Ricky Rubio believes the Minnesota Timberwolves have a promising future with their young nucleus featuring Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
After watching Timberwolves finish at the bottom of the league standings last season with a 16-66 record while he spent a majority of the year out with an ankle injury, Rubio suddenly has an athletic, up-and-coming supporting cast.
Minnesota won the NBA draft lottery and selected top prospect Towns out of Kentucky with the first overall selection, giving them the past three number one picks along with Wiggins (2014) and Anthony Bennett (2013).
Wiggins was brought in through a trade that sent superstar and former franchise cornerstone forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the springy swingman had an impressive first season to earn Rookie of the Year honours.
Rubio has already stated his belief that Wiggins can be MVP of the league one day and put his 20-year-old team-mate in the same company as Gasol brothers Marc and Pau, who Rubio has played with on the Spanish national team.
“He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever played with and I’ve played with a lot of good players,” Rubio told Sport360 at Basicball Academy’s basketball camp at Dubai Sports World Tuesday.
“He has a lot of talent and played big in tougher matchups, like against LeBron. So you can tell he’s willing to be one of the best. He just has to respect the process, but he had great improvement from day one until the end of the season.”
Towns, meanwhile, has yet to play a minute in the NBA, but Rubio pointed to the centre’s versatility as to why he’ll make an impact for Minnesota from the start. He doesn’t yet possess the same offensive prowess as Love, but Towns has the potential to form a fruitful pick-and-pop duo with Rubio.
“He’s a big guy, but he can do a lot of things, not just play in the post. He can really shoot the ball and I think he’s going to help us space the floor. Nowadays, a big guy who can really shoot helps a lot,” Rubio said.
The Timberwolves’ roster is filled with young players who’ve yet to hit their peak, but it’s also balanced with experienced veterans who head coach and general manager Flip Saunders has brought in for their contributions off the court as much as on it.
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Garnett especially has a reputation for helping change the culture of a team for the better and already in his brief time since returning to Minnesota through a trade in February, he’s made a strong impression on Rubio.
“He’s the type of guy who’s a teacher who we can learn a lot form,” Rubio said of Garnett.
“All he wants to do is win and in that type of way too, so we share a lot of things. He’s a tough guy, but at the same time he will die for team-mates and that’s the type of team-mates you want.”
One area Rubio himself has emphasised working on since entering the league is his shooting.
Through four seasons, the floor general has yet to hit over 40 per cent from the field for an entire year and his 3-point shooting reached a career-low 25.5 per cent in 2014-15.
Admittedly, it’s something Rubio knows he needs to improve considering the league’s shift in style of play to more perimeter shooting and floor spacing.
“It’s very important,” Rubio said. “Nowadays, point guards have to shoot the ball very well. It’s something I’m working on and I hope it’s something I can add to my game.”
For all of his magician-like passing and stat-stuffing ability, Rubio is one of many talented point guards in the Western Conference – something he feels will only improve him.
“The point guard position is the best in the league I think. It’s great to be in that kind of criteria because you play against the best, you get better every night,” Rubio said.
“Stephen Curry of course was the MVP and had an incredible season, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, all of them are great players.”
Rubio is still trying to climb into the same ranks as the names he’s mentioned, but with good health and emerging talent around him, there’s more reason for optimism.
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