The time for Ricky Rubio to leap into the top echelon of NBA point guards could be upon us.

Rubio has delivered shot-making and defensive skills during the exhibition season this fall to go along with his usual assortment of dazzling passes for the Timberwolves, who open their 25th season against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Target Center.

Most important, he's healthy.

It might seem as if Rubio has been around for a long time -- he was plucked by the Wolves with the fifth overall pick of the 2009 NBA draft -- but he has played in just 98 NBA games.

He turned 23 last week.

Still, as the Wolves attempt to return to the NBA playoffs after a nine-year absence, Rubio is the guy in charge in the backcourt.

Forward Kevin Martin was familiar with Rubio as an opponent and welcomed joining him as a teammate after he came over from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the offseason.

"We're going to have a lot of fun together, just the plays he can make," Martin said recently. "He should really flourish this year and become the star that everyone knows he will become one day."

According to an unnamed scout quoted in Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue, "Rubio's ability is so off the charts that even if he only became a passable shooter, he could be an all-star."

Rubio, for one, places no limitations on himself.

"He doesn't want to be one of the best point guards in the NBA," Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. "He wants to be the best."

The offseason knee surgery that kept Rubio out of Minnesota's first 10 games last season is such a thing of the past that teammate Derrick Williams said Rubio was running better than ever in the early stages of training camp.

For good reason: Rubio logged extra time in Spain during the offseason to strengthen his legs.

Equally important, he worked extra on his jump shot.

He came into this season with a career shooting percentage of just .359, but he has shown more confidence putting the ball up this preseason. He made 6 of 11 three-point shots in seven exhibition games, including 3 of 6 in the Wolves' finale against the Detroit Pistons, and coach Rick Adelman wants more of that.