The Minnesota Timberwolves are open to moving point guard Ricky Rubio, according to a report from the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. Isola reports that the Timberwolves' lead guard is "readily available" to teams.
The 25-year-old is having one of his best seasons, averaging 9.7 points. 8.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. More importantly, he's missed just six games all season and is averaging more than 30 minutes per night. The Timberwolves, however, are just 17-37 and Rubio continues to struggle as a shooter.
Rubio is signed through 2019 and is owed $42 million. But the Timberwolves like what they've seen out of his backup, the 20-year-old Zach LaVine, and would hand him the starting point guard job if they traded Rubio, according to Isola.
Why the Timberwolves will trade Rubio
While he's only 25, Rubio is still about five years older than the core Minnesota is now building around. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are both 20. LaVine turns 21 in March. That Rubio is five years older than them, with a ton of mileage on his tires thanks to all those international competitions, means that by the time that trifecta fully blossoms, he might already be over the hill.
Instead of making that gamble, the Timberwolves could move Rubio now, get some young players or draft picks back in return and continue to solidify their roster in a way similar to what the Thunder did with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Rubio is the type of savvy, team-first player that could help a lot of teams, especially with his strong perimeter defense. Minnesota might be able to take advantage of a desperate franchise on the playoff bubble looking to make a splash.
There's also the question as to how Rubio fits into today's NBA. He remains a fantastic ball-handler, defender and passer, But his crooked jumper has never been fixed. Rubio is shooting just 29 percent from deep this season and just 36 percent from the field. Opponents don't guard him above the foul line, which makes it difficult for everyone else to score. With LaVine continuing to improve (12.8 points and 3.2 assists in 24.4 minutes, 43 percent shooting, 35 percent from behind the three-point line), trading Rubio at his peak could be the prudent move for Minnesota.
Why the Timberwolves won't trade Rubio
Despite all his weaknesses, the Timberwolves remain a much better team when Rubio plays. Minnesota is 10.5 points per 100 possessions better when Rubio is on the court compared to when he sits, per NBA.com. The majority of that difference comes on the defensive end, where Rubio remains a stud. His quick feet allow him to stay in front of even the most explosive of scorers. That he's 6'4 with long arms means he can close down passing lanes, too.
Having a good defensive point guard obviously helps in the short term, but it can also do wonders for the development of a young team. It means less opportunities for Towns to pick up cheap fouls. It means more chances for Wiggins to learn proper defensive rotations. On offense, a veteran like Rubio can act as a stabilizer even with his poor shooting.
While Rubio may not be churning at full speed by the time the Timberwolves are ready to compete, his presence on the team can help push that process along.
Rubio's locked up for the next three seasons, so there's no rush on this. If the Timberwolves receive an offer they like, chances are they'll take a good look. But they're not shopping Rubio yet, and given how few true contenders there are this season, it's unlikely they receive a great offer.
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