This doesn’t really qualify as a hot take on the part of Ricky Rubio since, as I’m fond of saying, the truth cannot be controversial.
But after the Jazz defeated the Lakers 117-110 on Tuesday — with Rubio scoring 31 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds in helping Utah inch closer to a playoff berth — Rubio was asked about the difference between playing his first season in Utah and the previous six in Minnesota.
“Of course in Minnesota we had a lot of guys who can score and I was more passing the ball,” Rubio said, per the Desert News. “Here we play more as a team … and that fits my game better.”
Rubio went on to say that he feels like this season with the Jazz is the best he’s played in the NBA. “A different system fits me better, and I’m playing better,” he said.
Utah’s offense under Quin Snyder emphasizes a lot of screens, cuts and drives, while the Wolves under Tom Thibodeau tend to run more isolation plays and screen-and-roll actions. Those styles show up in the NBA’s tracking of distance logged by players. Utah players have logged the eighth-most miles in the NBA per game on offense this season, while the Wolves are 26th. The Wolves, though, have the No. 4 offensive rating in the league while the Jazz are just 16th.
The numbers back Rubio’s assertion that the different style is better for him. Rubio is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from three-point range. He’s been less of a straight-up facilitator, and his assists have dropped from a career average of 8 per game to 5.4 this season.
Some of this is revisionist history, though, and some of this isn’t exactly new. During his time with the Wolves, Rubio showed a reluctance to shoot and woeful accuracy when he did. But he did show flashes of the player he could become in an expanded role. It was almost exactly a year ago, after all, when I wrote about Rubio being the Wolves’ “point guard of the future” after he reinvented himself as a scorer and distributor down the stretch.
Alas, maybe a change of scenery was the best thing for all parties. Rubio has his Jazz in the No. 4 spot in the West right now, and he is all but guaranteed to reach the postseason for the first time in his career. The Wolves, after dumping Rubio and adding Jeff Teague, are also on the verge of their first playoff berth since 2003-04 (though they have more work left to do than the Jazz).
It’s even possible that the teams will finish 4-5 in the West, which would set the stage for an epic first-round playoff matchup given the point guard history and the open-court hit Teague put on Rubio during a game in Utah earlier this year.
That wouldn’t settle the point guard question once and for all, but it sure would be fun.