Playoff basketball is always a good opportunity to learn a team’s strengths and weaknesses, and the Boston Celtics know they need an extra ball carrier off the bench.
It’s not that Boston doesn’t have a number of ball-handling talents, they do, but the decision-making on the show was questionable at best. Throughout the postseason, the Celtics averaged 14.1 turnovers per game and struggled to make the right passes in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
According to Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes, the Celtics should look to bring in another playmaking guard in the offseason so White can focus on defending and hitting on the court. Of course, Boston doesn’t intend to be a high-cap space team, and that’s where Ricky Rubio comes in.
“It’s clear that better passing and more ball movement are key to the Celtics being the most dominant version of themselves. Ricky Rubio tore his cruciate ligament in December so he will only compete in part of the season in 2022-23. But everyone knows what he brings. He was in the 97th percentile assist percentage at his position in 2021-22 and has long been one of the best setup men in the league,” Hughes wrote in a recent article.
Rubio, if healthy, would give Boston an additional weapon that can penetrate dribbling and force defensive rotations before making the right pass to find open shooters or slashers on the edge. We’ve seen throughout the current NBA season that Ime Udoka favors a forward-thinking drive-and-kick offense, and Rubio would fit perfectly into the team’s current offensive game plan.
If he’d stayed healthy all season, Rubio would likely be out of the Celtics’ price range, but an ACL injury shortened his season and the recovery streak will likely roll into the 2022-23 NBA season. As such, the veteran guard’s next deal is likely to be a one-year deal, which works perfectly for the Celtics.
Even though Rubio doesn’t make his season debut until January 2023, he’ll be a solid veteran presence at the training facility as he ramps up his rehab and will have plenty of time to immerse himself in the film so he can learn Boston’s offense and defensive systems.
Additionally, playing alongside elite scorers like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be incredibly tempting for Rubio, as his style of play could increase their scoring and add an extra dimension to the Celtics’ offense once the postseason rolls in and teams head into halftime to tend. Court Basketball.
Even with a short-term deal, however, Boston should be worried about which version of Rubio they’ll get, after all he’ll be entering his season at the age of 32 recovering from a horrific knee injury. Rubio has never been one to rely on athletics or burst as he prefers to use his cunning to gain advantages over defense, but if his lateral and vertical quickness is hampered he could struggle to be consistent Earning minutes from Udoka.
Despite Derrick White’s limitations as a perimeter scorer, he clearly held his own throughout the postseason, particularly in games where Marcus Smart has been sitting out through injury. The former San Antonio Spurs guard is a proven ball carrier and playmaker, adept at making quick decisions and finding the best pass available, and after giving up so much to win it at the close of trade, it’s unlikely that Brad Stevens is making a move to create some additional roadblocks for his playing time next season.
Sure, White won’t give you much scoring gravity at the perimeter, but neither is Rubio, and since Boston’s current sixth man is younger and doesn’t have a serious knee injury, it doesn’t make sense for the front office to sign Rubio — either way short is the business.
Boston’s greatest need during the free agency period is an extra wing that can take some of the goal and ball handling burden off Tatum and Brown, rather than another guard who can’t create lanes due to his limited shooting ability.
Even if the front office chose to be bold, an additional rim run center should also be higher on the priority list than Rubio as it is clear that Daniel Theis, while viable, is unable to provide the sporting backup play gifted Robert Williams.
Of course, any decisions Brad Stevens makes will be heavily dictated by the cap space available and who to keep from the boys at the bottom of the bench this season, with Sam Hauser looking like a goaltender, for example. But before the rebuild begins, the Celtics have a seventh game against the Heat on May 29 with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake, so everyone should be focused on the task at hand.