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Ricky Rubio: Not a top 15 PG this season?

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Bleacher Report released their list of Top 15 Point Guards this season. How did Ricky Rubio not make the cut?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

People love lists.

Since the NBA season was put on pause on March 11, lists have been the primary source of content for the majority of sporting websites, blogs, podcasts, and telecasts.

Over at, Bleacher Report, this week is NBA Top 100 Week, where they are reviewing the top 15 performers at each position prior to releasing their Top 100 players on July 11. The site started this week by releasing their Top 15 Point Guards.

Ricky Rubio didn’t make the cut.

Their list, if you are too lazy to click the above link and read the article, is as follows:

  • #15: Dinwiddie
  • #14: D-Lo
  • #13 VanVleet
  • #12: Bledsoe
  • #11: Fox
  • #10: Ja
  • #9: Kemba
  • #8: Trae Young
  • #7: Westbrook
  • #6: Lowry
  • #5: Kyrie
  • #4: Ben Simmons
  • #3: CP3
  • #2: Dame
  • #1: Luka

The list, authored by Andy Bailey and Dan Favale, is acceptable. I’ll allow it. The duo utilized the “500 minutes played or more rule” to assist in fine-tuning the talent pool to pull from. This would exclude a top tier point guard like Stephen Curry from this list, seeing as this list is about this year’s performance, rather than the totality of a players career.

In short, this is designed to be a list of the top point guards this season, not a list of the top point guards in the NBA. As they state, “Point guards are being evaluated based on how they’ve performed in 2019-20 alone, and nothing more.”

There are some issues along the way, however. Spencer Dinwiddie makes their list, despite the fact that he is primarily a two-guard (40% PG, 57% SG). Fred VanVleet is another one who plays the two more than the one (46% PG, 54% SG) in the Raptors small guard lineup. Kyrie, although a premier talent in the NBA, has only played 20 games this season. The Nets are 8-12 in those games. Not quite sure if that is worthy of #5...

Excuse me while I patiently raise my hand and wait to be called upon.

Yes? Me? Ummm...why on Kyrie Irving’s flat planet Earth isn’t Papa Ricky on this list then?!

Perhaps I’m a homer, but I believe that leaving Ricky Rubio off of this list is incorrect, especially if you base your argument on this year’s performance. Okay, no “perhaps”...clearly I’m a homer. I bestowed upon him the nickname “Papa” after his wife Sara gave birth to their first child, Liam, on January 13. I am still waiting for it to catch on.

However, there is merit is my wonderment. Ricky Rubio isn’t flashy. He has had his struggles, but as a distributor, he is top tier. He has earned the right to be mentioned with the top half of the league’s point guards. Allow me to explain.

I’m about to get nerdy, y’all.

Thank you to Basketball-Reference.com for providing the ability to export statistics into Excel. You make life easier for us all.

Let’s start by removing all point guards who have played 500 or less minutes from our pool to choose from. We’ll call it the Yogi Ferrell Line, seeing as he is the first one out. That leaves us with a total of 60 point guards who qualify to be ranked. Basketball Reference considers LeBron a PG, so I took him out as well.

Scoring

This isn’t Ricky’s strength. You know it, I know it, the guy mopping up sweat in opposing stadiums knows it.

Ricky’s points-per-game come in 23th at his position and his FG% comes in 44th. Sprinkle in some 37th in 3P%, and you can see why, on the surface, Bleacher Report denied Rubio from cracking their list.

Ricky is the Suns fourth option offensively at best. His 20.2 usage percentage, which ranks 33rd out of the 60 qualifying point guards in the league, hurts his case to be top 15.

But as Rafiki says in the Lion King (in the spirit of SB Nation’s Disney Week), “Look harder.”

Distributing

This one is clearly obvious. I am shocked that this basic statistic was ignored.

Ricky, with 8.9 assists-per-game, trails only Trae Young in the category. That is correct: the second best at assisting his teammates in scoring (you know, what point guards do) is not on the list. Out of the top six “assisters” in the league at the position, only Rubio does not make the cut.

His assist percentage is fourth among qualifiers as well. He may not be flashy, but he is a fantastic distributor.

Defense

Quick, tell me who do you think are the best defensive point guards in the game.

Yeah, yeah, I know. No one plays defense anymore. If this were a tiny factor in assisting in making your decision, however, you may be surprised.

You may not think of Rubio as a defensive guard. I don’t. He is not overly athletic, he has the speed of a lumbering rhino, yet he comes in 8th with 1.5 steals-per-game. His steal percentage (the estimate of the percentage of opponent possessions that end with a steal by the player while he was on the floor) is 13th with 2.3%. Ja Morant is at 31st and 45th respectively.

His defensive win shares, at 1.7, is good enough for 15th. Trae Young, out of the 60 qualifiers, is at 53rd. His hairdo comes in at 20th. I’m sure it has distracted players in the past and will continue to do so moving forward.

Win Shares

Although I am not a huge analytics guy, I believe they do tell a story. Especially when it supports my case. Good ‘ole win shares.

Ricky is 12th in offensive win shares (2.4) and 13th among qualifiers in total win shares (4.1). D’Angelo Russell sits at 37th and 35th. His 21 double-doubles (5th at the PG position) dwarfs the numbers of Eric Beldsoe and Kemba Walker (2).

Who cares about assists, defense, and win shares from the point guard position, right?

Winning Games

It all comes down to winning. It must. After all, that is the end-all, be-all in professional sports. Defeating the opposition. That must be why the Bleacher Report guys left Ricky off this list: because he is on a team with a losing record.

Oh. 6 of Bleacher Report’s top 15 point guards are on teams under .500.

How about how the team is performing as compared to the same number of games last season? There are a multitude of factors that play into these results, I know. Just look at Brooklyn and Kyrie. But players running the point have to have some effect on the outcomes of the game. How do the teams of players on this list stack up as compared to last season?


Rubio isn’t a sexy player. He doesn’t wow you with highlight-worthy nutmegs or behind the back passes. He doesn’t hit 35-foot three-pointers or say outlandish things on Twitter. He doesn’t give the opposition nightmares.

What he does do is make his team better. Despite all of the injuries, suspensions, and bad luck the Phoenix Suns faced this season, the addition of Ricky Rubio has been positive and solidified a position that has been troublesome for years. He has stabilized the point, and in doing so, allowed Devin Booker to grow. He is someone who can actually make and entry pass to Deandre Ayton. He brought the man bun to desert.

We love ya Ricky, even if the national media denies giving you the credit you deserve.