With all the excitement over the start of the NBA playoffs, one piece of news didn't get much attention yesterday: 18-year-old point guard Ricky Rubio of Spain reportedly entered the 2009 NBA Draft. Never heard of him? Well, if you've been impressed by the play of rookie Derrick Rose of the Bulls, the 6'3" Rubio could make a similar impact next season. Yes, he's that good.
Rubio has been playing for DKV Joventut of the Spanish League, the top level of competition in Europe, for the past three seasons. He also helped Spain win a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, running the offense for a team that was stacked with current and former NBA players (including superstar Pau Gasol).
Like D-Rose, Rubio has terrific court sense and playmaking ability. He is also a strong defender. While his jumper isn't the greatest, that's not a huge concern for NBA teams. After all, in 2003, a 21-year-old from France was the starting point guard for the world champion Spurs. At the time, this guy had similar skills to Rubio: He was fast, smart, and had a mediocre outside shot. His name? Tony Parker. Flash forward six years. Parker has fine-tuned his jumper, developed more moves in the paint, and is arguably the best point guard in the league (for evidence, just look at last night's Spurs-Mavs game).
Rubio could reach Parker's level in a few years. He isn't a household name just yet, but that will change soon. While Blake Griffin of Oklahoma is the sure-bet Number 1 pick of the upcoming draft, count on Rubio being taken second or third overall. In the right system he'll rise to stardom — fast.