From the first time he stepped on an NBA court in December, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio earned widespread attention for his amazing court vision. He was a camera-ready star, and he had the production to match. Immediately, he became the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, if only because he was so clearly worth watching.
The problem for Rubio, at least as far as it relates to that award, is that in a little more than a month of NBA action it's become increasingly clear he's not the best rookie in the league, let alone the best first-year point guard. Instead, that honor belongs to Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who's currently averaging 17.9 points (on 51.6 percent shooting), 4.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds in only 28.4 minutes per game. He also now has a signature highlight, courtesy of this double-splitting spin and lay-up with 2.6 seconds left to beat the Celtics 87-86 in Boston on Sunday.
Whenever Byron Scott starts playing Irving more, it stands to reason that his national profile will also become greater. That matters, at least in relation to taking home the Rookie of the Year hardware, because these awards tend to be voted on based more on perception than statistical analysis. Rubio is a very good player with a ton of promise, but his recent shooting woes have proven he has lots of room to grow. Irving does too, of course, but his play so far this season helps him to project as a future superstar. On top of that, he has the Cavs in line to earn the last playoff spot in the East, an outcome few would have predicted a month ago.
He deserves notice. And while that attention doesn't have to come at the expense of Rubio, we should at least open up the Rookie of the Year race after so many called it for Rubio a few games into the season. Irving's only going to get better, so get on his bandwagon when you can.