Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The Minnesota Timberwolves received troubling news yesterday with the announcement that the 5th overall pick in June's draft PG Ricky Rubio will be staying in Spain another two years. The T-wolves GM David Kahn tried to negotiate a buyout from Rubio's team DKV Joventut, but those efforts ended yesterday when Rubio was traded to FC Barcelona for cash. Under NBA rules the T-wolves couldn't offer more than $500,000 and Rubio would have been forced to pay the rest of the $8 million buyout. Now Rubio won't be free to come to the NBA until the 2011 season.
Minnesota's rebuilding efforts took a dramatic hit with the loss of the 18 year old Rubio. They'll retain his rights, but waiting two years for a player that some considered to be the 2nd best in the draft is a body blow for Minnesota. When he was drafted Rubio seemed like the perfect compliment to the Timberwolves big men F/C Al Jefferson and F/C Kevin Love. Rubio, only a teenager, is considered a very refined player, with excellent ball handling skills. Rubio was considered the 'steal of the draft' when he fell to the 5th pick, now 'robs' the Timberwolves of the savior that they were going to build their team around.
Now a move that was widely panned on draft day may come through and help save the T-wolves season. After drafting Rubio 5th overall, Minnesota took another PG Jonny Flynn with the very next pick. At the time the move seemed extremely odd, there were additional options available and Flynn was considered a true point guard just like Rubio. Flynn doesn't have the shooting ability to be a combo guard, and having them on the floor at the same time was going to be redundant. It seemed like a waste of talent and a waste of a pick, but now that redundancy still gives the T-wolves a top flight prospect at PG.
Rubio made the decision to not risk his own money now for the chance to play in the NBA and reach free agency (and the mega deal that comes with it) two years sooner. It is hard to fully fault him since if his career derailed due to injury or ineffectiveness that big pay day might never have come. Which would have meant Rubio would have given up over $7 million of his own money with nothing in return. He'll still be in the NBA by the time he is 20 and could get that pay day yet. The problem is he probably did make a mistake by not accepting the buyout. He won't ever make as much money as he would have if he came to the NBA this year, given his youth and marketability. Now Rubio is the one waiting to see if he made the right decision. Not only does the money play a factor, but also the play of Jonny Flynn. If Flynn reaches his potential Minnesota can always trade Rubio's rights to another team in two years. Rubio went from knowing the situation that he was going to, a young rebuilding team with star talent, to the unknown. The T-Wolves could trade Rubio to a worse rebuilding situation down the road. We won't know the true outcome for awhile, but right now it looks like Minnesota wasted their draft pick and Rubio wasted the chance to become the NBA's next teenage phenom.