Will Ricky Rubio make a difference down the stretch?

Should you expect Ricky Rubio to do enough down the stretch to matter in fantasy? Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

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, André Snellings and Kyle Soppe.

Ricky Rubio used to be an underrated fantasy player, capable of providing plenty of dimes and swipes, but his value has faded dramatically this season with the Utah Jazz. He's available in nearly a quarter of all ESPN leagues -- do you think he will do enough down the stretch to warrant being rostered?

André Snellings: Rubio had an extended terrible run during the first half of the season, especially when Donovan Mitchell was first establishing his bona fides as the best perimeter player on the team. From November 3 through January 22, Rubio averaged only 9.8 points, 4.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 turnovers while shooting a paltry 36.9 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from behind the arc with an average +/- of -3.7.

However, things started coming together for Rubio around the end of January. As he started playing better, the team started trusting him to carry a larger load again, and he and Mitchell seemed to learn how to balance and play off one another. At that point, the team won seven straight games (the start of an 11-game winning streak) and Rubio was a primary catalyst with averages of 20.7 points (53.8 FG%, 56.5 3-FG%, 84.2 FT%), 7.7 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.7 TO with an average +/- of +15.4.

That level of performance, particularly the shooting, was unsustainable, and an injury that forced him to miss three games seemed to bring Rubio back to earth. However, during his four games since returning, Rubio seems to have found a bit of a happy medium, even as he finishes his physical recovery, averaging 12.3 points, 6.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from behind the arc.

That volume is sustainable, his 3-point percentage likely will increase slightly, and the Jazz are still fighting for that last playoff spot, which means that Rubio should continue to get max run. Put this together, and Rubio looks like a solid play, given his expected value down the stretch.

Jim McCormick: Elite assist and steal rates buoyed ugly shooting and scoring metrics during Rubio's tenure with the Timberwolves.

Rubio's potential assist production has dropped from 15.9 per game last season in Minnesota to 10.4 with Utah, a significant deflation of roughly 35 percent.

Rubio's name value is driving his ownership, I'm guessing, as he's 22nd among point guards on the Player Rater for the season and an ugly 42nd over the past 30 days.

I'd rather roster the likes of Rajon Rondo, Dejounte Murray and even J.J Barea for the fantasy playoffs.

Kyle Soppe: It's been a tough go of it for teams with Rubio on their roster, but I'm sticking it out. Yes, his upside is limited by an inconsistent jumper and a slow-as-molasses offense, but I have a hard time believing that there is a point guard getting in the neighborhood of 30 minutes a night on your waiver wire, and the schedule lines up for Rubio to potentially be a difference-maker when your championship is on the line.

The Jazz have next to nothing to gain by losing games down the stretch, so I expect them to aim for the eighth spot in the West, something that should keep Rubio playing significant minutes for the rest of the regular season. There is no denying that Rubio thrives in transition, and that is what I am hanging my hat on, as four of Utah's final five games this season come against teams that currently rank in the top six in terms of pace.

I understand if you want to pick and choose your spots with him, but for me, there is enough hope moving forward (it hasn't been pretty, but he is taking a career-high 10.3 shots per game and converting at a career high rate) to keep Rubio rostered.