Ricky Rubio’s presence will again be crucial for Cavs’ Darius Garland

Ricky Rubio and Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Ricky Rubio and Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

Given the rumors throughout much of the offseason to this point and even dating back to during this past season, it was no surprise that the Cleveland Cavaliers brought back Ricky Rubio. He was signed via three-year, $18.4 million deal, with the third season being partially guaranteed.

Per a report from Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com on Thursday, Rubio was signed utilizing a portion of Cleveland’s mid-level exception, and a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers, Rubio’s last team, won’t play out for his signing, which was a reported possibility.

Regarding Collin Sexton’s situation, while it’s still a ways away from training camp even, Cleveland is at a max of 15 rostered players, so it seems like a reasonable possibility that suggested potential candidates such as Cedi Osman/Dylan Windler could be traded at some point. It does still seem to be a good possibility Sexton, a restricted free agent, is back and signed long-term, but we’ll have to see how the Cavs approach things roster-wise.

In relation to the aforementioned Rubio, he was electric for the Cavaliers in a move to a supersub-type role last season following a trade acquisition last offseason from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he had a career-best 13.1 points per outing. Prior to his season ending prematurely because of a torn ACL in late December, Rubio had those scoring splits, to go with 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest, in 28.5 minutes on average.

Similarly to Sexton being out for most of last season due to a torn meniscus, Rubio going down was rough for Cleveland’s outlook. Rubio proved to be a valuable piece for the Cavaliers in his minutes, and he seemed to play a role in the emergence of Darius Garland as one of the NBA’s best young guards.

In that realm, Rubio appeared to help Garland in his further on-court progression from the year prior, and also in his floor generalship, and the leadership aspect.

Now, it’s less than ideal that relating to next season, Rubio might not return until January, regarding the ACL recovery and him set to enter his age-32 season in 2022-23. It’s apparent as to why Cleveland came to an agreement with Raul Neto via one-year, veteran’s minimum deal to help out Garland in some stretches, and with Rubio’s timeline in mind.

That being said, even prior to him being back, Rubio’s presence behind the scenes will be big for Cleveland either way, and he should be invaluable for Garland, similarly to last season.

Rubio’s vet advice/presence will again be crucial for Garland, and the Cavs overall.

It’s difficult to project when we’ll see Rubio trot out there on the hardwood for the Wine and Gold; maybe it’s December, or January. I guess the question is, when will he feel himself, so-to-speak?

Granted, athleticism and quick-twitch aren’t the key attributes for Rubio, who has had a quality career predicated on cerebral play, outstanding passing vision, defensive tenacity and on-floor sense.

Off the floor too, though, Rubio has reportedly established himself as a guy that’s been invaluable for players such as Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker and last year, for Darius Garland.

Garland had 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per contest last season, in what was a breakout year where he made his first All-Star Game. Garland followed up what was a very encouraging Year 2 where he had 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per outing with that aforementioned big-time Year 3, and he seemingly took full command of the team, in the on and off-floor sense.

Going forward, Garland looks to be the primary leader of this Cavalier team, and he was recently signed to the largest contract in Cavs franchise history, via five-year, rookie max contract extension which is set to be $193 million, and potentially up to $231 million. Needless to say, Garland is going to be one of Cavaliers’ most important players as they look to continue to build momentum from a resurgent past season.

Even still, it was understandable that despite him coming off the injury, that Cleveland brought Rubio back, partly with how his presence made a difference for Garland in the off-floor/behind the scenes realm.

Rubio seemingly helped Garland with his game management, overall floor generalship, pick-and-roll play, and last year, Garland made strides defensively, at least in the team sense. Garland had 1.3 steals per outing, and I’d think that Rubio’s vet advice aided him in his timing as an off-ball defender/rotator.

Additionally, Rubio reportedly made a considerable difference for the 22-year-old Garland in his growth as a leader off the floor, which played into his reunion with the Cavaliers it appeared, also.

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Moreover, hopefully Rubio keeps progressing gradually in his recovery.