As it is known around the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a dynamic young backcourt. Both Darius Garland and Collin Sexton have shown tremendous flashes over their first few years in the NBA. Sexton put on a number of wild scoring displays, while Garland proved he could be an effective floor general. But, one thing was missing.
Who would the third guard in the rotation be? After trading Kevin Porter Jr., it left a bit of a void. They had a number of injuries a season ago, so there was a constant shuffling. The team announced prior to the draft that they had made a deal with the Timberwolves.
Gone, was Taurean Prince and a future draft pick. And incoming, Ricky Rubio. A journeyman of the NBA, he has been playing for over a decade. He has had his ups and downs, but this is a player ready to contribute immediately.
Let’s take a look at what his value to the team can be.
Though he can be maddeningly inconsistent, one part of Rubio’s game is present wherever he is playing. His ability to pass the ball is incredible, and his assist totals have reflected that. He has never averaged fewer than 5.3 per game over a season, and has six seasons of averaging better than eight per contest. The man can pass the ball.
He averaged a career-high of 9.1 during his final season in Minnesota in 2016-17, before re-joining the team last season following a trade from OKC. He knows how to find open teammates, and has a career average of nearly 2.6 A/TO. Rubio limits his turnovers while making sure his teammates have plenty of opportunities to eat.
There has been an issue with consistent ball movement in Cleveland for a number of years now, so adding Rubio can improve that instantly. He not only gets it to the open shooter, but picks up plenty of hockey assists as well. Look for him to be throwing an endless number of lobs to the combination of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen from the very first day the season begins.
It’s no secret that the Cavs are a young team. Their projected starting lineup for next season has Jarrett Allen (23 years old, turning 24 next April) as the oldest player. They don’t have too many veteran players, so it will be the job of Rubio to come in and instill winning tendencies.
And though he has made the playoffs just twice, there is plenty of knowledge that Rubio can instill. He has been a professional for a long time, and he knows what it takes to succeed in the best league in the world. He’ll turn 31 right around the time the season opens.
A Little Scoring Punch
A look at the scoring numbers and shooting percentages of Rubio might make folks do a double-take. But, he can provide a little offense that the team has long missed. As much as we all loved Matthew Dellavedova, he could not score. Nor could Dante Exum, or Damyean Dotson for more than two games in a row. In their new guard, they have a player who can create.
Though he has career shooting splits of .391/.325/.843, his jumper has improved. Rubio has made at least one three per game in four consecutive seasons. His two seasons in Utah saw him hitting triples at a 33% clip. And in Minnesota season ago, it was 31%. He was also playing with a lot of backups by the end of the season, though.
He averaged a career-low of 8.6 points per game in 2020-21, but did play a lot of minutes next to D’Angelo Russell, who dominates the ball. Logging minutes next to Sexton will allow him a few more opportunities to create for himself. He will be played solely 1-on-1, and can showcase his handles to create mid-range looks and lay-ups for himself.
And in case anybody has a VERY short memory, I think it’s time to look back at his last game with Spain.
Ricky Rubio Lit Up Team USA
Team USA defeated Spain 96-81 in the quarterfinals of the Olympics. The game took place just seven days ago. And though his team obviously lost, Ricky put on a SHOW. He poured in 38 points in 27 minutes of action, hitting 13 of 20 shots (4-7 3PT, 8-8 FT).
Going against the best team in the tournament by far, nobody could stop him. The issue was that the rest of the team mustered 43 total points. But, the fact that nobody could stop him will bode very well coming into the year. In a twisted way, it’s actually good that Spain took the loss.
Because, Rubio put in one of the best showings of his entire professional career. And it was not enough to guide his team to a win. It will only make him hungrier as he joins a Cavs team looking to take the next step.