Whether or not it was a surprise to the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, the announcement that Ricky Rubio was stepping away from the game of basketball caught the fan base by surprise. It also raised the obvious question: who would replace Rubio’s role on the team?
The Cavs signed former Virginia Cavaliers point guard Ty Jerome this summer as insurance against a Rubio decline, so he is in line to fill the backup point guard role. Jerome played last season on a two-way contract, however, and a year ago at this time it wouldn’t have been surprising to see him out of the league.
The Cavaliers learned two seasons ago the perils of not having enough point guard depth, and relying on Jerome as the only backup is probably not a great idea even if everyone is healthy; when he or Darius Garland miss time, the team will wish it had another option.
The Cavaliers likely need another point guard
Whether or not Rubio returns, he is close to retiring; he’s not a long-term answer for Cleveland. Jerome could become a steady hand, or he could fall back to his fringe-NBA level of play. The Cavaliers would do well to develop a long-term option to back up Garland.
That player could be Craig Porter Jr., who was signed to a two-way contract this summer after going undrafted. He certainly played well during Summer League as he started for the Cavs’ championship-winning squad, showing impressive rebounding and playmaking skills. He’s an option to get more minutes without Rubio.
Porter may develop into a long-term rotation player, but he shouldn’t be counted on for that. Luckily for the Cavaliers, a player just came available who could solve this problem and give the Cavs a low-cost swing at a long-term, high-end backup at point guard.
Last season the Houston Rockets had three first-round picks, and after selecting Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason they took Kentucky point guard TyTy Washington with the 29th pick in the draft. This summer the Rockets went on a spending spree and had to offload a number of their younger players to do so, including dumping TyTy.
He made his way to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but after drafting Cason Wallace and bringing over Vasilije Micić they didn’t have any room left for another guard, waiving Washington on Friday.
The Cavaliers should sign TyTy Washington
The Thunder’s “trash” could be the Cavaliers’ treasure, as Washington still has a ton of upside and a very viable path to becoming a starting-level point guard. The track record of former Kentucky guards is very strong, and playing on a dysfunctional Rockets team behind Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. wasn’t a recipe for success.
He is absolutely worth a flier from the Cavaliers, who have enough exception money left to claim Washington off of waivers. He would immediately give them emergency point guard depth for this season and offer a high-talent development project to develop a long-term rotation guard.
Washington’s minutes in the NBA were up and down, but again, the environment had a lot to do with that. Playing in the G League, however, he averaged 23 points, six assists and just three turnovers per game. He can play fast and process the action around him, and his shot doesn’t seem broken. Defensively he will need work, but that’s not a death sentence as a backup guard.
This is the kind of swing that smart teams make, and Washington was more of a victim of roster crunches than a player either team gave up on. The Oklahoma City Thunder probably give him a shot if he’s a frontcourt player, but they can’t find room in their backcourt. That’s fine; it gives the Cavs a shot at him.
TyTy Washington is talented, is an excellent passer, and he has untapped potential. How high does that potential reach? That’s a reasonable question, but it’s at least possible he becomes a low-end starter or high-end backup in the Tyus Jones mold. That’s worth a few million dollars and a roster spot.