Cavs bring back Ricky Rubio for floor generalship, off-floor presence

Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers were not active on the first day/evening of free agency, as far as agreed-upon deals. It’s likely just a matter of time before the Wine and Gold and Darius Garland/his representation in Klutch Sports come to terms on a rookie scale max extension, as that’s been reportedly likely for some time.

It still does appear to be a high possibility that, from there, the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton will likely come to terms on keeping around long term. Sexton is currently a restricted free agent, so we’ll have to see, but with how rumored teams such as the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards addressed scoring guard, Sexton looks to be likely back.

A sign-and-trade possibility is there still, and the Cavs and Sexton/his representation in Rich Paul, who is Garland’s representation as well, will have to work something out in time.

For now, though, the Cavaliers did seem to have two holes to address roster-wise in free agency, those being backup point guard and backup center.

Rumored potential targets such as Tyus Jones, and Delon Wright, among others, were off the board, but Ricky Rubio was still available. It has been rumored that a Cavs-Rubio reunion could definitely play out this offseason, and that’s what will be the case, albeit not officially until July 6.

Rubio’s expiring contract was part of the trade with the Indiana Pacers near the past deadline to bring in Caris LeVert, but it’s still long been a possibility that he’d come back. That was materialized on Friday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Friday morning how Rubio is nearing a deal to return to Cleveland, of which will be a multi-year deal.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reported then how Rubio’s deal will be for three years, for $18.4 million. And from there, Chris Fedor of then reported how the third year will be partially-guaranteed.

In a follow-up to that tweet above, Fedor reported that following the Rubio agreement, the Cavs “could still have a portion of their $10.4 million midlevel exception remaining for another move or two.”

Fedor would then state in that report how this could potentially become a sign-and-trade with Indiana, though, so we’ll keep on the lookout for details to come.

This was a fairly team-friendly deal, it seems, and I get where Cleveland was coming from.

To nobody’s surprise, the Cavs have elected to bring Rubio back, for his floor generalship, upon his return from injury, and his leadership.

Rubio was terrific for the Cavaliers last season in a move to a supersub-type role following his trade acquisition last offseason from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He, like another vet-turned-supersub in Kevin Love in that sense, gave the Cavs a key lift in his minutes.

Rubio had what would’ve been tied for a career-best in 13.1 points per outing with more of a sample size seemingly, and while the shooting was going to come down to earth and did, his shot creation was valuable. That was even more so following Collin Sexton being out, which ended up being most of last season (torn meniscus).

Rubio’s playmaking without Darius Garland on the floor was very meaningful as well, obviously, and he did work well in stretches with Garland. Rubio had 6.6 assists per contest in 28.5 minutes on average, to 2.6 turnovers, and as our own Mack Perry expressed, Rubio had full command at times as a playmaker.

Additionally, Rubio helped the Cavaliers on defense, with 1.3 steals per game in his 34 appearances, and his IQ and positioning, particularly off-ball, aided Cleveland as well. That can help set the tone for young guys, too.

The elephant in the room, regarding the Rubio reunion, is the ACL tear from last season. Rubio may not be back until January, and that was the same ACL he tore in his left knee back in 2012. That to me, combined with him heading into his age-32 season, is concerning from my perspective.

But, in fairness, athleticism and quick-twitch abilities have never been Rubio’s strengths. And if he hold ups, an if, I know, he would provide impressive floor generalship in his minutes, and that’d be a boon for Cleveland and Garland.

The issue for the Cavaliers in the interim would be how they address operations until Rubio is back. If Sexton returns, one would assume a combo of him and/or Caris LeVert would handle de facto primary playmaking duties in non-Garland minutes.

Or maybe the Cavs do potentially bring in Raul Neto or Aaron Holiday, as our own Josh Cornelissen suggested prior to the Rubio signing. Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. could be a flyer worth taking, with these options being via minimum deals, seemingly.

In that realm, Fedor’s report stated that the Cavs could have another agreement “in place” heading into the holiday weekend.

Anyway, while we’ll have to see what plays out on the Garland/Sexton front, one can’t be shocked by the Cavs-Rubio reunion. Rubio’s floor generalship, steadying hand, upon his return, and smart play helped the Cavaliers get out to a great start last season.

And his off-floor presence as well, which made a difference for Garland, Evan Mobley seemingly and others, is something the Cavs had to have in mind here, too. He reportedly helped Garland immensely in his growth as a leader, and to that point, I’d expect Garland to be Cleveland’s primary leader from here, also.

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So, hopefully Rubio’s recovery is coming along well.