SI Scout: “Ricky Rubio will be better than Steve Nash”

Make of this what you will, but apparently the belief that Ricky Rubio could easily become one of the best point guards in the NBA isn’t confined to Minnesota. In Sports Illustrated’s NBA Preview edition, a scout who was interviewed about the Wolves says that he thinks Rubio will eventually surpass Steve Nash.

The full quote from SI’s latest magazine:

The difference between having Ricky Rubio and not having is huge. I honestly think he’ll be better than Steve Nash. Just dribbling down the floor, if his man is sealed, he makes eye contact with his guy- and if Rubio has any advantage, any angle, he’s able to find that guy and it’s two points.

Really, the only controversial part is the Nash/Rubio comparison. The first statement in that quote, of course, is pretty obvious. I like Luke Ridnour, I like JJ Barea (somewhat), but Minnesota’s entire season rides on whether or not Rubio comes back healthy enough to pick up close to where he left off. And anyone who watched the Wolves last year can tell you that when a man is open, Rubio probably won’t be looking at him, and he probably will be throwing him the ball.

There are a lot of reasons to take the Nash/Rubio quote with a grain of salt. The first is that Sports Illustrated also picked the New York Knicks to play the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not going to say this would surprise me, but I will say that the only way New York goes to the ECF is if Carmelo Anthony plays unselfishly at power forward and Raymond Felton plays well at point guard. Related: HAHAHAHAHA.

The second reason to question the scout’s quote is the nature of scouting. They are paid to speculate and to find upside. Theoretically, if Rubio could develop a jumpshot, he could end up being better than Nash. But is that likely to happen? No, of course not. The best thing we can say about Rubio as a shooter is that he knows his own limitations and rarely tries to play outside them. The best thing we can say about Nash as a shooter is that he’s fantastic, and for several years, he’s been one of the best shooters in the game.

I’m not going to entertain this idea very in-depth statistically. Just know that in Nash’s rookie season, he shot .423 from the field and .418 from 3-point range. Rubio, on the other hand, shot .357 and .340 from the field and from 3-point range, respectively.

As always, these comparisons frustrate me because of their implausibility. Will Rubio be better than Nash? That depends, which do you value more: shooting percentages or assists? Rubio might well be a better passer than Nash, but he almost certainly won’t be a better shooter. Which do you value more, athleticism (Nash wins) or length/defense (Rubio wins)? Which player will end up being “better?” Impossible to tell.

That said, even with Steve Nash’s dashing new haircut, #TeamRicky. All day.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

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