When the Cleveland Cavaliers brought back Ricky Rubio last month in free agency, it was not a surprising move. That was a widely reported/rumored possibility since even shortly after Rubio was traded to the Indiana Pacers as part of a package near the past deadline in a deal involving Caris LeVert.
Before tearing the ACL in his left knee, Rubio was instrumental for the Cavaliers last season after being an offseason trade acquisition from the Minnnesota Timberwolves. In what was mostly a supersub-type role, Rubio had 13.1 points and 6.6 assists per outing in 34 appearances with Cleveland pre-injury, and him and the Cavaliers reportedly had mutual interest in a possible reunion.
Rubio, who was unrestricted, was ultimately re-signed via three-year, $18.4 million deal last month, with the third season partially-guaranteed. Granted, Rubio will likely not be back until December or January, and that was the second time he tore the ACL in his left knee.
Objectively, some being skeptical of how effective he can be looking onward is fair. Rubio will be entering his 12th season in 2022-23, and he’ll turn 32 in October.
That said, I do understand where the Cavaliers were coming from in bringing him back, and the partial guarantee for the third season was sensible from the team’s standpoint. But his impact last season was significant, and with that in mind, I can see where Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report was coming from in having Rubio’s re-signing as one of the 10 most underrated NBA offseason moves.
This part of the rationale from Swartz, who had Rubio being back at No. 5 on that list, stood out, also.
“The 31-year-old point guard connected the dots for Cleveland’s offense whether he was running the second unit or playing alongside Darius Garland. When Rubio shared the floor with Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, the Cavaliers had a net rating of plus-24.5.”
Rubio was huge for the Cavaliers when he was in there last season, and helped in a number of ways.
Rubio was invaluable for the Cavs, and him being re-signed is an underrated move from B/R’s perspective; I can see their reasoning for that take, at least to some extent.
As Swartz alluded to, Rubio could very well miss a few months of the upcoming season, which isn’t ideal. A silver lining, to some degree, on a positive note, is that he is not necessarily a guy who is going to do what he does from athleticism or quick-twitch abilities.
With that in mind here, Rubio still could have a sizeable impact for Cleveland in the 2022-23 campaign, provided he keeps progressing in his rehab. Rubio has long been one of the best passers in the NBA, and through 11 seasons, has had 7.6 assists per contest. Furthermore, as more so a combo guard last season, he placed in the 97th percentile in assist rate at 34.5 percent, per Cleaning The Glass.
With Cleveland last year, both in instances with or without Garland on the floor with him, Rubio’s vision, precision and creativity as a playmaker for others was on display throughout games for the Cavaliers.
He had 6.6 assists per game in only 28.5 minutes on average, which illustrated the effect he had on games in his minutes, and his two-man game with Kevin Love, his former longtime Wolves teammate, gave Cleveland a lift, too. I’d imagine that should play out this coming season when he’s back as well, along with Rubio being able to make a difference for Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and others.
Additionally, as Swartz highlighted, defensively, thanks to his active hands, positional awareness and versatility on that end, Rubio immensely aided the Wine and Gold there. He had 1.4 steals per contest, and Rubio’s 4.1 rebounds per outing helped the club.
Overall, despite him typically being a streaky shooter, it was telling that the Cavaliers were 5.4 points per possessions better with him on the floor, which graded out in the 81st percentile, per Cleaning The Glass.
Of course, it’ll take time for Rubio to get himself back, if you will, in-season, but if he can be right, this reunion could turn out to be more significant than some may think, even with me before being a bit skeptical.
All in all, I understand the Cavs’ rationale in bringing Rubio back here. And his leadership clearly was huge for Garland in his rise, and the veteran/off-floor presence of Rubio should once again have a profound on the group as a whole.