Tyus Jones

Report: Timberwolves still want to trade Rick Rubio

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Ricky Rubio says he doesn’t believe the Timberwolves will trade him.

On the other hand…

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

I’m hearing that the Minnesota Timberwolves are actually look at potentially moving off of Rubio at this point. They’ve seen enough, and they do not believe that he is the future, in spite of the fact that he’s only 24. Now, they’ve tested the trade waters. I’m hearing that they’re quiet right now, but that they could return to looking to see what they could get for Rubio once the season begins and some things shake out for some other teams, because they don’t have any specific trade partners at the moment.

The Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski, who’s pretty plugged in to the Timberwolves, saw our previous report on Rubio being confident Minnesota will keep him and tweeted:

So, I wouldn’t take Bucher’s report as gospel.

But if the Timberwolves are convinced Rubio isn’t the answer at point guard – which seems like a premature conclusion given Rubio’s ability and age – it would be better to deal him sooner than later.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns give Minnesota a bright future. Losing Rubio – unless they get a suitable point guard in return – would probably hurt the Timberwolves in the short term. But perhaps they should focus more on maximizing the team when Wiggins and Towns hit their primes.

Again, Rubio is young enough to fit that arc. But if Flip Saunders believes Rubio just won’t hit the next level, Minnesota should trade him before other teams figure that out for themselves.

Rubio’s youth is an ever-diminishing asset. The four years and $55 million left on his contract look reasonable now, but that might now remain the case if Rubio falters this season.

The 39-year-old Andre Miller obviously isn’t Minnesota long-term answer, and it’s far to soon to anoint rookie Tyus Jones. So, this would be more about Rubio than anything else – which should be a red flag to potential trade partners. If the team that knows him best doesn’t believe in Rubio, why should others?

So, that leads to a question to be asked with every anonymously sourced report: Who has incentive to leak this information? It’s not the Timberwolves here. It might be Rubio if he’s unhappy, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. My best guess is it’s another team looking to stir the pot and possibly extract Rubio from Minnesota, which wouldn’t be the most credible source.

Ricky Rubio is confident Timberwolves not looking to trade him

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Ricky Rubio’s name has come up in increased trade speculation the last few weeks. And we mean speculation. An international basketball site took reports that Phil Jackson says the Knicks need more talent in the backcourt and combined with a Boston Globe report the Timberwolves are a little frustrated with the pace of improvement in Rubio’s game to create a trade rumor where nothing of substance exists. Other speculation surrounds the Nets. It’s August, so some people are talking about it.

Rubio says he doesn’t buy it.

He is in Dubai right now and said this to Gulf News (hat tip Fox Sports).

“I have confidence that the team wants me but you know in this league anybody can get traded,” said the flashy playmaker. “You don’t listen to the rumours. You just live day-by-day and that’s it.”

When asked if he wanted to stay with the long-suffering Timberwolves, Rubio gave a firm: “Yes.”

It would be a mistake for Minnesota to trade Rubio right now as their starting point guard unless they have a viable backup plan. And Zach LaVine is not a viable backup plan. (His athleticism is not in question, but his understanding of the game, his rate of turnovers, and his poor defense do not project as someone you want to be your starting point guard.) If Minnesota wants to move on from Rubio, the question becomes who do they move on to? Andre Miller is on the roster but he’s not the long-term answer, and Tyus Jones is a long ways off if he gets there at all.

Rubio has the potential to elevate the games of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns with his creativity on the floor. Minnesota has so much potential with this roster; they need to play it out for part of the season and evaluate how the pieces fit, then start to think about moves. Moving Rubio now — especially for what the Knicks or Nets can offer in return — is a bad idea.

But it’s August, so discuss it if you want.

Jose Calderon implies Clippers and Timberwolves are interested in him

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The Knicks are reportedly interested in Jamal Crawford and Ricky Rubio.

Trading for either guard would almost certainly mean dealing Jose Calderon, New York’s only player making more than a minimum salary it can trade right now without his permission.

It’s practically impossible to match salaries for Crawford ($5,675,000) or Rubio ($12.7 million) without Calderon’s $7,402,812.

But do the Clippers or Timberwolves want Calderon?

He implies yes.

Maybe Calderon knows something. If the Knicks are shopping him, they might extend him the courtesy of clueing him in on trade talks.

But it’s just as possible Calderon is tired of seeing his name in trade rumors, listed as a piece New York wants to dump. He might just want to change the public perception of him, whether or not facts support it.

Calderon’s $7,708,427 salary for 2016-17, when he’s 35, would be a burden for either the Clippers or Timberwolves. But it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Calderon would be a better version of Pablo Prigioni as a reliable, non-Austin Rivers option behind Chris Paul at point guard for the Clippers. But Calderon would be more expensive, and the Clippers are already in the luxury tax. If they see him as the missing piece to a championship, though, that’s a small price to pay.

In Minnesota, Calderon would be a cheaper and older replacement for Rubio until Zach LaVine Tyus Jones is ready. The Timberwolves already have that in Andre Miller, though. But if the Knicks send back better assets – draft picks, young players – Calderon’s salary would probably be necessary to facilitate a deal.

Would the Clippers or Timberwolves take Calderon in a trade? Probably. Are they actually interested in him? That’s a much tougher question to answer.

Ricky Rubio on Timberwolves: ‘I have to go pull this team in the playoffs’

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Kevin Garnett is the Timberwolves’ most-accomplished player.

Andre Miller is their oldest player.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are their most-important players.

But on any team, leadership naturally falls to the starting point guard and highest-paid player. Ricky Rubio, who fills both titles in Minnesota, is embracing that role.

Rubio, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

“We know we’re young and we’re building,” Rubio told SI.com in a phone interview. “At the same time, I think we’re ready to win games. Last season we only won 16 games but it didn’t feel like we were a losing team at all. We were just lacking some things. Me personally, I have to go pull this team in the playoffs. I know it’s a big challenge, but I think we have the right assets, the right weapons to get it. I know we’re in the West side, it’s really tough, but I think we can make it happen. I have big expectations for next season.”

I don’t think it’s completely outlandish to suggest the Timberwolves could make the playoffs. They’re loaded with talent at every position:

  • Point guard: Rubio, Miller, Tyus Jones
  • Shooting guard: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine
  • Small forward: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica
  • Power forward: Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett
  • Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic

That is one heck of the depth chart.

But there are three major reasons Minnesota won’t make the playoffs:

1. Youth. As talented as those players are, many of them are still very young. They’ll probably need more time to develop and learn how to do the little things necessary to win.

2. Fit. Too many Timberwolves prefer to operate in the same areas of the court. They just don’t have enough floor spacers.

3.  Western Conference. It’s darn good.

Rubio could help, though. He’s reaching the age where he should take the next step. And a nifty passer, he could mitigate Minnesota’s spacing issues. He’ll have no shortage of talented players to throw passes. He’s the crux.

The Timberwolves probably won’t reach the postseason, but if they do, it very well could be because Rubio pulled them there.

Timberwolves coach Flip Sauders returns to Twitter to say he loves three pointers

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The last time Timberwolves coach and GM Flip Saunders was on Twitter, he was setting the record straight that Kevin Love had in no way told him he was opting out or wanted to be traded. Six months later, Love was traded.

Now Saunders is back on Twitter after a long hiatus to again set the record straight.

Saunders doesn’t like the idea that he is considered a dinosaur, an old-school guy who doesn’t have an obsession with getting clean three-point looks like everyone else in the NBA.

Unlike the Love situation, I fully believe Saunders here. Look at what he told Zach Lowe of Grantland in a recent interview.

Do we need to make 3s? No question. I think Andrew will become an adequate 3-point shooter. The bottom line is, you have what you have. If your best players aren’t 3-point shooters, you can’t just make them 3-point shooters. We need to build around them and get some other players who can stretch the floor…

The reason teams don’t post up is that nobody can do it anymore. Teams would like to do it. The post-up is conducive to small ball. If a guy can score down there, the defense has to trap, and you can get open 3s. And that’s what we’re all trying to get — open 3s.

Saunders is also a realist. He may want to shoot threes, but he also sees his roster (the one he built) and knows these are not the Warriors. He’s going to often have the ball in the hands of Ricky Rubio (25.5 percent from three last season) and Andrew Wiggins (31 percent), followed by Zach LaVine (34.1 percent) and sometimes rookie Tyus Jones (25 percent at Summer League). He doesn’t have stretch bigs with Kevin Garnett (14 percent last season), Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. There are a couple good three-point shooters on the roster in Shabazz Muhammad (who Saunders will use as a stretch four at times) and Kevin Martin (if he can stay healthy), but this team needs guys who can space the floor.

All of that could lead to spacing issues for the Timberwolves next season.

But don’t confuse that with a guy who doesn’t want to shoot the three. Saunders took to Twitter to clear that part up.