By: Alex Berg
I REALLY did not want do this. But I’m going to write about the Ricky Rubio trade rumors that surfaced before last week’s trade deadline and what his future in Minnesota could hold.
I think it is pretty obvious that the Timberwolves were not actively shopping the 25-year-old point guard last week, but that does not mean they would not listen. As many have already pointed out, the front office -- even with it being a massive question mark right now -- is not “married” to Rubio in the same way they are to Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. What that means is he probably not seen as a cornerstone piece in this rebuilding project, at least not to the extent of the aforementioned trio.
That being said, the team did not just throw $56 million at Rubio for the hell of it. The front office obviously values Rubio and what he brings to the table as a contributor to this young core of potential superstars. Even considering the insane stretch Towns is in right now, I could still make a case for Rubio being the most important player on the roster right now. Part of that is for what he does, part is the lack of back-up plan; regardless he is pretty important to this team.
If he is so important, why even consider trading him? Well, I would not trade him right now unless you get an absolute haul in return. Which is what made a deadline deal incredibly unrealistic. No team seeking a point guard for a playoff run is going to empty the cupboards, especially the few teams who have assets that should entice Minnesota.
Looking at a few of the teams that reportedly had interest in Rubio, it was nearly impossible to find a match. The Indiana Pacers? Sure, Myles Turner would be nice, but I’m not sure if Indiana moves him and it leaves a massive hole in the Wolves backcourt. The New York Kni.. Gross, nevermind, move on. The Milwaukee Bucks were the most intriguing match because of their assets. Between second-year forward Jabari Parker and wings Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have the potential for an “odd-man out.” It was reported the Wolves asked for Middleton, which I applaud them for. I’m not sure how the Bucks would rank the three, but I’d put him slightly above Parker and slightly below Antetokounmpo. Not shockingly, the Bucks did not want to move Middleton. I’m just glad the Wolves did not settle for Michael Carter-Williams and fillers. MCW is basically a poor-man’s Ricky Rubio and he’s only a year younger.
I know some fans are fed up with Rubio’s shooting -- which is right around his career-low at 35.7 percent -- but what Rubio brings to the team aside from scoring is way too often overlooked. His 8.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game rank close to the top among NBA point guards, and that does not even factor in the touchy fouls he draws to get the team into the bonus earlier or the turnovers he forces by drawing a charge, often 20+ feet from the rim. He has a rare ability to make everyone else on the floor better and I think being surrounded by better shooters would do even more justice for his already-impressive assist numbers.
A team like the Timberwolves can only be in “rebuild mode” for so long. They’ve essentially hit the lottery twice with Wiggins and Towns. It is not likely a young duo with that much talent will be eager to go through a 5-plus year process of building for the future. That’s what the team might be looking at if they move their point guard without a concrete plan in place.
Fans often say something like “how can the Wolves expect to compete with Curry, Lillard or Westbrook?” Well, if point guards of that caliber just grew on trees, they wouldn’t be considered the all-world players they are. So many fans want to end the Rubio era, but have no plan for what is next. No, Tyus Jones is not the answer. No, Kris Dunn (out of Providence) -- or any other college prospect -- is going to step into the NBA and play at the all-star level for at least two or three seasons. So you’re looking at at least a season and a half of growing pains from your floor general parlayed with wasting a season of learning to play with Rubio for Towns and Wiggins.
I think the one realistic wildcard for the Wolves was LaVine. I mean, I cannot think of any other reason why they continued to trot him out at point guard and watch the world burn around him. It’s just a guess, but I think the team wanted to see if LaVine could be the future Russell Westbrook-like point guard and Rubio be used as a sixth man that keeps the ship above water -- something the Wolves have desperately lacked for most of Rubio’s career here.
Now that it is apparent that LaVine is MUCH better off-the-ball and Tyus Jones is back into the rotation, I would be very surprised if Rubio is moved this summer. The only deal that would make sense for the Wolves is getting a proven point guard that is a step up from Rubio, and that just would not make sense for the other team. I think it might be time for critics to accept Rubio’s shooting for what it is and appreciate what else he does on the floor. He probably isn’t leaving anytime soon.