This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Jazz are scheduled to meet with star forward Gordon Hayward on Monday, the final meeting Hayward has scheduled before making a decision on his future.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey knew he needed to solidify the point guard position before that meeting. On Friday afternoon, Lindsey did just that.
Utah traded for Minnesota Timberwolves starting point guard Ricky Rubio, The Tribune first reported on Friday afternoon before the Jazz officially announced the trade. The Jazz were able to absorb Rubio's contract into salary cap space that had to be used by 10 p.m. MDT Friday, or lost per NBA salary cap rules. As compensation, the Jazz will send Minnesota the 2018 first-round pick that they previously held from Oklahoma City, acquired two years ago in the Enes Kanter deal.
The question now is, will this move be enough to retain Hayward? He will choose between the Jazz, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, and the Celtics have the assets to make a move for somebody like forward Paul George.
At 6-foot-4, Rubio is one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA. He's got quick hands and feet. He frustrates opposing guards defensively and he's become a very good rebounder. Offensively, Rubio is one of the best passers in the league. He's always at the top of the league in assists-to-turnover ratio. He's a very good pick-and-roll player. He runs an offense smoothly.
But there are detractors. Rubio isn't a a good shooter. He shot 40 percent from the field this past season, and 30 percent from 3-point range. Opponents regularly help off Rubio, which clogs an offense's spacing, and Utah's offense thrives on the ability to space the floor.
Rubio had probably his best season as a pro in 2016-2017. He averaged a career-high 11.1 points and a career-best 9.1 assists, to go along with 4.1 rebounds per game. He played in 75 games, which is big for the Jazz, who were among the most injured teams in the league this past season. Rubio is also an 83 percent free-throw shooter for his career.
He is also 26 years old, and in theory is entering his prime. He has two years left on his current contract at $14.1 million this coming season, and $14.8 million in the 2018-19 season.
Rubio's favorable contract may enable the Jazz to make more moves in free agency. Joe Ingles is a restricted free agent, while Shelvin Mack is an unrestricted free agent.
The trade also means George Hill last year's starting point guard will move on in free agency, The Tribune has learned. Hill, who is a close friend of Hayward's, has interest from multiple teams on the open market.
Hill, who was traded by Indiana to Utah the day before the 2016 NBA draft, was effective in his one season with Utah when healthy, but injuries prevented him from playing the final three games of the Jazz's Western Conference semifinal series sweep at the hands of Golden State.