It turns out that Ricky Rubio was indeed all set to sign with the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon to replace Darren Collison and play point guard next to a rehabbed Victor Oladipo and small forward Bojan Bogdanovic for another deep Pacers playoff run.
Rubio would have replaced Collison, who became a free agent himself this summer and then suddenly retired from basketball a week before free agency began.
At the same time, the Phoenix Suns were reportedly in talks to sign the Celtics’ Terry Rozier as their new point guard. Rozier was about to be an unrestricted free agent once Boston signed Kemba Walker to a max contract to replace Kyrie Irving.
Rubio to Indiana. Rozier to Phoenix.
Let’s compare their career per-game, per-36 and advanced stats:
Rubio reportedly wanted to join a playoff team, while Rozier reportedly just wanted a clear chance to start games after backing up a host of point guards in Boston the last four years.
But then free agency started and everything changed on a dime. Or, more accurately, billions and billions of dimes.
First, Pacers teammate Bojan Bogdanovic spurned the Pacers’ offer and bolted to Utah for $73 million dollars. And that killed the whole Rubio deal in Indiana.
Here is how Rubio explained it to a Spanish reporter this week:
El comunicado actualizado sobre la historia del fichaje de Ricky Rubio. Agradecería mucho un RT, muchas gracias. pic.twitter.com/lCYnowFzap— NBA - Jordi de Mas (@demas6Basket) July 1, 2019
As translated to us by a Bright Side reader:
“In my first intervention reporting on an exclusive NBA, in this case the future of Ricky Rubio, the NBA has surprised me.”
Explains because two days earlier had said that there was already agreement between Ricky Rubio and Indiana Pacers in a tweet.
”It was done with Pacers, there was a verbal agreement with two conditions: that Bogdanovic stayed in Indiana and that he had a starting role in the team.”
Bogdanovic’s renewal seemed to be happening but at the last moment he changed. With more salary space and therefore decided to bet on Brogdon.
Once Bogdanovic was gone, the Pacers pivoted away from Rubio to the Bucks to discuss a sign-and-trade for restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon, commonly seen as one of the best point guard targets on the market.
Brogdon will be 27-years-old next season and has missed 52 games to injury the last two seasons while averaging under four assists a game, but he’s a great shooter — the only 50/40/90 player in the league last season — and plays hard-nosed defense across multiple positions thanks to his size and length.
Once Bogdanovic left, the Pacers needed to replace his shooting which made Brogdon a better fit than Rubio. No one else in the Pacers returning lineup, including Oladipo, made more than 36% of their threes on any kind of volume. Bogdanovic (gone to Utah), Darren Collison (retired) and Wesley Matthews (UFA) were all gone now.
So they turned to Brogdon, a better shooter than playmaker, to the tune of $21.25 million per year in a sign-and-trade while giving the Bucks three draft picks for their trouble (one first round pick, lottery protected, plus a pair of second round picks).
And Rubio was left to find another team.
Meanwhile, the Suns lost their dance partner too. Their dalliance with Rozier fell apart once Charlotte got on the phone with Boston, who were trying to facilitate a sign-and-trade with Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. Why not make it a three-way?
Charlotte, not wanting to left with no one running their team, jumped at the chance to acquire Rozier. They offered him $19.3 million per year to play for the Hornets and Rozier couldn’t agree fast enough.
So the Suns pivoted to the right, while Rubio pivoted to the left and ... mere minutes later, a match was made in free agency frenzy.
With all this he decided to sign with the Phoenix Suns who proposed a very good offer “Because his first information was changed at the end,” he says.
During these days my source has been the Ricky Rubio himself, I have been talking with him and he was informing me of his situation, (he has given me permission to say this).”
Okay, so not a ringing endorsement on Rubio picking Phoenix. He wanted Indiana first.
And not a ringing endorsement on the Suns picking Rubio. They wanted Rozier first, or at least had turned to Rozier when Rubio had a verbal agreement with Indiana.
But they both got dumped. They looked around quickly. They saw each other on the dance floor, smiles forming on each other’s faces.
And well, sometimes that’s how you find love.
What about D’Lo?
There’s a lot of angst around the Suns not going hard after D’Angelo Russell when he was clearly becoming available by the Nets.
How could the Suns not go after Russell? How could they disrespect Booker so much? Booker and Russell were together over the weekend before the whole party started, so why couldn’t this be a match made in heaven?
I don’t know. I don’t trust any of the rumors out there, but I will say that I’ve personally never been a fan of this pairing on the Suns because they are mirror images of each other: all offense, no defense.
But I can see why you wanted Russell here. He was an All-Star this past February, though let’s be clear that he was an injury replacement in the Eastern Conference, and less than three months later the Nets were desperate to hit the upgrade button.
The Wolves — home of another close friend, Karl-Anthony Towns — were a big suitor for him, and on Sunday night he was in Minnesota to discuss a maximum contract offer. Minnesota was there promising trades to clear the cap space necessary to sign him.
Russell also wanted to go back to the Lakers, but they would only put him on the back burner while waiting for Kawhi Leonard’s decision. Sure it could work out with the Lakers, but only as a bridesmaid, and not the bride.
And then Golden State called. The five straight NBA Finals team, smarting from the loss of Kevin Durant and facing half a season without Klay Thompson, said “hey, D’Lo, want to join Stephen Curry for a run at a title? Oh, and yeah, we’ll give you that bag!”
The 23-year-old guard jumped. Minnesota slumped. And off to Oakland went D’Angelo Russell, in a sign-and-trade involving Kevin Durant.
You could argue that Russell wouldn’t have taken the max from Golden State if he’s been offered the same from the Suns, but is that really a valid argument? If you’re Russell, why would you pass up a chance for a deep playoff run with one of the best organizations in sports?
Let’s just imagine for a moment that it was the Suns sitting across from Russell on Sunday evening, promising to clear cap space to sign him, hoping he’d put his name on a max contract so the Suns could commit half their salary cap to the pair of guards for the next four years. And then imagine it being the Suns who had to watch Russell say ‘no thanks’ when Golden State called.
What was left on the market at the time Russell dumped the Wolves?
Patrick Beverley and Cory Joseph, who were reportedly the Suns’ backup, backup plans.
Patrick Beverley turned down more than $17 million per year from Sacramento to stay with the Clippers, per him on The Jump, so write him off your list of possibilities. He wasn’t leaving the Clippers, who gave him $13 million a year even while still waiting on the Kawhi decision.
Joseph ended up getting $12 million per year on Monday from that Kings squad that starts De’Aaron Fox at point and wanted Beverley first.
So, in this hypothetical scenario, it would have been Joseph coming to the Suns late Sunday night.
Let’s compare all these players now:
- Russell - $29 million per year, four years
- Brogdon - $21.25M per, four years
- Rozier - $19.33M per, three years
- Rubio- $17M per, three years
- Beverley - $13M per, three years
- Joseph - $12M per, three years
Would you rather have been jilted by Russell only to sign Cory freaking Joseph, or are you happier now with Ricky Rubio?