Once a prodigy quickly climbing the ranks of Spanish Basketball, Ricky Rubio entered the NBA at the age of 18 and is most famous for being drafted ahead of Steph Curry by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Rookie Draft. The idea? Put a traditional point guard alongside Kevin Love to maximize his inside-out scoring potential to create a 1-2 punch that would bring the Wolves back to relevance in the post-KG era.
The duo brought excitement to the league early on and reached its peak when Kevin Love put up a 30 point, 30 rebound performance in November 2010. After which, injuries set both stars back, and when it was clear that the Rubio-Love experiment was over, the Wolves traded Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers and hit the restart button.
Rubio then bounced around the league in bench roles for teams that were not very good, reducing the former fifth overall pick and basketball prodigy to a diminished role while still under the age of thirty. Apparently, teams around the league thought Rubio would be another buyout candidate to come out of Cleveland, and the current best team in the league was interested in acquiring the thirty-one-year-old in free agency. The Golden State Warriors wanted to sign him to build a savvy veteran backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Steph Curry.
We will never know for sure if the intention is for Rubio to start alongside his draft classmate. The Warriors do not have a solid point guard off the bench and rely on Draymond Green to facilitate the offense when Curry is on the bench. Perhaps the Dubs meant for Rubio to provide playmaking in a backup role like he did for teams since leaving Minnesota. However, with Klay Thompson out and Jordan Poole still considered an emerging talent entering the season, it’s not hard to imagine Rubio getting that starting nod.
Why is that? Well, as excellent as Steph Curry is with the ball, his unpredictability away from the ball makes him arguably the greatest scorer this game has ever seen. We already see this in how the Warriors play today, with Draymond or Iguodala setting the table on offense, initiating the action for Curry. The Warriors have a knack for bringing in savvy veterans that read the game exceptionally well; Ricky Rubio fits that description to the letter.
Rubio would increase the Warriors’ pace while at the point, allowing Steph Curry to run free for more catch-and-shoot threes. Also, Rubio is listed at 6’5 and while he is not known to be a lockdown defender, he is smart enough to play according to the Warriors’ schemes, enhancing their excellent team defense.
Even with Klay coming back, Rubio would have still started at the point with Klay sliding to the three and Wiggins in the frontline alongside Draymond Green, creating the 2021 version of the Warriors’ “Death Lineup” from 2015. In this Death Lineup 2.0, the Warriors offense would be even better with Curry’s improvements coupled with Rubio’s playmaking pace. We could have been watching the most fluid basketball in the history of the NBA if Rubio made it to Golden State, and the thought of the Warriors being better than they are right now is frightening.
“I’m good, happy here.”Ricky Rubio, The Athletic
Instead, Rubio is having his resurgence in Cleveland with Collin Sexton out due to injury. He may not be helping the Warriors win a championship and playing the most beautiful basketball we have ever seen, but he is helping a young guard in Darius Garland find his footing in the league.
Rubio is also helping Evan Mobley in his rookie season, and it’s no coincidence that Rubio’s extended minutes have Mobley at the top of the Rookie Rankings so far this year. The Cavaliers may still opt to trade him as the year comes to an end to give some younger players more exposure, and if they do, expect the Golden State Warriors to pick up the phone immediately.