Prior to the draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers surprised plenty by acquiring veteran point guard Ricky Rubio from the Minnesota Timberwolves by trading away Taurean Prince, a 2022 second round selection via the Washington Wizards and cash considerations. Rubio, who, according to sources, was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics, will be joining Cleveland as Darius Garland's primary backup, according to league sources. The Spanish guard averaged 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game in 68 games for Minnesota last season.
"Cleveland acquiring him was a huge surprise but a great move for them," said one Eastern Conference scout. "After they had virtually no one to backup Garland last season, they went out and got a veteran that helps them more than Prince ever could. Ricky can come in right away and be a leader on the floor, play alongside and mentor either Garland or Sexton and can be a trade chip for Cleveland if he plays well."
Rubio is set to make $17.8 million next season on an expiring deal and as that scout said will be valuable to teams next season, especially when contenders like both Los Angeles teams and Boston were already linked to him. If Rubio plays well, and all signs indicate that he will, he will be a valuable trade asset next February. But, that's all to come and for Cleveland. Right now, what Rubio presents is incredibly valuable financially to the Cavaliers as well.
Heading into free agency this August, Cleveland's options are limited due to their current payroll and Jarett Allen's impending extension. Other than signing veterans to minimum deals, the Cavaliers can sign players using a $9.5 million mid-level exception. Cleveland is a team with a ton of needs on their roster with backup point guard being a major one. By trading for Rubio, the Cavaliers can maintain that financial flexibility to address some of their other depth concerns. Cleveland can chase Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock or really any shooter out there.
Not only does trading for Rubio add financial security but it also allows the Cavaliers to invest in their future as well. Cleveland has invested heavily in their backcourt in the draft by selecting Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in consecutive years. Both have shown tons of potential as players and could help lead Cleveland into the future. But, with that also comes youth and inexperience which can cause things to spiral out of control while on offense.
Last season, the Cavaliers tried to lean on Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova to be that security blanket for when things go sideways. Unfortunately, injuries had other plans as both Australian guards were sidelined throughout the season. That's where Rubio can help this season. The former Spanish star will back up Garland this season but, he will also see time on the floor alongside both young guards. The defense and playmaking ability Rubio provides will accentuate the off-ball game of Garland and Sexton and only make them stronger. That, and Rubio can also mentor Garland and help his already blossoming playmaking grow further.
Speaking of the future, it's extremely bright for Cleveland after the Cavaliers selected Evan Mobley third-overall. Mobley, who averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks per game in college, would be in the consensus number one prospect in any draft. The problem is Mobley is in the same class as Cade Cunningham and that's why Cleveland was able to select him at no. 3.
“We were able to draft a transformative talent, whose versatility, athleticism and physical gifts are qualities we covet in a player. Evan Mobley checks each of those boxes,” said Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman. “We are committed to establishing a sustainable and winning culture in Cleveland and we couldn’t be more excited about Evan being part of our future.”
Mobley is considered the modern-day big with perimeter skills and defensive versatility. His 7-foot-4 wingspan allowed him to block and alter shots, anchoring one of the nation’s best defenses. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the second player from a major conference to win all three awards in the same year. Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis is the other.
In fact, Davis is a player Mobley drew comparisons to when entering the pre-draft process. He also drew comparisons to Hall of Fame big man Chris Bosh and the league's best player Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mobley's aware of those lofty comparisons too but doesn't let that phase him.
“A lot of people have been comparing me to Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis, Giannis, players like that,” Mobley said. “I definitely see a good amount of similarities between all those players, but I feel like I’m my own player and I have my own tendencies, which makes me unique.”
During the pre-draft process, Mobley shared that whatever team drafts him he wants to win multiple championships for that organization and their city. After being drafted by Cleveland, he shared that he wants to win Rookie of the Year and represent the Cavaliers at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland. The Cavaliers finally have their star to build around for the future in Mobley. Adding Rubio as well to the mix is just icing on the cake. Cleveland is starting off their offseason strong – it's going to be exciting to see what they have planned next.