• Jeremy Freed

2019 NBA Free Agents: Ricky Rubio


USA Today

Overview:

After tantalizing league executives as a teenager with his flashy, fearless, open-court wizardry in Europe, Ricky Rubio became the first point guard off the board in 2009, ahead of such peers as Stephen Curry, unfortunately for Minnesota Timberwolves fans.To make matters worse, he took two years to come stateside, so all these years later, is only a seven-year vet at age 28. While Rubio has had his flashes, he has settled into a role quite below what was hoped for nearly a decade ago: a dependable -- if light-shooting -- backup point guard.

Regular Season Stats: 12.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.7 TOPG, .311 3P%

Strengths:

A wizard with a basketball, Rubio possesses rare and unique court vision, especially when in a transition opportunity. Rubio had fewer playmaking opportunities in Utah playing with Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, but he’s not far removed from six seasons in Minnesota where he averaged 8.5 assists per season; Rubio clearly has the bonafides to be the triggerman for an NBA offense. He’s also proven himself on the defensive end, possessing good size at 6’4”, and quick hands, three times leading the league in steal percentage.

Weaknesses:

Can’t shoot. Perhaps the most important skill a player needs in the modern NBA is range, and Rubio doesn’t have it. 31% from beyond the arc won’t cut it, as savvy defenses simply sag off, and the bold, creative forays Rubio makes to the rim that create kick-out opportunities and wide open shots don’t exist when defenses know there’s no shooting threat. For his career, he’s under 40% from the field and 33% from downtown. Yikes.

Ideal Role:

It’s hard to see a team with legitimate playoff aspirations turn to Rubio as a starting point guard, especially with a seeming surplus of options in the league. Maybe - maybe - if the Hornets lose Kemba Walker, they might consider signing and starting Rubio, but he really looks like a back-up at this juncture. For a team with a young point guard, he has perhaps even greater appeal.

Possible Landing Spots:

Charlotte could be a destination for the reasons mentioned above.

Memphis, if they trade Mike Conley after drafting Ja Morant, could be a franchise that would benefit from the stability that Rubio would provide as well. Rubio appears to be well-liked and respected around the league, and could settle nicely into a veteran leadership role there, while still being on the right side of 30.

Los Angeles might represent an intriguing destination, with the Clippers overhauling their roster. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the future of the position, but with Miles Teodosic, Patrick Beverley, and Garrett Temple all coming off the roster, the Clippers’ backcourt will consist of three players who just finished their rookie seasons -- SGA, Landry Shamet, and Jerome Robinson -- and Lou Williams. There’s room for Rubio.

Denver, lastly, is an outside-the-box choice, with both Jamal Murray and Monte Morris playing very well last season. But the latter really lost Mike Malone’s confidence in the playoffs this year, and the Nuggets -- who will undoubtedly move on from Isaiah Thomas -- might seek to continue Rubio’s tour of the Northwest Division. With a plethora of offensive options, the Nuggets need less from Rubio on that end, and would benefit from his defensive acumen.

Next Contract:

Don’t look for Rubio to match the nearly-$15 million he earned from Utah this past season. That was a contract signed when he was just 24 years old, and had the potential of further growth. If he’s going to see $15 million, it’ll be over two years.

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