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The Morning After: Thoughts on the Ricky Rubio for Taurean Prince Trade

What should we make of the latest Timberwolves trade? Let’s discuss.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been less than 24 hours since Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Minnesota Timberwolves had agreed to trade Ricky Rubio to the Cleveland Cavaliers:

In a quick (and necessary) follow-up tweet by our own Jon Krawczynski, it was confirmed that the Wolves were the ones acquiring the cash and 2022 second-round pick (via the Washington Wizards) in addition to swapping Rubio for Taurean Prince.

Rubio Reunion Tour Halted

It was the night of the 2020 NBA Draft that the Timberwolves announced they had acquired the Spanish Unicorn from Oklahoma City, paving the way for the Rubio Reunion tour. Fast forward almost exactly one year to the 2021 NBA Draft, and Gersson Rosas had ultimately decided that Rubio’s veteran leadership (and close relationship with Anthony Edwards) was not enough to justify his upcoming $17.8 million dollar salary for the 2021-22 season.

Was Rosas right? On the surface, I’d lean yes — I’m one of the biggest Ricky Rubio fans around, but the writing was on the wall this summer that if this team was going to upgrade their roster in order to take the next step in their rebuild, having almost $20 million guaranteed to a backup PG (backup PG for THIS team I mean) was simply not going to work.

It should be mentioned that Rubio has been having a phenomenal summer for the Spanish National Team over in Tokyo, and despite being a professional basketball player for basically his entire life, is still only 30-years old. The Spaniard definitely still has juice left in the tank, and while his production last year in Minnesota left much to be desired, the same could be said for a LOT of players in the NBA during another COVID-19 condensed season (including many members of the Timberwolves roster).

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Back to my personal thoughts here (please feel free to share yours below) — this latest transaction will be met with plenty of criticism, especially from the folks who have been beaten over the head with this concept of “family” and “culture” by Rosas and his front office. As a Rubio stan, it does leave a sour taste in my mouth to see him flipped yet again (especially to another rebuilding franchise like Cleveland), so I understand why other fans would be upset as well.

With that said, my biggest “take” over the six years I’ve covered this team is simple — at some point I don’t really care who is on the roster or which names adorn the back of the jersey, I just want to see a consistent winning basketball product. If that means trotting out 15 Luke Ridnour’s in order to win 50 games, so be it. While losing a veteran presence like Rubio will no doubt sting, especially after he took ANT under his wing and really helped his maturation throughout the season, it should also be noted that the Timberwolves won 23 games last year. Twenty-Three.

Yes, there are multiple things one can point to that explain why they were so bad (including some swings and misses by the front office), the fact remains that this team was not and is not very good. Under no circumstances whatsoever is that Ricky Rubio’s fault alone, but it just highlights that this team has multiple issues to address, and in a salary cap league like the NBA, sometimes it’s the people making more of the money who get put on the chopping block first.

I know I speak for multiple contributors here at Canis as well as many people across the fan base when I say I will thoroughly miss Ricky Rubio. After originally being drafted back in 2009, the Spaniard never got a fair shake at trying to elevate this franchise out of the depths of the Western Conference — first it was his untimely departure during the Tom Thibodeau era, and now the Rosas regime has made a similar gamble that shipping out Ricky Rubio will lead to addition by subtraction.

Will the second time trading away Ricky Rubio prove to be more successful than the first? Only time will tell.

Analyzing the Rubio Ransom

The Canis Hoopus staff will have plenty more thoughts to share going forward on the latest departure of Ricky Rubio, but for now let’s quickly recap what the Timberwolves received in exchange for their backup PG:

While a straight Rubio-for-Prince swap isn’t sexy (and doesn’t make the team any better on July 30), it’s important to highlight both the financial implications of this deal as well as the acquisition of another second-round pick.

As Dane points out, going from Rubio to Prince will create an additional $4.8 million in space for Minnesota, which would hypothetically give them the ability to use the full-MLE next week once free agency kicks off. Again, while this latest trade did nothing to improve the talent on the roster as of today, the increased flexibility gained by the Wolves should give them more options to address more pressing needs (i.e. a front-court partner to play next to Karl-Anthony Towns).

Additionally, collecting a second-round pick in this deal now gives the Wolves three second round picks in 2022 to go along with their own first round pick, meaning at a bare minimum we should no longer have to spend a Thursday night during the summer watching seven hours of an event that never includes our favorite team.

With the Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell deal now a thing of the past after Golden State used the 7th overall pick (which originally belonged to Minnesota), the Wolves can move forward with all of their draft picks once again in hand. Considering Gersson Rosas went on the record earlier this week saying that trades will be the primary route in attempting to upgrade the roster, having that extra draft capital could (or should) prove to be extremely useful.

Overall, my opinion on the latest Timberwolves transaction is pretty simple — the team took a step back Thursday night, but the optimist in me hopes that it eventually leads to two major steps forward. We shall see.