Rubio’s two-way play for Cavs bench should be truly back in 2023-24

Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Next season, many are skeptical of Ricky Rubio being able to bounce back for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s a fair take to have.

This now-past season was a forgettable one for the veteran lead guard. He had 5.2 points and 3.5 assists per contest, in what was only 33 appearances in the regular season.

Rubio’s shooting splits were also, well, less than stellar. He connected on a putrid 25.6 percent of his three-point attempts, and his true shooting rate was a career-worst 44.2 percent.

Granted, it was not going to be a season where he was going to have the same effect he had for the Cavaliers as compared to the 2021-22 campaign pre-injury.

Then, Rubio was having a phenomenal season in a year where he was adjusting to a move to a supersub role for the most part for Cleveland, and posted 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. Rubio had been exceeding expectations in his first season with the Cavs following his offseason trade acquisition from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he was giving Cleveland quite a lift in his minutes.

Of course, unfortunately, Rubio then would suffer an ACL tear in late December of 2021, and after he was back with Cleveland last offseason via free agency, he didn’t make his 2022-23 debut until mid-January.

Rubio has some encouraging performances, but generally, he didn’t look great when he was out there.

That being said, next season, he should be ready to go from the outset, and his two-way impact should be there for stretches.

Rubio’s two-way impact should be truly there next season for the Cavs bench.

Rubio isn’t going to have the production he had in that 2021-22 season from here, given what Darius Garland means to this Cleveland team, and Donovan Mitchell’s arrival last offseason via trade from the Utah Jazz. Despite those caveats, Rubio can still aid this team as a veteran for stretches, and next season, provided he comes in healthy, he should be much more effective.

Rubio wasn’t able to establish much of a rhythm last season, whereas this coming year, he should be able to give Cleveland more productive minutes as a ball-mover, pick-and-roll player and defensive contributor.

Rubio demonstrated those abilities at times in 2022-23, he just wasn’t able to string together chunks of games nearly enough, and in Cleveland’s disappointing first round series loss to the New York Knicks, he was not getting it done. Him being active in only three of the five games had some to do with it, but he was not providing much in his minutes of value, and was scoreless with three assists in 17 total minutes, with five turnovers.

Next season, though, Rubio should be able to turn the page, after a meaningful offseason where he should be able to work on his game much more again, and frankly, the shot couldn’t have been worse for him this last go-around.

He should be able to give Cleveland some of a lift next year if he can stay healthy as a pick-and-roll player, and even with the shooting woes, Rubio is always going to help generate quality looks for his teammates. Even this past season, he did still have 7.3 assists per-36 minutes in his regular season appearances, and if the Cavaliers can add some wing depth/perimeter shooting this offseason, which is an obvious point of emphasis, that’d only aid Rubio and other playmakers.

With the playmaking in mind, and him hopefully coming into the season ready to roll, Rubio should be more impactful for the Cavs in bench minutes. And in that realm, while his play there was better, Rubio wasn’t quite himself defensively, coming off the injury.

He’s not the on-ball presence defensively he once was, but the veteran is still more than capable of helping the Wine and Gold on that end of the floor for stretches as a perimeter defender.

Also, his length and feel for playing passing lanes can still lead to run-outs the other way, too. Last season, Rubio still had 1.7 steals per-36 minutes.

His recognition on both ends has always been a key strength, and it’s made those around him better often throughout Rubio’s career.

Now, just to close out here, looking onward, I’d expect Rubio to be a factor for the Cavaliers next season in the rotation, and his veteran leadership should never be discounted.

However, if he were to be involved as part of a trade package for wing help, along with Isaac Okoro and/or future draft capital, that might be for the best, ultimately. But a healthy Rubio has value for this Cavs team, and it seems reasonable to think after a productive offseason, his two-way impact for stretches should be there once again.

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Even with him set to enter his age-33 season, Ricky can still be effective. He can be an energizer for this Cavaliers team, and his leadership matters.