Throughout the preseason, new Jazzman Ricky Rubio’s jumper has been … inconsistent.
His coach, Quin Snyder, has not been so up and down when discussing it.
In two games against the same team, the Phoenix Suns, Rubio had wildly different nights. At home, he was 2 for 9 with 11 points, hitting his first field goals of the preseason after two straight 0 for 4 performances against international teams. Only a few days later, he lit up the Suns while knocking down 8 of 10 shots, accounting for the first nine points of the game for the Jazz.
Snyder took it all in stride. The Jazz aren’t yet grading Rubio for how many shots go in, but rather that he’s taking them. After Monday’s game, he downplayed the importance of Rubio going off — it means little in the long-term vision the Jazz have for him.
“It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” he said. “I just want him to keep getting better. If he has nights like tonight, that’s great. If he has nights where he doesn’t score, that’s OK, too.”
Rubio’s shooting problems are well-documented.
While he initially captured the imagination of basketball fans for his electric passing as a teenager, his shot has never quite matured. He’s a career 37.5 percent shooter, and has only shot above 40 percent in one year: last season. He’s become a better 3-point shooter over time, but still only hovered above 30 percent last year, which is an outlier for an NBA starting point guard.
Rubio finding the mark
Since the beginning of his NBA career, Ricky Rubio has been an inconsistent shooter, per Basketball Reference:
2011-12 • 35.7 percent FGs; 24.2 percent 3FGs; avg shot distance 13.7 feet
2012-13 • 36.0 percent FGs; 17.9 percent 3FGs; avg. shot distance 12.9 feet
2013-14 • 38.1 percent FGs; 19.9 percent 3FGs; avg. shot distance 11.8 feet
2014-15 • 35.6 percent FGs; 23.3 percent 3FGs; avg. shot distance 16.6 feet
2015-16 • 37.4 percent FGs; 32.4 percent 3FGs; avg. shot distance 15.8 feet
2016-17 • 40.2 percent FGs; 30.2 percent 3FGs; avg. shot distance 16.1 feet
Many players on the Jazz have been asked about Rubio’s poor shooting throughout training camp. The general tone of the response has been: “So what?” When asked about how Rubio’s pedestrian shooting threat affected floor spacing, Rudy Gobert seemed to pass the question off.
“He’s been like that his whole career, and I think he’s been pretty good at it,” he said. “There’s a lot of ways to score. He’s very quick, and he can find ways to attack you and find an open man.”
That doesn’t mean the Jazz are content to keep Rubio’s jump shot as it is. Since he arrived in Salt Lake City still cooling off from a long Eurobasket run, he’s worked with coaches to find some consistency in his outside shooting.
But the organization wants to be careful of applying too much pressure on Rubio to make the shots land. Rather than waiting for him to prove his shot is consistent before giving him more opportunities to shoot, the Jazz want him to take more opportunities and gradually show that he’s capable of handling the load. When Rubio’s open, he’s expected to fire away.
To illustrate the mindset the team is taking, Snyder related a story when Gobert was being hacked in a game in Phoenix and missing shots at the free throw line. Instead of yanking him as a liability, Snyder said he wanted Gobert to prove that he could hit free throw shots — the team needed him to. From his third year to his fourth year with the Jazz, Gobert saw his free throw shooting improve from 56.9 percent to 65.3 percent, and the Jazz are hoping for an improvement this year as well.
That’s the kind of progress they’d like to see with Rubio: gradual, with no immediate pressure to perform.
“We just want him to play, play with confidence and let him know that he’s not evaluated on any one game,” Snyder said. “The only way I’m evaluating Ricky is if he’s not taking a shot. I think that’s going to make him more confident. Over time, I think he’ll get better shooting the ball.”