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Everything started off so well. We watched you take the NBA by storm, gasping at your no-look passes and your pin-point alleyoops that dominated SportsCenter Top 10 reels. We overreacted to your early shooting numbers, then quietly accepted your inevitable regression to the mean. We watched with baited breath as you and Kevin Love led the Wolves into the playoff hunt, wondering if this turnaround was too good to be true. Then we groaned, held our heads in our hands, and cursed the Basketball Gods who deemed you ripe for the harvest of knee injuries that swept through the NBA like a plague of locusts. Those gods are merciless deities.
Your performance this season surpassed expectations. Many basketball thinkers were skeptical of your abilities, after several lackluster seasons coming off the bench in Spain. Though your court vision could be seen in YouTube videos, people worried about your athleticism among some of the most impressive athletes in the world. They also thought your mediocre shooting range wouldn’t allow you to translate to the NBA.
Often, observers get so caught up on narrative, on watching stories repeat themselves, that they fail to remember that the best stories introduce entirely new characters from time to time. This season, you were that new character. We didn’t expect you to be a good defender because you aren’t particularly fast, but you proved us wrong because you move your feet well and you have very long arms. Critics expected you to be an offensive liability because you couldn’t shoot, but you shot 48% from the corner 3 (a popular spot for point guards to shoot from), and you rarely took shots you couldn’t hit. You were something we hadn’t really seen before: a flashy point guard who was a star without a ton of explosiveness and jump-shooting range.
But then March 9 came around and reminded us all that good things never last long, and they never even last short for the Timberwolves. I won’t waste time discussing your knee injury. It was an unavoidable injury, and we were all crushed to see you go down. We all hope you are recovering well. The only thing we can do at this point is wish you the best and move forward.
As you recover, it’s important for Minnesota’s fans to remember that your game isn’t built on explosive athleticism. Rather, you see angles others don’t and you make the game fun for everybody else. You have an incredibly high natural basketbal IQ. I’m happy to report that an ACL injury, though painful and horrible, doesn’t take that away from you.
Despite your overall brilliance, there are areas you could improve. Like most rookie point guards, your turnovers could go down. 8.6/3.4 is a really impressive assist to turnover ratio for a young guard like yourself, but that’s an area of your game that could use some work.
Where we’d really like to see some improvement, however, is in your mid-range jumpshooting game. You proved throughout the season that you were deadly in the pick and roll, not just because of your court vision, but because your court vision also made defenders afraid to help when you drove to the basket, for fear you’d make a highlight pass to a teammate. You got a lot of layups off plays like that, but imagine how deadly you could become if you improved your midrange jumpshot. At the moment, you shoot 33% on shots inside the arc. That can improve significantly, and it’s something that you could work on during your rehab. The ability to pull up and knock down jumpers would turn you into an even more potent offensive weapon.
More than anything though, Ricky, we really want to see you back out on the court as soon as possible. We miss your slick passing, your enthusiasm, the joy you bring to your team. We miss your floppy hair, your long eyelashes, and…
You know what? We’re going to stop before this gets creepy.