When the Jazz traded for Ricky Rubio, they did so with his playmaking in mind.
Rubio’s scoring, however, has been an added benefit, and something unexpected given his history in the NBA. He has never averaged more than the 11.1 points per game he put up last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But Rubio’s offensive production has been a revelation of sorts with the Jazz. Not only is he putting up 8.3 assists and grabbing 5.3 rebounds through the Jazz’s first three games. He’s averaging almost 15 points per game, after scoring 19 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and 16 points in Saturday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“It’s all about confidence,” Rubio said. “The end of last [season] helped me, and I had a good summer working out and a lot of that has carried over.”
In the final two months of last season, Rubio averaged a little over 16 points and 11 assists per game and combined that with respectable shooting splits. It represented the best stretch of his career. At the same time, it was met with skepticism. The Timberwolves were well out of the playoff race when Rubio’s uptick in play happened, so many thought the scoring improvement was nothing more than an outlier.
The first three games of the season have told a different tale. Rubio has been shooting his midrange jumper with regularity when opponents go under screens. He’s not been afraid to launch 3-pointers or go to the basket. He even pulled up for three in transition against Minnesota with none of his teammates there to rebound. It wasn’t the best shot, but it was the type of confidence shot Rubio never would have taken in seasons past.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder has encouraged Rubio to shoot when open, and the two fully understand that a Rubio who is capable of scoring is more dangerous as a playmaker. His ability to put up points will cause defenses to respect that part of his game, which will open up more passing lanes.
And anything that will make Utah’s offense more potent, Rubio is down for.
“The system is really good for me,” Rubio said. “It’s a lot of movement, and not a lot of standing around. I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and I really like this offense.”
Is Hood almost back?
Jazz starting shooting guard Rodney Hood went through portions of practice on Monday, Snyder said. He’s listed as questionable, after a calf strain that kept him out of parts of Utah’s loss to Minnesota and all of Saturday’s win over the Thunder.
“It’s hard to gauge how hard Rodney was able to go,” Snyder said. “He went through the non-contact portion of practice.”
Even if Hood misses Tuesday night’s game at the Los Angeles Clippers, he appears on track to make a return this week at some point. Given how serious his injury initially looked, that’s good news for the Jazz.
On the horizon
The Jazz will be the second team to face the Phoenix Suns following the firing of former Jazz guard Earl Watson as coach. Former Jazz center Mehmet Okur was also let go, while former Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin was retained by the Suns. The Suns are also looking to trade star point guard Eric Bledsoe.