NBA: Ricky Rubio faces tough season if Kevin Love is traded

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Spanish point guard will need to step up his game if the Minnesota Timberwolves trade their All-Star power forward.

The Kevin Love trade saga is set to drag on for another month after the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Andrew Wiggins, preventing them from trading the number one pick for 30 days.

If, or when, the trade eventually goes through, the Timberwolves will certainly be worse off than they were last season when they stumbled to a 40-42 record.

Replacing Love will be close to impossible, and the one player who will suffer from his departure more than any other is point guard Ricky Rubio.

The Spaniard had a poor 2013-14 season, scoring just 9.5 points per game on 38% shooting. He remains one of the NBA's premier passers and was fourth in the league with 8.6 assists per game, but that will take a huge hit if Love is traded. The power forward accounts for a good proportion of Rubio's assists as they form a dynamic partnership in the pick and roll game.

Love's greatest strength is his ability to stretch the floor with his excellent three-point shooting, which opens up the court for his teammates. Theoretically, Rubio should be able to score efficiently at the basket with Love dragging a big man away from the paint, but the point guard was unable to capitalise last season.

He finished less than 50% of his shots from under three feet away from the rim, a figure that will need to improve vastly if Rubio is to be one of the NBA's best point guards.

The biggest drop-off in Rubio's game last season was his inability to drain mid-range jump shots - he shot a measly 17.4% from 10-16 feet from the basket and 30% on two-pointers from deeper than 16 feet.

He was absolutely no threat from mid-range, meaning opposing point guards were content to sit back in the paint, limit his driving opportunities and allow him to shoot inefficient jumpers.

Other point guards, such as Rajon Rondo, have overcome this difficulty with their athleticism but the Spaniard just does not have the same ability to breeze past players and finish at the rim. This also limits the effectiveness of his pick-and-roll play as Rubio's man can double-team the big man rolling to the hoop, leaving the point guard the wide open look.

An underrated part of Love's game is his ability to grab the rebound and throw incredible outlet passes to trigger the fast break. Without him doing this on a consistent basis, Rubio will struggle to get into transition as often and will instead be expected to run the half-court offense more regularly.

As a result, his vision of the court will be limited and we will not see as many of his mesmerising no-look passes as we are accustomed to.

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It is worth remembering that the Timberwolves's excitement when Rubio first entered the league is part of the reason for Love's departure. Minnesota offered the big man just a four-year deal when they extended his contract in 2011, saving their designated five-year contract for the Spaniard.

Now, Love is set to bolt in free agency at the end of this season and the Timberwolves will be forced to trade him rather than lose their star for nothing. The team put their trust in Rubio when they restricted Love's contract to four years, and now the point guard must justify that faith by making a big leap this season.

Is Ricky Rubio set for a big year in Minnesota?