The Timberwolves pulled off the biggest trade of the offseason so far by landing Jimmy Butler from the Bulls in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and a first-round pick swap. The deal proved that the Wolves are looking to compete now, as they nabbed a star on the perimeter to complement Karl-Anthony Towns’ emergence as a dominant interior player.
With Butler, Towns, and Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves seem to have a core group ready to make the leap to playoff contention in the West, but Minnesota isn’t done dealing. Ricky Rubio is currently the starting point guard for the Wolves, and having moved Dunn and LaVine, there aren’t many other ball-handling options on the roster beyond Rubio, Butler, and Tyus Jones. However, that hasn’t stopped Minnesota from continuing to explore discussions about trading Rubio, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
Rubio has seemingly been on the trade market since he signed his 4-year, $55 million deal with the Wolves in 2015, so this is business as usual for the Spanish point guard. The idea of swapping out Rubio for a better shooting point guard is understandable from Minnesota’s point of view. Butler is a ball-dominant player and Rubio’s best offensive skill is his vision and passing. If Butler is taking Rubio’s usage down, Rubio becomes less valuable as an offensive player.
The Wolves certainly need shooting, but finding a point guard that can fill that need is easier said than done. It’s especially difficult to find someone willing to part ways with a point guard that can shoot in exchange for one that can’t. Rubio has value in his passing ability and defensive acumen, but it’s exceedingly difficult to swap players at the same position and recoup value.
The Knicks and Mavs have both been rumored to still be interested in Rubio to help fill their needs at point guard, but it remains to be seen if they’d be willing to give up (or even have, in the Knicks case) the assets Minnesota is looking for in return.