The Rubio Referendum

This was me, a week ago, after reading some mocks and predictions that had the Wolves selecting either a point guard (Kris Dunn) or a shooting guard (Jamal Murray) with the fifth pick in the draft:

Right around the time that the Wolves selection of Dunn was announced on Thursday night, Woj crystallized my earlier sentiment with this:

These intertwined pieces of important Timberwolves information hit us like a 1-2 punch; leaving Timberwolves Nation collectively… well, perhaps a little bit “punch drunk,” in the 48 hours that followed. On Twitter, I think I pretty much observed the gamut of “takes.”

“This doesn’t necessarily mean Rubio is gone. Maybe they can play together.”

“This doesn’t necessarily mean Rubio is gone. Maybe they just thought Dunn was the best player available. Also, we don’t know that Dunn will be any good.”

“Rubio is gone. We never should’ve handed Thibs the ‘President of Basketball’ wheel.”

“Rubio is gone. It’s about time. That guy sucks!”

Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune captured that final sentiment with his Sunday column that has the internet up in arms as I write this.

We can argue about whether Ricky is great or terrible or somewhere in between until we’re blue in the face (note: He is “somewhere in between” but much closer to great than terrible.) but nothing is going to happen to alter or update those arguments until next season at the earliest.

Instead, we’re left not with what we want, or think we should be, but with what is:

The Timberwolves now have two legitimate options at point guard instead of one, and until this gets resolved somehow, it is going to be a major talking point.

How might this distraction get “resolved?”

Here’s an off-the-cuff list, starting with “best case,” and moving down to worst:

  1. Kris Dunn becomes a great player who can play both guard spots. He splits time with Ricky at point guard, plays next to him for stretches at the 2, and everyone is happy.
  2. Dunn becomes a great point guard, better overall than Rubio, and once a reasonable trade opportunity surfaces, the Wolves transition to Dunn as the starter. They now have a “Big 3” of similarly aged stars in Dunn, Wiggins and KAT.
  3. Dunn becomes nothing special, but an adequate backup point guard from Rubio; something they’ve never had. The bench becomes a strength instead of a weakness. The remaining roster continues to develop, Rubio stays, and they win with continuity and ongoing development.
  4. Dunn becomes a solid NBA starting point guard — similar to Rubio’s caliber, overall — and the team trades Ricky for a pretty meaningless return; maybe a role player big man with a short remaining contract, and a future protected pick.
  5. Dunn becomes nothing special, but the Wolves trade Rubio early, leaving themselves without a good point guard to lead the team. This is the worst-case realistic scenario.

The free agency period will be coming soon. The Timberwolves figure to be active in the middle tiers, pursuing players like former Thibs-era Bulls Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. They hope to round out their every night rotation with another veteran or two.

After that, there will be the Las Vegas Summer League. Kris Dunn will play for the Wolves squad. We will all watch online, with interest.

After that, well, maybe the opening weeks of the NFL season will borrow our attention for a week or three. Or the State Fair. Whatever you’re into.

But then, after that, NBA Training Camp will open up.

When that happens, all eyes will be on the point guard position. Assuming Rubio is still here, there will be chatter from the outside about a position battle, and Dunn trying to gun for the starting spot as soon as possible. Rubio himself will face questions about the Dunn pick and his place in the franchise going forward. Dunn will too. KAT will probably try to mediate it in the public sphere, and he’ll probably be great at that sort of thing.

Whatever happens, Thibs will have to own it. It’s his team now.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Rubio Referendum

  1. Pingback: Ricky Rubio's value to the Timberwolves

  2. Ricky simply needs to improve his shooting. Wolves cannot afford a point guard whose shooting isn’t respected in the fourth quarter. In the past, his
    defender slides behind the pick inviting him to shoot. Hard to play our four against their five when the game is on the line.