Which Team Should Trade for Ricky Rubio?
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio signed a four-year, $55 million extension before the start of last season, and since then, his play outside of his offense has been steady and well worth the price tag.
While the list of teams in need of someone like Rubio is short, he has still been linked to several teams that could really need the boost at the point guard position.
Where would he fit?
New York Knicks
Rubio has been linked to the Knicks for some time now, and the rumor mill is heating up thanks to a story by the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola. The Knicks could obviously use an upgrade at point guard, but the problem for them is not the need. It's what Minnesota will demand for the 25-year-old.
The Knicks do not have any draft picks in the 2016 Draft, and the Wolves would likely demand some form of draft pick compensation for Rubio, even if it’s a protected first-round pick. However, if they can make the right deal for both teams, the upgrade for the Knicks would be undeniable, and Rubio may be the missing piece they need to make their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The problem for the Knicks is assets. They have also been linked to Jeff Teague, but without their first-round pick this season, the Knicks may lack enough firepower to get the Hawks to let go of Teague. In this sense, Rubio could act as a lower-priced option to acquire, even though Rubio has $43 million remaining on his contract compared to Teague’s $16 million.
A new report from the New York Post has Rubio linked to the Indiana Pacers, who have also been linked to Teague as well. The rumor of a Teague-for-George Hill flip has been rumored for some time, but a Hill-for-Rubio trade does not make as much sense for the Pacers as a trade for Teague would.
Although it may be a downgrade in scoring and shooting, the one thing a Rubio for Hill trade would do for the Pacers is improve their defense. Rubio leads the NBA amongst point guards currently in Real Defensive Plus-Minus at 2.36, while Hill is barely above average in the category at 0.19. The Pacers are already the second best team in the league in Defensive Rating at 102.6, so swapping Hill for Rubio could be an overall net loss for Indiana with the considerable drop in offensive output from Rubio.
While there aren't any current published rumors surrounding Rubio with the Jazz, Utah could use an upgrade at point guard too, and they could be a natural landing spot for Rubio. The Jazz however, already have Dante Exum, and if he can comeback from his ACL injury next season, Rubio's services might not be needed for more than a rental and to ease Exum back into the starting roll eventually.
However, with the salary cap and luxury tax threshold getting ready to explode next season, the Jazz could easily absorb Rubio's salary if they really wanted to make a run this season and beyond.
The bigger problem for Utah other than the longer than needed financial commitment to Rubio is how they would make a trade work at all. The Jazz aren't going to trade any of their core four starters in a deal for Rubio, and they likely wouldn't be excited about flipping Alec Burks for Rubio either. Utah does have the expiring contract of Trevor Booker they could use as a start to make the salaries begin to match, but a trade like that would almost certainly need to include some sort of pick from Utah, which might be too much of a risk for the Jazz this season.
The Jazz do however, have some young and intriguing players like Chris Johnson they could throw into a deal for Rubio that might entice the Wolves to bite.
However, if the Jazz are serious about making a run up the suddenly vulnerable Western Conference standings, a Rubio acquisition would only help that quest. Utah is currently in the 8 seed and only 4.5 games out of fifth place, and Rubio would improve an already good defense and help Gordon Hayward with the load of running the offense in Utah.