Ladies and gentlemen, we got him. The Phoenix Suns have finally acquired their point guard after a seemingly never-ending wait. Rubio agreed to a 3 year, $51 million deal on the first day of free agency, which goes to show that James Jones was not going to risk on missing out early only to settle for less adequate options like they’ve done in the past. He may not be a complete stop-gap or their long term solution either, but somewhere between the two figures to serve as his role in his tenure with Phoenix.
Rubio is still just 28 years old despite being in the league for 8 years now and he’s been playing professional basketball since he was just 14 years old in the Spanish ACB league and in the Euroleague as well, so while he’s theoretically in his prime years he does have more mileage on his body than most at this stage of their NBA career.
Measurables and career per-game stats:
Height: 6’4″ • Weight: 190 lbs. • Wingspan: 6’9″
PPG: 11.1 • APG: 7.7 • RPG: 4.2
FG%: 38.8 • FG3%: 32.2. • FT%: 83.8
How to determine if his contract is a success or a failure
Committing $17 million per year to a guard that struggles to shoot isn’t exactly ideal in today’s game, but the consistent improvement he’s made in his offensive game offers some hope that he may not be done improving in that area. The good news is the Suns didn’t bring him in to score points.
While not an offensive juggernaut, Rubio does bring some much needed attributes to the table for Phoenix. For one, he can lead a team serving as the “coach on the court” and his vision and playmaking combination are the best the Suns have had since Steve Nash. He has great size and actually gives a damn defensively. His 6’4″ frame combined with his 6’9″ wingspan and strength gives him the ability to play well on and off the ball on that end. His veteran leadership and ability to lead and control a game will go a long way for this young team, and that’s something that can’t be measured by any stats or metrics.
At the end of the day, it’s about putting your cornerstone pieces in a position to succeed. If Rubio can help expedite the development of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton along with their other important young pieces such as Bridges, Oubre and Johnson then he’s done his job. The steps towards going from a bottom-feeder to a contender are slow, and if you’re not in a major market things aren’t going to change overnight. The next step is to gain respect league-wide, and winning somewhere between 30-35 games next season while being competitive over the course of the year would be a move in the right direction setting them up for a playoff run in the 2020/21 season.
Projecting his stats for the 2019/2020 season:
Shoutout to my friend David Nash (@theIVpointplay) for bringing this up on twitter initially, but here are my projections for Rubio’s stat-line next season. I will go into brief detail with some explanations on why I went with these numbers as well.
PPG: 13.1 • APG: 7.7 • RPG: 4.1
FG%: 40.5 • FG3%: 33.3 • FT%: 85.8
While nothing here is a drastic change I expect him to have a slight uptick across the board for a variety of reasons. Number one being I think Utah’s system limited him a bit from a creation standpoint. While we’re still not entirely sure what type of offense or system Monty Williams will deploy, it figures to be a little more fast paced than Utah’s.
The reason for the jump in assists by 1.6 per game is due to being surrounded by more shooters than he has been in maybe his entire career, which feels entirely odd to type about a Phoenix team that finished dead-last in three point percentage last year.
It’s expected that Booker and Bridges will both take a leap in their 3 point shooting percent next season, as they are better shooters than their numbers indicated last year. Along with that, the additions of Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and even Aron Baynes to an extent will give him more spacing to not only find the shooters, but operate with Ayton in the pick and roll. His outlet passes to Kelly Oubre Jr. and Devin Booker are going to be a marvel to watch. His ability to lead his passes in transition and hit players in stride is incredible and I expect that to be a regular theme in their fastbreak oppourtunities next season.
NBA pundits have already deemed this move as an overpay or saying it makes zero sense for Phoenix, but all that outside noise from people that don’t actually follow the team doesn’t matter.
What matters is the improvement and overall development of the young core. Three years from now if we’re evaluating his contract, it won’t be the per-game numbers or percentages that I will look at to determine if it was a good deal or not. It’s about what the state of the franchise is and if Rubio helped accelerate the development of the young core or not.