Eight years after drafting him, patiently waiting for him to come stateside and then handing him the keys to the offense, the Minnesota Timberwolves have reportedly parted with Ricky Rubio.
According to Spencer Checketts of the Zone Sports Network, the Utah Jazz agreed to send the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick to the Timberwolves in exchange for Rubio on Friday. The pick is top-14 protected, per Marc Stein of ESPN.
Shooting struggles have derailed the public perception of a player who doesn’t have many other flaws. Rubio is one of the NBA‘s half-dozen best passers, a 6’4″ point guard who uses his size and vision to see and attempt passes few others would. He has kept his turnover rate on the low end throughout his career, and Minnesota’s offensive numbers spiked when he was on the floor last season.
While he rarely gets mentioned as an elite defender, there aren’t many better at his position. Only Chris Paul and Patrick Beverley are more consistently better defensive point guards, and he quietly ranked as the ninth-best point guard in the league, per ESPN.com.
That does not fit with public perception, which has long been critical of Rubio’s poor shooting—often for good reason. The 2016-17 season was the first time he shot over 40 percent over a full NBA season. Given his solid stroke from the free-throw line, it’s fair to wonder if Rubio’s struggles are more mental than anything.
Rubio picked it up in a big way after the 2017 All-Star break, averaging 16.0 points and 10.5 assists and shooting 42.0 percent from the floor.
Minnesota also traded point guard Kris Dunn to the Chicago Bulls this offseason, so the idea of Dunn eventually taking over for Rubio long term is no longer on the table.
As for Utah, incumbent point guard George Hill is hitting free agency, so this could signal his end with the team. If that’s the case, Rubio will take over the slot Hill occupied in the starting lineup.
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