The Oklahoma City Thunder are sending Ricky Rubio back home to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Phoenix Suns dumped Ricky Rubio to get their hands on Chris Paul, but luckily for the well-respected veteran, he won’t have to spend any time dealing with yet another rebuild.
Okay, so maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t an established playoff team just yet, but Rubio heading home to the place where his NBA career began is a happy turn of events after the way his week started.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Oklahoma City Thunder are wheeling and dealing the newly acquired Rubio to Minnesota, along with the No. 25 and No. 28 picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. In return, OKC will receive the No. 17 selection, which was used on Aleksej Pokusevski.
The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski first reported that such a deal was being discussed.
No. 25 pick
No. 28 pick
No. 17 pick (Aleksej Pokusevski)
Oklahoma City Thunder
What a long, winding road it’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder to climb up to this spot in the 2020 draft. Originally, Sam Presti would’ve drafted 21st this year, except the Thunder sent their selection to the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2016 as part of the Ersan Ilyasova-Jerami Grant trade.
Fortunately, they wound up with two first-rounders in this draft: one at No. 25 (courtesy of another Jerami Grant trade, this time with the Denver Nuggets) and one at No. 28 (thanks to the recent Dennis Schroder trade with the Los Angeles Lakers).
But Presti wasn’t satisfied just sitting on his two late first-round selections, instead opting to package them with a player he didn’t feel his rebuild needed in Rubio in order to move up in the pecking order. Rubio would’ve been a nice veteran to have in such a young backcourt, but he wasn’t essential by any means, and OKC is doing him a solid by sending him to a Wolves squad with more immediate plans to compete.
In return, the Thunder got their hands on the 17th pick, which was used on Aleksej Pokusevski. Poku is a unique prospect in this year’s draft class, being a 7-footer whose fluidity helps him move like a wing and whose passing ability helps him play like a guard. For Olympiacos B, the 18-year-old posted 16.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes last season, showcasing his potential as a shooter, playmaker and rim protector.
Pokosevski is a crafty and accurate passer, is often decisive with the ball in his hands and has solid handles for a guy his size. The problem is he’s so skinny there’s virtually no way he finds success in the NBA unless he gets a lot stronger.
Luckily, 18-year-olds entering a grown man’s league typically do get stronger with the right instruction and training regimen, and the Thunder have the time to be patient. Poku is a bit of an enigma; he could become the passing version of Kristaps Porzingis, or he could be the next Dragan Bender. That sounds risky, but OKC has a proven developmental system and therefore gets more leeway for a high-upside pick like this.
It didn’t take long for the Wolves backcourt to fill up, but boy do they have some depth there now. After taking Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick, the Wolves traded out of the No. 17 spot to bring home Ricky Rubio, a fan favorite from his first six years in the league who just so happens to be coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Not only did Rubio average 13.1 points and 8.8 assists per game, ranking near the top of the league in that category, but the 30-year-old floor general reinvigorated a Suns franchise that hadn’t seen a modicum of success for the better part of a decade. He was instrumental in Devin Booker’s career year, pacing the offense and helping Phoenix’s youngsters grow leaps and bounds. He even shot a career-high 36.1 percent from 3-point range on 3.3 attempts per game for good measure.
Returning home to Minnesota, it will be interesting to see where the Wolves plan on slotting him in. Is he a high-end backup point guard meant to command the second unit at $17 million a year? Is he the lead ball-handler, with D’Angelo Russell accepting more of an off-ball role? And how does their fit affect the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft?
The Wolves have questions to sort out in the backcourt, but an abundance of talent is never a bad thing, especially when Rubio’s passing and facilitation will make life easier for Towns, Russell, Edwards and whoever else he plays with. Minnesota needs defense, which Rubio still provides, and this is just an all-around feel-good moment for a guy who just got dumped by his last team.
As for the picks, the Wolves reportedly packaged the No. 25 and No. 33 picks in a trade with the New York Knicks to move up to No. 23. There, they selected Leandro Bolmaro, an Argentinian guard.
This story will be updated once the Wolves make their picks at No. 25 and No. 28.