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Suns’ Ricky Rubio a ‘player to watch’ in Orlando restart, says FiveThirtyEight

Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio (11) drives as Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee (1) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Phoenix. The Warriors won 115-99. (AP Photo/Matt York)

As the Phoenix Suns got underway against the Wizards in Orlando on Friday, there’s little hope or chance that this NBA bubble will lead to the Suns getting into the playoffs. It’s more likely to be eight games and then a trip back home.

So, if you’re looking for something to watch around the league other than wins and losses, analytics website FiveThirtyEight listed some players to keep your eye on. One of those names was Ricky Rubio.

According to FiveThirtyEight, there are eight teams have a lesser chance of making the playoffs, some of which are just along for the ride. The site identified the players on those teams who rate the highest in RAPTOR, their own metric that measures a players effect on his team’s play (per FiveThirtyEight: Robust Algorithm (using) Player Tracking (and) On/Off Ratings).

Rubio leads the Suns in that metric this season, coming in at +1.8 points per 100 possessions.

The Suns have a good ensemble cast of starters, so a few of them could make a case as Phoenix’s player to watch. But the team’s best RAPTOR rating (+1.8) belongs to Rubio, whose arrival via free agency last summer helped the Suns improve enough to even be in this position. With Rubio on the court, the Suns score 6.7 more points/100 than when he sits, and they allow 3.3 fewer points/100 — meaning Phoenix’s overall performance is about 10 points/100 better when Rubio is in the game.

Rubio, the Suns long-awaited starting point guard who filled a void after Phoenix was left wandering in the desert at that position, has been a solid add, as evidenced by this analysis.

The article’s author, Neil Paine, attributed Rubio’s success to chemistry with star guard Devin Booker and spark plug Kelly Oubre Jr. He leads the Suns in assist rate at 39.9%, Paine notes, though he has regressed some on defense.

Rubio has averaged a career-best 13.1 points per game in 2019-20 to go along with 8.9 assists per game, the second highest mark of his career.

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