Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly at loggerheads over the point guard's early extension demands. Minnesota can lock in Rubio long-term before the end of October or let him become a restricted free agent in July 2015. This is not a unique situation -- few eligible youngsters have signed early extensions this summer -- but Rubio is a unique player, making this set of negotiations particularly tricky.
Well, Rubio is almost unique. There is another player of a similar odd skill set who has experience in getting paid: Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard signed an early extension in 2009, locking in for $55 million over five years. What had been a questionable deal at the time turned into a veritable steal. That would seem to give Rubio's camp righteous energy during his own negotiations.
There are a few key differences, though. The most obvious and unrelenting is that Boston was a title team looking to keep its core together, while the Wolves have the league's longest active playoff drought and a clear mandate to rebuild (again). That doesn't help Rubio, but it's also not his fault.
What's more interesting to me is how Rubio after three years is a lesser player than Rondo was after three years. Let's chart.
One thing Rondo was way more adept at in this stage of his career was knowing what he couldn't do. In his third season, more than two-thirds of Rondo's shots came from within 10 feet of the rim. He refused to take a bunch of jumpers because, like Rubio, he was not good at shooting them.
But there's a second piece of that: Rondo was (and is) a great finisher at the rim. Rubio is not. Can Ricky ever get strong enough to be an average finisher or better? Will the skill come with experience and time? Or does Rubio's lack of finishing ability make developing a jumper even more imperative? Time will tell.
In the meantime, the Wolves are right to be cautious moving forward. Rondo's self-editing and finishing has allowed him to hang around league average shooting efficiency despite his broken jumper. Rubio ranks quite low among starters in shooting efficiency, which can be a real drain on a team's offense. The other stuff is all great, but Rondo found a way to mitigate his weakness. Rubio, so far, has not.