The latest NBA rumors to fly through the blogosphere have Ricky Rubio, point guard of the Minnesota Timberwolves, seeking a maximum five-year contract extension. Remember, this is the organization who balked at giving Kevin Love a five-year contract, because they wanted to reserve that spot for Rubio (or someone else, I suppose). Is Rubio worth the money or should the Wolves slow it down a bit?
The report came from Darren Wolfson, of 1500ESPN.com in Minneapolis:
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) July 15, 2014
While it’s not surprising that Rubio and his agent would choose this time to start talking about their demands, it does raise an interesting dilemma — can the Wolves afford to make the same mistake (assuming it would be one) again?
There’s no doubt in my mind that Love would be preparing to play for the Timberwolves this season had they not given him a horrid contract that essentially ushered him out the door. Rubio isn’t the same kind of person, but he’s also not the same kind of player. Take a look at his stats:
Is that a max contract player? If he were the best on-ball defensive player in the league, you still couldn’t argue that he deserves a five-year deal. As it stands, Rubio is a very good defender in isolation, where he ranked No. 33 in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports. Of course, he’s not often in that position (10.9 percent of the time). The position he’s most in is against the pick-and-roll ball handler, where he ranked No. 173 in the NBA.
82games.com takes a different look at things, based on how opposing players performed against Rubio. Ricky allowed a ghastly 19.7 efficiency rating against point guards during the 2013-14 season. Where is the myth that he’s a great defender coming from, anyways? Yes, he’s very adept at getting into the passing lanes and he’ll be among the league leaders in steals every season…but if he’s giving up buckets every time he fails, that’s not going to matter.
We could talk about the salary floor and how the Wolves need to pay someone, but that’s not a good reason to overpay one player. They’d be much better spreading that money out to three or four fringe players, while giving Rubio a contract in the $10-12 million range annually. Would Rubio — a 36.8 percent career shooter, mind you — scoff at that kind of offer?
And perhaps a better question — if he did scoff at that offer and decided he wanted out, would that be the worst thing in the world? Whether it’s Love, Rubio or a combination of the two, the Wolves haven’t been very good for a long time. It seemed like they were gaining momentum in 2013-14, but that’s been stopped…quickly.
What’s Rubio’s ceiling here? He could turn into Rajon Rondo if he were better at finishing around the rim, but even Rondo has struggled without having Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett around him. At the end of the day, Rubio isn’t a max player. He’s not as emotionally volatile as Love and the Timberwolves should know that. Coming back with an offer in the $10-12 million range is the right play, then they could negotiate from there.