practically NO International experience. He played 2 years in the Serbian League (Serbia is a "B level" European basketball league).
European Awards:
2001 European Cadet Champion
2002 Under-20 World Champion

Mickael Pietrus , 27 Years Old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 11 in 2003 by Warriors. Made his Professional debut at 17 years old, playing for Pau-ORthez in the French Pro-A League (an "A Level" European basketball league). He played 4 years for Pau-Orthez before being drafted at 21 years old by the Golden State Warriors. Pietrus averaged 9.4 points in 24 minutes per game for Orlando last year.
European Awards: None?

Andris Biedrins , 23 Years Old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 11 in 2004 by the Warriors. Started playing Professionally at 16 years old for team BK Skonto in the Latvian Basketball League (LBL). He played 2 years in the LBL before being drafted as an 18 years old by the Warriors in 2004. Incredibly raw when he was drafted at 18 years old, with very little International experience (in a "B" level European basketball league); Biedrins took two years before starting to pay
dividends for the Warriors, and is just now, at 23, rounding into a solid NBA player. Biedrins averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes per game last year.
European Awards: Latvian League Newcomer of the Year.  

Fran Vazquez, 26 Years Old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 11 in 2005 by Magic - Currently plays for FC Barcelona in the ACB division of the Spanish League. Has never played in the NBA. 8 years experience in the EuroLeague and ACB. By the way, if this guy ever comes over to play for Orlando, he will be very good. A long, athletic 6'10" defensive stopper. He's an excellent rebounder and the best shot blocker in Spain. Not much of a shooter; he gets most of his points in transition and in the immediate basket area. He's quick enough to defend the pick-and-roll, and can step out and contest shooters. It appears however, that Vasques would rather be a big fish in a small pond, than swim in the big waters of the NBA.
European Awards: None?

Yaroslav Korolev , 22 Years Old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 12 in 2005 by Clippers - Played 1 year CSKA Moscow in the Russian Super League before being drafted at 18 years old by the Clippers. Played 2 seasons in the NBA for the Clippers and went back to CSKA Moscow after the 2007 season ended.
European Awards: None?

Andrea Bargnani, 23 Years Old , Drafted  Rnd 1, Pick 1 in 2006 by Raptors, Played 3 years for Pallacanestro Treviso in the Italian Serie A League. Bargnani has played 3 years for the NBA Toronto Raptors, averaging 15.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 31 minutes per game last year.
European Awards: Euroleague Rising Star Award 2005–06

Yi Jianlian, 24 years old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 6 in 2007 by Bucks. Played 4 years for Guangdong in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). Very little information is available about the level of talent in the CBA.
European Awards: Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) honor in 2006

Danilo Gallinari, 20 Years Old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 6 in 2008 by Knicks. Started playing for Olimpia Milano in the Italian Serie A League in 2006. Played 2 years in the Italian Serie A League, before being drafted at 19 years old in 2008. Because of back problems, Gallinari only played 28 games for New York his Rookie season, averaging 6.1 points in 15 minutes per game.
European Awards: Italian league All Star Game 3-Point Shootout Champion 2007
    Euroleague Rising Star Award 2007-08


Ricky Rubio , 18 years old , Drafted Rnd 1, Pick 5 in 2009 by Timberwolves. At 14 years old, Rubio started playing for DKV Joventut in the ACB division of the Spanish League (The ACB division is an "A" League European basketball league). Rubio has played 4 years for DKV Joventut, playing as many as 50 games per year (34 in the ACB division, and up to 16 in the EuroCup - compare that to a normal College schedule of 30 games, plus a handful of Conference or NCAA playoff games).
European Awards:     
Won the bronze medal at the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship (2005)
Won the gold medal at the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship (2006)
FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship MVP (2006)
Won 3 Catalan National Leagues (2005, 2007, 2008)
Won the FIBA EuroCup Championship (2006)
Led the Spanish ACB League in steals (2007, 2009)
Won the Spanish ACB League Rising Star Award (2007)
2-Time FIBA European Young Player of the Year (2007, 2008)
Won the Spanish King's Cup (2008)
Won the ULEB Cup Championship (2008)
All-Spanish ACB League Team (2008)
Voted the Spanish ACB League's Best Point Guard (2008)
Mr. Europa European Player of the Year (2008)
Spanish ACB League Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
Named to the 2008 Spanish Olympic Team
Won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics Basketball Tournament


One of the players drafted never even came over to play in the NBA (Vazquez). Some of the International players drafted recently, have had very little (2-years or less) actual Professional experience before they were drafted (Biedrins, Korolev, Milicic, Gallinari). Some of them played in lower level leagues, against inferior talent (Milicic, Biedrins, Yi Jianlian). Bargnani was just drafted too high.. had he been drafted in the 12-14 range, he would be
considered a draft "success".

So, to recap:

Milicic and Korolev - Both have to be considered busts. Both had practically no experience overseas before being drafted.

Mickael Pietrus - He is a rotation player, so I guess he could be considered a mild success. He played 3 years in a "B" Level league.

Andrea Bargnani  - For where he was drafted (#1 overall in 2006) and considering that some players picked after him have had success (Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy, etc..), Bargnani should be considered a disappointment. However, he still has some time to develop, and 15 points and 5 rebounds is NOT terrible. He had 3-years in the Italian League.

Yi Jianlian and Danilo Gallinari - It's too early to tell whether either will be a successful player or not.

Andris Biedrins - He should probably be considered a successful draft pick. Played 3 seasons in the Italian League ("A" level League)

I hope everyone sees that there's a pattern here. Players with more experience, in the tougher European Leagues, tend to be better players in the NBA.


Now let's compare that to Rubio's experience; FOUR years playing in the best league not called the National Basketball Association. He has played more than 135 Professional games. (The average Freshman one-and-done draftee probably played no more than 35 games, TOTAL). He's been named best Point Guard in his League; All-Spanish League (All-Star equivalent); Defensive Player of the Year; Won Championships; Won Tournaments; Won Olympic Silver. He was the youngest player to ever start an Olympic Finals.

Kobe Bryant said "He's played awesome, He alone changed the course of some games."
Chris Paul said  "what he has already done is crazy! He is just 17 years old. I am 23 and have been 3 years in college and then 3 in the NBA to be able to play in the Olympics. He will come to the NBA to steal my job."
Dwyane Wade said "He's fast, he's young and he goes a hundred miles an hour, Plus, his ability to play at the Olympic level shows a lot of character. Right now he's playing off of sheer will. Once he gets to know the game a little better, he's going to be phenomenal."



And there are those out there that still doubt the kid.

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