What if Ricky Rubio plays as well for the Phoenix Suns as he is for Spain?

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - AUGUST 31: Ricky Rubio #9 of Spain in action during FIBA World Cup 2019 group match between Spain and Tunisia at Guangzhou Gymnasium on August 31, 2019 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - AUGUST 31: Ricky Rubio #9 of Spain in action during FIBA World Cup 2019 group match between Spain and Tunisia at Guangzhou Gymnasium on August 31, 2019 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images) /

The greatest and most glaring issue the Phoenix Suns have had recently has been their lack of a point guard. What if Ricky Rubio’s FIBA performance is a sign of great things to come for 2019-20?

Although the FIBA World Cup is nowhere near the level of overall talent that players face on a game-to-game basis in the NBA (although just ask the USA team how much of a pushover international players are), Ricky Rubio is playing at a level that would be absolutely fantastic for the Phoenix Suns if it is able to translate it fully come October.

Although his traditional statistics make some of Rubio’s FIBA numbers appear to be a little bit lower than what the Suns hope to see during the regular season, if you extrapolate his per-36min stats (he is only averaging 24.0 minutes per game which is going to likely be between 8 and 10 minutes less than what he will average in Phoenix), then not only are his stats right around what we would all like to see, in some cases they are better.

Per-36min, Rubio is averaging 21.9 points per game (probably about 5-9 points higher than he will in Phoenix) and 7.2 assists (right at his NBA average, although potentially lower than what he can average with the Suns), with 5.4 rebounds which is slightly higher than his career NBA average of 4.2.

Surprisingly, though, is Rubio’s shooting percentages.

Now, granted through only five FIBA international games thus merely a microcosm of what he faces in the NBA, but his 2-point percentage is only 41.7% (in the last three NBA seasons, it is 44.9%), while his 3-point shooting is at 41.7% on 3.4 attempts per game, significantly  higher than he has ever shot in the Association.

While assists with the Phoenix Suns are likely to come at a clip upwards of career-highs prior to this season, and his scoring is likely to remain at his current 12-13 point range, both numbers could arguably go even higher if his 3-point shooting percentage in FIBA is at least on some level a correlation to his ability to drain such shots in the NBA.

Rubio’s career-high from the outside is only 35.2% set two seasons ago in 2017-18, a rate he followed up with 31.1% last season.

Obviously the Suns would take the 35.2% in a heartbeat all things considered, especially knowing that his career-average is only 32.2%.

Plus, 17 attempts in FIBA is not nearly enough to make any sort of predictive statement that he is suddenly going to be a shooting star.

But if something has  changed this offseason (you never know what exactly his offseason focus was and one cannot help but consider the dramatic improvement T.J. Warren made in only one summer), then Rubio could literally be a game-changer for the Phoenix Suns.

If his outside shot must be taken seriously by defenders, even if he only attempts the 3.6 he did the last two seasons in Utah or the 3.4 so far in the FIBA tournament, not only will that open up lanes for him to drive through off pump-fakes, but then his dedicated on-ball defender will guarantee single-coverage elsewhere, hopefully more often than not including a single-covered Deandre Ayton for an alley-oop, as well as drive and dishes to open 3-point shooters if a second defender sucks in on him.

This is exactly the kind of offense that the franchise has lacked for some kind, the very one that made the Phoenix Suns so successful with Steve Nash running the show.

The key to the offense that Nash captained though was his ability to hit 3-point shots which forced constant coverage on himself and left single-coverage on his teammates who were both potent inside the lane and beyond the arc.

Therefore, if Ricky Rubio can play as well for the Phoenix Suns this season as he has been in international play this summer, and if in particular his 3-point shooting can become a serious threat, then the offense will be able to develop en kind, performing at a level that the athletes currently on the roster appear at least on paper to be able to reach, all meaning that James Jones might have found the perfect piece to make the franchise’s engine to finally roar.

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Ricky Rubio is no pushover as a point guard in the NBA, and his career stats are evidence of that.

However, if his 3-point shooting can improve, and if his FIBA average is in anyway a reflection of this possibility, than there is no reason to believe that he couldn’t be the catalyst to a renaissance for the Phoenix Suns; the spark to the fire that could be a potent and exciting offense.