Ricky Rubio is on the block in Minnesota as the Timberwolves look to clear the way for Kris Dunn, their point guard of the future. Interestingly, according to Ian Begley of ESPN, the Knicks and Wolves have explored the possibility of a deal centered around Rubio and Derrick Rose.
Because Minnesota is far enough under the cap, the two players can be swapped for each other, straight up. If they do in fact have the opportunity, the Knicks would be wise to pull the trigger on this deal.
It’s pretty clear at this point that Rose is not the Knicks’ point guard of the future. His stats are have been solid (17.7 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game) and he has looked impressively spry for much of the season. However, he has been a sieve on the defensive end, constantly dying on screens and allowing opposing point guards into the paint with very little resistance. Furthermore, he is not the type of point guard the Knicks need, considering their roster composition.
Still, holding onto Rose past the deadline has one major benefit: cap relief this summer. Rose is being paid $21.3 million this season. By letting that salary slide off the books, the Knicks would be able to re-invest that money in a free agent point guard this summer.
Ricky Rubio, on the other hand, has two years left on his contract. He is set to make $14.3 million next season and $14.9 million in 2018-19.
So yes, the Knicks would lose cap flexibility if they flipped Rose for Rubio. However, having Rubio locked in at less than $15 million for the next two seasons could be considered a positive. Rubio’s contract could be considered quite the bargain. Before we get to the dollars and cents, let’s talk about how Rubio, the player, suits the Knicks scheme.
Rubio is simply a far better fit for the Knicks than Rose. In fact, it could be argued Rubio is close to an ideal pairing alongside the Knicks’ young foundation pieces, Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez.
Rose is a defensively deficient, ball-dominant point guard who needs the rock in his hands to be effective. Rose’s brand of basketball has not meshed well with Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis, the Knicks’ two top guns.
Rubio’s game is a stark contrast to Rose’s. Rubio is an unreliable shooter but prides himself on being a facilitator and an aggressive defender. He’s far more content setting up his teammates than attempting to finish plays himself.
Consider this: Derrick Rose’s usage rate this season is 26.2 and his assist rate is 23.1. In contrast, Ricky Rubio’s usage rate this season is 14.9 and his assist rate is 36.2.
With Anthony and Porzingis, the Knicks don’t need a high-volume shooter at the point guard position. They need a point guard who can run an offense and, just as importantly, keep opposing point guards from penetrating into the heart of the defense at will.
Rubio is an underrated, aggressive defender. He doesn’t have the quickest feet, but he has active hands, a nuanced understanding of defensive positioning and a willingness to fight through screens.
Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) is a defensive metric which tracks a player’s estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 offensive possessions and accounts for team and opponent context. This season, Rubio has posted a DRPM of 0.58, which is the eighth-highest mark among point guards. In 2015-16, Rubio was at 1.89, which was the second highest DRPM among qualifying point guards in the league, behind only Chris Paul. In 2014-15, Rubio led NBA point guards in this category.
Derrick Rose, on the other hand, ranks 85th out of 89 qualifying points guards in DRPM this season. In 2015-16, he was also in the bottom 5 percent among qualifying PG’s.
Rose’s days are numbered as Knick, so Rubio being a better fit in New York than Rose is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It’s more important to ask whether it makes sense for the Knicks to rely on Rubio as their point guard heading into next season and beyond.
This is where we have to weigh the pros and cons of Rubio being locked in for two more years against shedding Rose’s salary and spending the savings on a different point guard via free agency this summer.
Last year at this time, it appeared that the free agent point crop of 2017 would be magical. However, slowly but surely, the bloom has come off that rose (pun intended).
The first and most devastating blow to Knicks fan fantasies was Russell Westbrook signing an extension last August. At one point, it seemed there was a possibility that Westbrook would consider signing in New York to team up with Porzingis. In February of 2016, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that “the Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017.”
Alas, that dream died the when Westbrook re-upped with OKC. There will be other stud point guards on the open market this July; however, the chances of the Knicks luring one of them to NYC seem to fall by the day. Not only have the Knicks fallen flat on their faces this season (currently 11 games under .500), the organization has been a complete embarrassment off the court as well. From the owner having a former star player dragged out of MSG in handcuffs to the team president insulting the team’s leading scorer over Twitter, this Knicks season has been a nightmare. How many top-tier players that are focused on winning and have a number of appealing options would be willing to join a losing, dysfunctional franchise?
Furthermore, Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler reported yesterday that the cream of the FA crop is expected to re-sign with their current teams. We all knew Steph Curry wasn’t leaving Golden State, but Kyler stated that Chris Paul has also verbally agreed to stay with the Clippers. In addition, the Pelicans are prepared to offer “max or near money” to keep Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry is “all in” with the Raptors. There is purportedly also a chance that George Hill signs an extension before even hitting free agency. Thus, there is a strong chance that the Knicks would walk away from this summer’s shopping spree without the new, improved point guard that they so badly need.
And, even if they have an opportunity to sign a premium point guard, they are going to have to pay a pretty penny. Chris Paul, who is 32, is going to sign a five-year deal worth around $200 million. That means he will be making over $36 million annually during his age-35 and age-36 seasons. In order to have a crack at Holiday, the Knicks would probably have to offer a max deal, which would be approximately $132 million over four years. That averages out to $33 million per season for four seasons. Kyle Lowry is going to bank max money as well. Even a mid-tier point guard such as Jeff Teague is going to get over $20 million a year on the open market.
So, with that bit of context, Rubio at $14-plus million is a value. He’d earn far more than that if he hit free agency. In addition, he has just two more years left on his deal, so it’s not as if New York is making a long-term commitment that would cripple their cap indefinitely.
Additionally, with Rubio making less than 15 percent of the cap over the next two seasons, he could even be used as a sixth man if need be. This should quell any fears that trading for Rubio would prevent the Knicks from targeting a “point guard of the future” in the 2017 draft.
Rubio is just 26 years old. Yes, his lack of a jumper is worrisome, but he’s still young enough where there is a possibility he can develop into a decent shooter capable of knocking down corner threes. More importantly, the Knicks need what he has proven he can bring to the table.
Not only does Rubio share a common European/Spanish-league bond with Porzingis, Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, his style of play is a natural fit. Rubio running pick-and-rolls with Porzingis and Hernangomez would be a welcome sight inside Madison Square Garden.
Rose didn’t bloom in the Garden. Now the Knicks should make a strong effort to pluck Ricky Rubio from the Wolves and watch him flourish alongside KP and Willy in the future.
Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close
Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.
Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.
You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?
Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.
With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?
Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.
For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?
I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.
Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.
I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.
Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?
Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.
Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?
I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.
Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?
Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.
Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.
Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?
Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.
Would you welcome that rematch?
I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.
What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?
Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.
NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense
The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.
“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].
“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.
“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”
Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.
“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”
Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.
According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.
The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.
“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”
Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.
“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”
Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.
“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”
While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.
“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.
The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.