Rubio playing for Spain in 2023 FIBA WC can help him next year with Cavs

Ricky Rubio, Team Spain. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Ricky Rubio, Team Spain. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Ricky Rubio did not exactly have a storybook comeback last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, coming off his ACL tear from back in December of 2021, it was evident Rubio was not going to be the same player he was last season for Cleveland prior to his injury the year prior, in fairness.

Still, it was not a memorable season for Rubio after he would return to the Cavaliers via free agency, as he had 5.2 points and 3.5 assists in 17.2 minutes per outing in the regular season, and shot only 25.6 percent from three-point range.

His true shooting rate was only 44.2 percent in his 33 regular season games played, and Rubio was a non-factor in the playoffs in Cleveland’s first-round loss to the New York Knicks as well, registering just 17 minutes of action. He was scoreless in playoff minutes.

In short, even with expectations not being lofty, per se, Rubio’s past season was a forgettable one, and hopefully with more time to have recovered since the injury, he’s more effective in his minutes next season.

Prior to that, though, it is a positive sign that Rubio is slated to play for his native Spain in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Rubio was a recent addition to Spain’s roster, and while it’s probably safe to assume he won’t perform the way he did in the 2021 FIBA World Cup, when he was playing unbelievably well, him playing in that type of setting can help him ahead of next season with Cleveland.

Rubio being involved in high-level basketball ahead of next season will be good to see as he looks to rebound for the Cavs.

Rubio has starred on the international stage in the past two World Cup of Basketball tourneys, as in the last one in 2021, he was named to the FIBA World Cup All-Star Five, and in 2019, he led Spain to a FIBA World Cup of Basketball gold medal in Beijing, China. Then, he was also named MVP of the tournament.

In that last time WC of Basketball, what would amount to being the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held in 2021, due to COVID-19’s impact on sport), Rubio was playing outstanding ball in Japan. He had three-20-plus-point contests, averaged 6.0 assists and he had an otherworldy performance against the eventual-gold medal winner then in the US, with 38 points.

In that game against the US, Rubio’s 38-point output was a record in one game for Spain in an Olympic setting, and it “marked the most points scored by a player versus the United States since they started playing with professional athletes” in international play in 1992, per FIBA. Spain was eliminated in that game versus the US, but in the tourney, Rubio was making things in happen all over as a shot creator for his native country, and as he’s always shown playing in the NBA, was getting his teammates great looks.

Now, in this next FIBA WC of Basketball, one shouldn’t be expecting Rubio to be putting up nearly the numbers he was in the Tokyo Olympics, nor should fans be looking for Rubio to be the MVP of the tourney.

That said, for Rubio to be out there will be a great sign, and hopefully allow him to build some momentum heading into next season. He’s long been one of the leaders in international play for Spain, and in that setting for his native country, always seems to play with all kinds of confidence.

He’ll probably not have the same role he had in the Tokyo Olympics, or in the 2019 WC of Basketball, but it’ll be meaningful for Rubio to be playing in this setting.

Granted, it’s reasonable to have a wait-and-see approach with Rubio as it pertains to his outlook from here with the Cavs, and it wouldn’t be surprising if his minutes-share is fairly inconsistent. Ty Jerome may prove to be an eventual upgrade as a rotational lead guard/combo guard option, if Rubio seems out of sorts again as well.

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But, if Rubio plays well in this upcoming FIBA tournament, which will be held from Aug. 25-Sep. 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, that could be a positive sign of him potentially having a bounce-back season. It seemingly was a launch pad for him in the Tokyo Olympics prior to his 2021-22 campaign after he was traded soon before to Cleveland by the Minnesota Timberwolves, so maybe that can happen once again for Rubio.