By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

It’s all I could hear throughout the giant arena.

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

Then, in unison, they launched into an entire chorus of the Barcelona war song.  Right on cue, Roger Grimau lifted the Euroleague championship trophy toward the sky and the crowd erupted.

Barça, Barça, Baaarça!

There Ricky and I were, both witnessing our first Euroleague Final Four; one of us had just won a championship, the other just reveling in the moment.  Ricky Rubio had just come off of a fantastic Final Four, guiding a gifted Barcelona squad to a championship as a lead guard.  He was on the cusp of much larger things, and at that time it seemed like the basketball world was in his hand.  FIBA World Championships looming that summer and a bright NBA future forming on the ever-approaching horizon.

That was May 9, 2010. Just over a year later and Ricky Rubio is sitting in an entirely different position.  Last summer Rubio put up a lackluster performance in Turkey and the Spanish team ended up flaming out to hungrier competition. Then Barcelona was knocked off in the Euroleague Playoffs, shutting them out of a Final Four played in their backyard.  Rubio didn’t step into the upper echelon of European point guards as was expected, forcing Xavi Pascual to hand even more floor time to back up point guard Victor Sada.  Barcelona is set to play a 5 game series to decide the ACB League championship on Thursday and Rubio will not be looked upon to lead the team, just to provide a supporting role.

This season Rubio is down in just about every shooting percentage category, while dishing almost the exact same number of assists.  Given his experience and recent foray into the 20s, he’s no longer being evaluated on a “teenage” scale; this guy needs to start generating grown man numbers.

Now, he’s Minnesota’s to develop.

My answer might surprise you, but I have all the faith in the world in young Ricky Rubio.  He has monkey like arms ready to swipe the ball right out of your unsuspecting hand and an eye for an amazing post delivery that only a 20 year old with 5 years of professional basketball experience can have.  His uneven playing time in the stacked Barcelona rotation never allowed Rubio to settle into that groove; he needs to find that sweet spot.  Playing alongside European legend Juan Carlos Navarro was both a blessing and a curse for Rubio.  It’s great to have one of the continent’s best scorers standing just to your right, but it also becomes a crutch.  JC likes to take over possessions and bring the ball up himself when he’s ready to take over the game.  This limits Rubio’s ability to have the offense run through him and makes him unsure of his role in the offense.  The slower pace and half court focus is not suited to Rubio’s skill set.  He needs a wide-open offense with athletes at his side plus a longer leash from his coach. The lowly Timberwolves won’t be challenging for a championship any time soon, so Kurt Rambis—or whoever ends up on the bench—should have the wisdom to be patient.

Will Rubio be a consistent All-Star? The best passer this side of Steve Nash? Probably not.  But will Rubio give you some of the best passing games you’ve seen in a while and pick your pocket when he so pleases? Yes.  With the outlet passes from Kevin Love, dunk finishes from Micheal Beasley and Anthony Randolph, and kick-outs for Wes Johnson and Martell Webster, the future seems very bright.  After they add a piece in the draft (Editor’s Note: Don’t forget about Darko), a core should be pretty well established. While he isn’t as “hot” as he once was, Ricky Rubio is still a young point guard with tons of potential as a distributor.  He’ll need to refine his outside jumper and bulk up a little in the gym to reach even loftier goals, so don’t be discouraged if he struggles a bit as he makes the transition.  Rubio needs wider passing lanes and teammates flying to the cup looking for passes that are souring through the air.

My predictions: Rubio will make Minnesota’s offense much, much, much more fun to watch, he will lead the team in steals/assists, and in 3 years he will be entrenched in the NBA’s Top five in assists for many years to come.

Rubio has evolved from child star to teen with unreachable expectations and now, to NBA point guard.  With so much more basketball to come, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.