<
>

Will Ricky Rubio return to his dishing ways?

Is Ricky Rubio a legitimate scorer who doesn't pass as much now that he has joined the Utah Jazz? Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe, plus ESPN NBA Analyst Mike Schmitz.

So far during his brief tenure with the Utah Jazz, Ricky Rubio is averaging a career-high 15.8 points and 1.5 3-pointers but a career-low 6.0 assists per game. Where do you think those numbers will be by season's end?


Mike Schmitz: Rubio's career-best scoring and 3-point shooting marks are already beginning to normalize, as we saw against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, when he was 0-of-5 from 3 and 4-of-16 from the field. I would expect Rubio's 3-point percentage to trend closer to his lifetime 30.6 percent mark, which is based on more than 1,670 attempts spanning 778 games, dating back to when the native of Spain was 14, according to the DraftExpress database.

Teams will continue to go under every Rubio screen, which will certainly lead to a fair share of attempts, and it's not out of the question to see Rubio hover around the 1.5 makes-per-game range, albeit at a mediocre percentage. He has spent a lot of time working with respected longtime NBA assistant Igor Kokoskov, who played a big role in Goran Dragic's development in Phoenix. While Rubio may not crack the 35 percent clip this season, the Jazz need him to take and make shots with Rudy Gobert not a threat to pop and space.

As for his assists, Rubio is one of the league's elite passers and should work his way back toward his NBA career assist average of 8.4 per game. While a lot of Utah's main core returned -- sans Gordon Hayward -- Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh are all new faces, and the 6-foot-4 passing savant is still learning how to play with Gobert, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and the rest of the Jazz pieces.

Rubio is too good of a passer not to eventually develop a strong rapport with his new teammates, returning to form as a playmaker in the process.

Jim McCormick: Rubio's numbers will more than likely positively correct just a bit in the assist department, as he's averaging 65.3 passes per game, 12.6 potential assists and a sluggish assist-to-pass ratio of 9.2 percent this season. Over his previous two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rubio averaged 64.4 passes, 15.5 potential assists and an assist-to-pass percentage of 13.8 percent.

With nearly the same number of passes, Rubio (and his teammates) haven't been as efficient in converting passes into potential assists and potential assists into realized assists. I would project Rubio to get back above at least 10 percent in assist-to-pass rate, supporting closer to eight assists per game going forward.

Rubio had two young forwards, each capable of regularly scoring 25 PPG alongside him with the Timberwolves, a reality that isn't present in Utah and is part of what is driving his uptick in scoring usage. Rubio is shooting 52.4 percent more shots per game over this early sample for the Jazz than he had over the past two seasons with the Wolves.

The 3-point shift is the most dramatic increase, as he's lofting 5.2 attempts from beyond the arc per game versus 2.5 per night over the past two seasons. Utah is quite needy in the scoring department, so I think this shift in his slash is merely a reflection of the team's needs asking for skills that Rubio likely isn't ideal to supply (29.1 3FG percentage so far, for example).

Kyle Soppe: We saw Rubio make some strides in terms of scoring the basketball in the second half of last season (16 PPG on 42 percent shooting from the field, 35.3 percent from 3-point range, and 91.7 percent from the stripe) and this season has basically just been an extension of that growth. Combine that improvement with an increase in usage resulting from playing with less talent, and I think the scoring bump for Rubio is real.

As for the dimes? They will come. Does he approach the 9.1 assists from a year ago? Probably not, but as he gains comfort with his new teammates, I'm expecting him to be in the 7- to 7.5-assist range. If I'm right with his scoring spike being sustainable, the assist dip will result in his overall fantasy value being comparable to what it has always been.