Kyrie Irving 2011 No. 1 draft pick.
Ricky Rubio 2011 No. 5 draft pick.
Both are young, talented point guards likely to make a significant impact on the league and their respective teams. The question remains, however—which one’s better?
“As much as people like to rip on Timberwolves GM David Kahn for some of the mistakes he has made,” SportsNet writer Kevin Nielsen said, “Minnesota’s roster is full of exciting, young talent.”
Rookie point guard Ricky Rubio stands out as part of that “exciting, young talent.” Although being drafted back in 2009, Rubio remained in Spain up until the 2011-2012 season. Even with the rigorous schedule due to the NBA lockout, the young athlete continues to impress night after night. He reads the floor with the eyes of a veteran and dishes out a staggering number of assists for a rookie.
Does he commit the occasional newbie mistakes? Of course. But his overwhelming pros seem to outweigh the cons at this point in the game.
“He’s always going to try the tough play and sometimes he will turn it over, but the [assist-to-turnover] ratio he had [Sunday] night—I’ll take that,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said after Rubio tallied 14 assists against the Wizards. How many players can you list—let alone rookies—who dish out that many assists in a game?
Currently, Rubio is averaging 10 points and 7.4 assists. Speaking for Timberwolves fans and media alike, Rubio’s shooting and scoring stats breach expectations. The young guard was drafted out of Spain with a reputation for struggling in that area. In fact, that was the biggest knock against him—and now, Rubio is shooting 52.6 percent from the field and an impressive 60 percent from downtown.
I’ve heard murmurs since Week 1 that Adelman should start Rubio over Ridnour. However, I’m confident that Adelman’s granting the starter slot to the more seasoned athlete reflects nothing of his confidence in Rubio. In fact, Rubio typically plays the entire fourth quarter. That in itself should say something.
Over the past few seasons, one of Minnesota’s largest struggles has been holding its own in the second half of the ballgame. Rubio could be the cornerstone to the solution.
“The Wolves are flourishing with [Ridnour] starting and [Rubio] finishing games,” said NBA.com writer Shaun Powell. “[Adelman] is doing the right thing by bringing Rubio along slowly and keeping all pressure to a minimum. The kid’s going to be special, why rush it?”
And how does Kyrie Irving compare?
“Kyrie makes everyone around him better,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said after Irving scored 20 points in a win over Charlotte. “He gets more and more comfortable with each game.”
The No. 1 draft pick out of Duke is currently averaging 15 points and five assists per game. At only 19 years old, Irving proves to be more of a scorer than Rubio, and he plays with a similar confidence.
In an ESPN roundtable discussion, Jared Wade (blogger for the Indiana Pacers) commented on Irving’s success thus far:
“He has few flaws; he punishes defenders with an arsenal of weapons; and — most impressively — he looked like a pro on day one, which says a ton about the least experienced rookie of the one-and-done era.”
True, Irving’s leadership as starting point guard has taken Cleveland (4-4) to a slightly better record than Minnesota (3-6). One must also take into account the overall youth and inexperience of the Timbewolves’ roster compared to that of the Cavaliers.
In my opinion, Irving teeters on inconsistency. Don’t get me wrong—the native Australian is the real deal. However, he has played his super-star games (tallying 20 points and six assists without a single turnover)—followed by disappointing performances. Currently, the top news piece on Irving’s ESPN page reads the following:
“Irving followed up the best performance of his young career with arguably his worst showing in a loss to the Raptors Wednesday night, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field.”
It’s quite possible that the 19-year-old will struggle with the rigorous pace of this season’s 66-game schedule. One can assume that it’s always difficult for a college athlete to make the transition into the NBA—Irving is only one year removed from high school.
The media drew plenty of attention to the Cleveland/Minnesota matchup on Jan. 7. Everyone wanted to know how two of the top rookies in this year’s class would fare against one another, and the two point guards put up fairly even performances. Each dished out five assists, and Rubio grabbed three steals as well. Irving shot 42 percent from the field for 14 points, while Rubio went 50 percent for 10 points. The Timberwolves suffered an 11-point loss.
Is a point guard’s success measured by that of his team? If so, one could argue that Irving takes the cake.
However, a majority of basketball fans, analysts and media members don’t adopt this theory at all. ESPN’s David Thorpe put together a “Top 50” list for the 2011-2012 rookie class, and he has Rubio ranked at No. 1.
Irving comes in at the No. 5 slot.
ESPN also asked five of its bloggers which rookie is best. Three answered Ricky Rubio Wolves, while the last two decided on Irving. Here are a couple of the responses:
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: “[Marshon] Brooks and Kyrie Irving are both putting up better numbers, but whenever Rubio steps on the floor, magic happens. He plays basketball like a symphony conductor and, if he can keep shooting the ball with confidence, has a chance to be a superstar.”
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: “Irving has been solid, including from the 3-point line (43 percent) and in getting to the charity stripe, where he averages just over one free throw attempt per four field goal attempts. Plus, the Cavs are winning.”
In my opinion, the performances and Ricky Rubio’s stats compared to Kyrie Irving stats speak for themselves.
Irving is a talented point guard strides ahead of other athletes his age. A great asset to Cleveland, he will continue to lead his team and excel in this league. However, Rubio has the entire package. His spunk, athletic ability and basketball IQ has been obvious since Day 1, and his numbers improve with every game.
There’s no doubt about it—Ricky Rubio is the No. 1 rookie point guard on the floor.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to edit and write for BleacherReport.com and on her blog Making the Call in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.