For Ricky Rubio with Cavs, the only way to go for next season is up

Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images /

In this now-past season, one couldn’t have anticipated Ricky Rubio to be playing at nearly the same level he did in the first near-half of the 2021-22 campaign. Rubio was such a difference-maker for the Cavaliers in that time, following his 2021 offseason trade acquisition from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

During that campaign, Rubio had 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest, in what was a move to a supersub-type role for him. His two-way play, passing wizardy and better than expected shot creation gave the team a big lift in his stretches on the floor, and Rubio was one of the reasons why Cleveland got off to a hot start.

Then things would take a crushing turn, as Rubio would unfortunately suffer a torn ACL, and his 2021-22 season was cut to just 34 games. It was devastating for the Cavaliers, because of how well he was playing and his on-floor leadership impact.

Later on following the injury, Rubio’s then-expiring contract was moved as part of a package for Caris LeVert in a trade with the Indiana Pacers near the 2022 trade deadline.

Rubio would eventually return this past offseason in free agency, though, which was no surprise, with him and the team rumored to have had mutual interest in him coming back. For other help in the mean time until then, in particular, Cleveland signed Raul Neto for insurance as well, for what it’s worth. It was going to take an extended period until Rubio was ready to be playing again, given the circumstances, and after over a yearlong recovery, Rubio made his 2022-23 debut in mid-January.

But, while Rubio had some quality outings and he appeared to have regained his rhythm at times, he was unable to give Cleveland productive minutes consistently. He averaged 5.2 points and 3.5 assists in the regular season, in 17.2 minutes per game, in what amounted to 33 contests.

He did have some moments and games where he looked to be potentially be a playoff contributor again, they were simply not nearly enough. In the postseason in Cleveland’s first round dud versus the New York Knicks, Rubio did not aid the team much, if at all, either. Then, he played in three of the five games, with three assists in 17 total minutes and went scoreless with one shot attempt.

All of that said, next season, Rubio should be more effective for the Cavaliers, given him having much more time removed from his December of 2021 injury, and he should be able to get back to helping the bench.

The only way to go for Rubio is up, when it comes next season with the Cavs.

Rubio had a forgettable 2022-23 season, and despite the expectations not being high with the injury in mind, he fell short of those even tempered ones.

Rubio’s best skill has always been his passing vision/creativity and how he can create other quality looks for his teammates, and he did still make a difference in that aspect. His defense was meaningful, albeit with some limitations, depending on the matchups.

However, there were some stretches where the Rubio minutes were just dreadful for Cleveland. He shot 25.6 percent from three-point range in the regular season, and had a true shooting rate of 44.2 percent. Even with Rubio’s hot shooting to start the 2021-22 season proving to be unrealistic to keep up at the time, the shot was way off in this now-past season.

This next season, Rubio should be better for the Cavaliers, one would have to assume. That’s taking into consideration him having more time to regain his footing, and coming into the 2023-24 campaign, he should be much more comfortable to begin the year as compared to last season’s circumstances.

In turn, it’s reasonable to believe he could get back to helping Cleveland’s bench more consistently for stretches of games, as compared to the 2022-23 season, when he often looked out of place.

Now, it wouldn’t be shocking to potentially see Rubio involved as part of a potential trade package for wing/shooting help this offseason, along with pieces such as Isaac Okoro and future draft assets. For the Cavs, that might be for the best, as it pertains to both Rubio, who will be 33 next season, and Okoro, who is still offensively limited.

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But if Rubio is still with the Cavaliers, he should definitely be better this next go-round, and if Cleveland can add shooting/bench offense this offseason, that could lead to Rubio’s skill set being much more impactful this next season. If he can’t be better then, retirement might be the only legitimate play from there.