One of the more beloved Phoenix Suns in recent memory appears to be nearing a decision on whether to continue his career or not. Last week, Shams Charania of the Athletic reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Ricky Rubio "have begun discussing a parting of ways." Rubio has not suited up this year after stepping away from the NBA during the summer to focus on his mental health.
If granted a release, it’s unclear if Rubio would consider a return to the NBA with a different team, or if he’ll move on from the sport altogether. If it’s the former, then the Suns should absolutely make an effort to acquire him, as they're in dire need of a playmaker off the bench.
Rubio may not be the starting caliber player he was during his sole year in Phoenix, but he has transitioned seamlessly into a bench role. In his two years coming off the bench for the Cavs, Rubio has averaged 9.2 points, 5.1 assists, and only 1.8 turnovers per game.
Rubio is a pure point guard in every sense of the word.
He’s extremely comfortable orchestrating offense for everyone else, while his own looks take a back seat. His scoring has dipped a bit in recent years, but that was never his calling card and the Suns don't need him for that. They just need someone who can lead the offense while taking care of the ball.
Frank Vogel has tried everything to this point to find a player that fills that role. Most recently he's inserted Saben Lee back into the rotation. Lee has performed admirably in this stretch, but like the other guards on the roster, he’s more of a combo guard rather than a true point guard. He, nor anyone else on the bench, is going to be running an offense the same way Rubio would.
There are a couple of ways the Suns can go about acquiring Rubio. They can wait until the Cavs buy him out to sign him, or wait for another team to trade for him with the intention of buying him out. That would be the preferred avenue for the Suns since they wouldn’t have to give up any assets to get him. However, there’s every chance that this drags on for a while, and the Suns definitely can't afford to wait.
A trade centered around Nassir Little would be great for both parties. Little hasn’t had a consistent role with the Suns this year, and now with Bradley Beal back and other wings getting more playing time, that figures to continue.
The Cavs aren’t getting anything from the Rubio roster spot right now, so clearing his contract off the books while getting a player that they can be assured will play for them would be a win. If needed, the Suns have some second rounders to trade as well, but it wouldn't be wise to use their limited draft capital on a player a team is trying to move on from.
If, however, Rubio does indeed retire, a remarkable, underrated career would come to an end. During his prime, he consistently found himself near the top of the assists leaderboards while rarely turning the ball over.
He only spent one season with the Suns, but that year was instrumental in turning around the franchise, and Rubio was a big part of it. That season, Rubio averaged 13ppg and 8.8apg as the Suns finally escaped the cellar of the NBA. Rubio would then be traded for Chris Paul, which opened the Suns' championship contention window.
Rubio's health is of the utmost importance, so he has every right to step away from the game if he so desires. If he decides to keep playing though, the Suns would love to get back one of the foundational pieces of the franchise’s turnaround.