Utah Jazz: Let’s just say it, it’s time for Ricky Rubio to hit the bench

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz takes rests during a 126-107 win over the LA Clippers at Staples Center on November 30, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz takes rests during a 126-107 win over the LA Clippers at Staples Center on November 30, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Ricky Rubio’s woes as starting point guard for the Utah Jazz were once again on display in a disheartening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night.

When the Utah Jazz traded for Ricky Rubio this offseason, I was optimistic about the role he would play with the team. He had been an entertaining player in Minnesota that effectively ran the offense and the Jazz were just one season removed from helping former starting point guard George Hill have a career year, so I was optimistic that the Jazz coaching staff and system could help Rubio similarly revolutionize his game, have a career year and hide his weaknesses.

Unfortunately, up to this point that has been far from the case.

Instead, Rubio has struggled to assimilate himself with the Jazz in any fashion. We all knew his shot was rough, but there were hopes that his electrifying passing ability and pesky defense would be enough to cancel out his shooting woes. Instead, his assists are at a career-low number, his turnovers are at a career-high and his steals are tied for a career-low.

And while the steals figure isn’t bad by any means (after all, he leads the team in that category), it hasn’t been indicative of his defense. Rubio has constantly been an easy opponent for opposing point guards to go after and he’s been a victim of blow-bys on plenty of occasions this season. The real reason he’s on the court is to set up his teammates and play stingy defense and if he’s not doing either of those, the cold hard truth is that he’s not really helping.

That’s especially true considering that his typically poor shooting has been even worse so far this season, as hard as that is to believe. He’s shooting just 38.6 percent from the field, down almost two percent from last year, and 29.2 percent from three, the second-worst mark of his career.

In other words, he’s been poor in nearly every aspect of his game. You know it’s bad when the Jazz post a better offensive rating when Rubio is off the court than when any other single player on the team is off. In fact, backup point guard Raul Neto has absolutely outplayed Rubio in nearly every facet of the game.

The offense seems to flow better when Neto is in at the point (largely because he’s actually a shooting threat at 48.4 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep) and he is well above Rubio in offensive rating (107 vs. 101.3), defensive rating (90.7 vs. 101.7) and net rating (16.3 vs. -0.4). The difference in the two players’ net rating is especially astounding to me.

No offense to Raul Neto, who I honestly think is vastly underrated, but it’s pretty bad news that in last night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder where Neto was sidelined due to foot soreness, it was quite clear that he – a presumed third string point guard – was clearly missed and would have likely been critical in helping Utah maintain their lead and win the game had he been available.

Nevertheless, such was exactly the case. The Jazz went into the fourth quarter with a solid 12-point lead after being in front for nearly the entire game by as much as 17. The game was in the bag. It was theirs to win based on their dominant play up to that point! But to start out the fourth, Quin Snyder went with Ricky Rubio for an extended amount of time and, surprise, surprise, neither he nor his Jazz teammates could buy a bucket and the Thunder instantly went on to close the gap and shortly thereafter would take the lead for good.

Rubio was a godawful minus-13 in the fourth quarter alone in last night’s game and didn’t hit a shot. The Jazz went on a drought of nearly five minutes and before you knew it, the 12-point lead had completely evaporated. It was without a doubt a disheartening stretch, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Utah’s horrific span of eight losses in ten games earlier in the season.

Yes, I’m fully aware that Neto wasn’t available to play last night, so there wasn’t a quick fix in that instance, but the fact of the matter is that in last night’s game and in the future, it’s time for Rubio to hit the bench and see a reduced role, regardless of who’s available to replace him. I get it, he was brought in to be our starting point guard and the operator of the offense, so doing such may adversely affect his confidence, lowering his production even further. But at this point, I can’t see it doing all that much more harm to his game than where he’s already at.

Plus besides, when Rodney Hood was moved to the bench, it revolutionized his game and he started playing phenomenally. That won’t necessarily be exactly the case with Rubio, but if he’s a true competitor and deserves a spot on this team, then he’ll take that benching as motivation to prove himself and play with a chip on his shoulder to earn his starting role back again.

And if he doesn’t do that either, well, then moving on seems better than continuing to muddle through his dismal play.

The fact of the matter is that Rubio hasn’t played well for the Jazz minus a few brief flashes here and there and his poor play had a major impact on Utah’s blown lead loss last night. Sure, there were other factors as well and the Thunder deserve credit for playing a lock-down fourth quarter, but I’m still fully convinced that had Neto been available for that horrific fourth quarter stretch instead of Rubio, the Jazz would have found a way to come out on top.

In a hotly contested Western Conference, a fringe playoff team like the Jazz can’t afford many losses, especially not 17-point blown lead losses, so last night’s defeat may prove more costly than one would think on the surface.

Next: Utah Jazz-OKC Thunder 12/5: Jazz depleted in back-to-back

And with the role that Rubio played in such a loss, one can’t help but wonder how much longer Quin Snyder goes before opting to make a change that, while it might hinder Rubio’s confidence, could very well be for the betterment of the team as a whole.

Painful though it may be, let’s just say it like it is, it’s time for Ricky Rubio to make the move to the bench.