This past week the it was announced that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have come to an agreement in principle to trade Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a projected 2015 first-round pick, according Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The trade can’t be made official until August 23 but as of now all signs point to it being a done deal. The departure of Love will mark the end of an era, one of remarkable production from him but overall disappointment for the team. During Love’s six year tenure with the Timberwolves the team failed to reach the playoffs even once, something his detractors are quick to point out. Presuming the trade goes through as discussed, the team will begin the process of moving forward without their soon to be former star.
With Love on his way to Cleveland the burden to guide the Timberwolves back to the playoffs will now fall on their dazzling young point guard Ricky Rubio. During his brief time in the league Rubio has already proven to be one of the top distributors in the game; he is a truly gifted passer with incredible vision and he has shown a type of creativity with the ball that is rarely seen, even at the NBA level. In his three seasons with the Timberwolves Rubio has a career average of 8.1 assists per game. He has played a prominent role with the team since first arriving, but the focal point has always undoubtedly been Love. When the 2014-2015 season begins, at the ripe age of 23, he will be thrust into a leadership role and will be tasked with orchestrating an offense absent of its biggest producer. The team will have its fair share of young talent, most notably the this year’s number one pick and the prize piece in the Love trade, Andrew Wiggins, Rubio along with guys like Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and potentially Thaddeus Young will bear the majority of responsibility in terms of leading the team’s more inexperienced players.
If the team wants to continue build a playoff contender not only will they need growth from their younger players but Rubio as well. His ability to create is undeniable and he has been great defensively, particularly creating turnovers, leading the league in steals this past season. However, he must work to become a more efficient scorer; Rubio has had difficulties with his shot his entire career, owning a career true shooting percentage of just 48.5 percent. His inability to consistently knock down shots allows defenders to sag off making it increasingly more difficult for him to penetrate and create. The fact that he lacks an even average perimeter jumper makes his assist numbers that much more impressive. His mentality will always be pass first but he needs to become more of a threat scoring the ball to keep opposing defenses honest. Rubio knows if he wants to develop into a complete player a reliable outside shot is something that he must strive to develop and that’s one aspect of his game that he is continuing to work on.
“Yea, especially on the release, [shooting] faster” Rubio told Basketball Insiders at this summer’s Adidas EuroCamp “…In practice I can make a lot of shots but it’s not compared to the game so I am just trying to translate what I am doing in practice to the game, more speed, and that’s it.”
One guy who has made a living knocking down outside shots is his teammate Kevin Martin, Rubio hopes to glean from the approach that has made Martin such a successful outside shooter throughout his career.
“Having Kevin Martin on the team, the way he shoots, he doesn’t [shoot] that fast, but he always looks for his shot and he is always ready, something to learn from” Rubio said.
The Timberwolves future is very promising with the collection of assets they will a reportedly acquire in the Love deal, they’ll have a talented young core with great potential. Rubio will be the most important piece in bridging the gap from the present to that promising future. This coming season he will have the chance to step into spotlight and take over the reins in Minnesota.
“If not the most, one of the most important summer’s of my life. Last year I was more focused on my knee, trying to recover, I think I did a pretty good job playing 82 games. Now it’s time to step up my game, and I’ve been working on that, I feel pretty confident.” Rubio said.