The Phoenix Suns started the 2017-18 season with four point guards on their roster. Three of them previously suited up for the Kentucky Wildcats, and now all four are no longer on the team.
After starting that season 0-3, Eric Bledsoe infamously tweeted “I Don’t wanna be here”. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe, a 2018 protected first-round draft pick (will convey if Milwaukee is in the range of 8-30), and a 2018 protected second-round pick (George King).
Another former Kentucky guard, Brandon Knight lasted the entire season, despite not playing a single game due to injury. He was then traded in the off-season to the Houston Rockets along with Marquese Chriss for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton.
The final two point guards, Mike James, and Tyler Ulis, eventually were waived and are currently playing for CSKA Moscow and looking to break back into the league respectively. This was the start of an inevitable hole in the lead guard role. The 2018-19 season did not provide any solutions. However, Suns fans are optimistic about their off-season signing, Ricky Rubio.
Ricky Rubio’s Impact on Devin Booker
Ricky Rubio’s Career
Once thought of as the next great point guard, Rubio has not had the career some have hoped for. He had flashes of Steve Nash and was playing in the second-best league in the world (Spanish League) at just 18 years old. But, instead of becoming a star player, he became one of the steadiest players at the position through eight seasons.
His career averages in points have ranged from 9.5 to 13.1. He’s never averaged less than 5.3 assists per game. And, has had at least a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. All while playing in at least 70 percent of games in six out of his eight seasons.
Ricky Rubio’s Impact on Shooting Guards
Rubio has played with shooting guards Wayne Ellington, Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine, and most recently Donovan Mitchell. Outside of Mitchell, none of these shooting guards scream Hall-of-Fame type of talent.
Rubio has helped lead these backcourts to levels similar to the top guard combinations in the league. Over 68 games in the 2013-14 season, Rubio and Martin averaged 27 minutes per game and scored 63 points per game. They did this while shooting 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point territory. In comparison, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson averaged 25 minutes per game, scoring 66 points per game on 52 percent shooting and 41 percent from three in 65 games during the 2018-19 season.
Comparing more recent play, during last season, Rubio and Mitchell averaged 56 points per game, 13 assists per game, and 22 rebounds per game. In 10 fewer games, James Harden and Chris Paul averaged 50 points per game, 9.5 assists per game, and 17 rebounds per game.
Rubio has illustrated his ability to elevate the game of his backcourt running mate throughout his career. Now, at age 29, Rubio finds himself lining up next to a prolific scorer and underrated playmaker.
Ricky Rubio’s Fit with Devin Booker
Devin Booker’s four-year career has resulted in five head coaches, 10 different starting point guards, and 87 wins. With the addition of Head Coach Monty Williams and starting point guard Ricky Rubio, the young star will have the stability he needs.
Booker found success in his career when he is able to play as the primary scorer. Playmaking duties and primary ball-handling spread him too thin and often led to offensive inefficiencies. Outside of the 2017-18 season, Booker averaged a lower usage percentage (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player) in wins than in losses. In addition, Booker shot more efficiently on catch and shoot opportunities when his usage was down; he had an effective field goal percentage of 68 percent last season.
Booker showcased his ability to play the lead guard position. However, moving those responsibilities over Rubio will increase his efficiencies. Last season, Booker saw a large drop in three-point percentage – 38.5 percent to 32.6 percent – despite taking fewer attempts and increasing his overall field goal percentage. He didn’t suddenly become a worse shooter by six percent; instead, his responsibilities increased.
Overall, Ricky Rubio’s presence will lift the burden off of Devin Booker’s shoulders. Monty Williams’ offense will make Booker’s life easier. And by the end of the season, Booker will be closing in on the elusive 50/40/90 club. That club is season averages of 50 percent shooting, 40 percent from three, 90 percent from the free-throw line. He will also average 27 points per game.
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