The Rubio Effect: Jazz Offense About to Get Some Fluff

September 25th, 2017 | by Allen Schowengerdt

Melissa Majchrzak via timberwolves.com

Utah’s “greatest snow on earth,” one of the state’s slogans, comes from a phenomenon called lake effect snow. As a snowstorm passes over the Great Salt Lake, it collects additional moisture from the lake that creates an extra fluffy powder snow that skiers and snowboarders alike enjoy on nearby slopes.

Similarly, Utah Jazz fans are going to enjoy a little extra fluff, both visually and in production, when they watch their team this season. Ricky Rubio is going to be the source of that fluff. The Rubio Effect will produce extra chances to score in transition, exciting passes, and hopefully the jolt the Jazz need to head back to the playoffs.

The Jazz have played at the slowest pace in the league basically since Quin Snyder took over as head coach. Much of this is by design; when you play slow and work through most of the shot clock, it wears other teams down and allows you to set up your team defense. However, Snyder has also not had a point guard (or anyone) with the skill set, and more essentially the mindset to create transition opportunities. Rubio provides this ability in spades.

George Hill was a key contributor in his one season with the Utah Jazz. He provided a scoring and shooting punch the Jazz desperately needed, and took care of the ball very well. He also crossed half court with 18 seconds left on the shot clock nearly every possession. Rubio, by contrast, is always looking to push the ball up the court. Here are some clips to demonstrate how Rubio will keep his foot on the accelerator for the Jazz.

The first thing I noticed in my film review is that he is always in position to get a long rebound or to receive an outlet pass. He almost always catches outlet passes on the move:

Rubio is also a very good defensive rebounder. As mentioned he is always in position, but he also reads the trajectory of the ball very well and uses his length to battle with bigger players for the ball. When he is able to corral the rebound, he immediately turns and looks up court.

The Jazz will see an increase in transition opportunities from Rubio’s ability to generate steals, too. He has long arms and a great ability to anticipate moves. He is perennially one of the league leaders in steal percentage, with a career average 3.4% of opponent possessions that ended with a Rubio swipe. As you can see in this video, Rubio slides his feet, anticipates the move, then uses his quick hands to take the ball and then is off to races.

This transition play should help the Jazz generate easy points and take a lot of pressure off the half court offense to produce at levels needed to sustain a winning team.

The Rubio effect will truly be on display for the Jazz in his ability to pass the ball. Last season, 38.9% of the Wolves’ possessions with Rubio on the floor ended with an assist by the Spaniard. Hill led the Jazz in that stat with 22.8%, followed by Shelvin Mack’s 20.4%. Jazz players will really enjoy playing with a point guard with a great desire AND ability to distribute the ball. Something that stands out on video is his decisiveness with the ball. He makes the right read and does it quickly. If the post is fronted, the ball is quickly swung to the top or high post. If the roll man is open, the ball is there. The ball does not stick and allow the defense to recover. Not only does he read the defense and see the correct pass, the passes are always thrown with good pace and arrive in the shooting pocket.

Rubio also demonstrates a creativity in the pick and roll that the Jazz has sorely lacked.

Those videos are great examples of plays that Hill would never have attempted to make. Hill was great at taking care of the ball, and it’s likely that Rubio will turn it over more than Hill did. There will also be many more “oohs” and “ahhhs” from Jazz faithful, and more importantly many more easy baskets at the rim.

One area that is a large question mark when it comes to Rubio is his ability to shoot the basketball. His career percentages are bad, but probably the worst problem is that he is incredibly reticent to even attempt to shoot the ball. There are many times that he will attempt to make a much more difficult pass when a layup or short floater were available to him. This is something that Snyder must coach out of his game. He also must work a bit on his shot selection. Specifically in transition, Rubio can get a little over confident and take a shot too quickly.

There have been some signs of improvement recently though. During the second half last year, the point guard shot the three ball much better, and that continued through to FIBA’s EuroBasket tournament this summer. He also has developed some confidence and consistency in his mid-range pull-up game out of the pick-and-roll.

Rubio will need to be able to continue to hit that shot. Defenders will be extremely worried about Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors rolling to the basket. All Rubio will need to do is hit that shot once or twice per game, and the defender will start to stay with him for that one extra step that will give him the space to create a pass to those rolling bigs.

The Jazz offense will clearly miss Hill and departed All-Star Gordon Hayward. Don’t be surprised if they struggle on offense throughout the season, especially early on. However, Rubio has the ability to guide the offense to be effective. Snyder has shown his coaching ability, and if he lets Rubio fully play to his strengths in transition and in the pick and roll, Jazz fans are going to have a very fun team to watch on both ends of the floor.

Allen Schowengerdt

After playing basketball all the way through college, Allen understands the Xs and Os of basketball and enjoys breaking down film. He's passionate about sports in general, especially the Jazz.

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