Veteran guard Ricky Rubio is going back to where his NBA career began. During the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to send Rubio and the 25th and 28th picks in the draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the 17th overall pick, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Thunder are also receiving James Johnson from the Timberwolves in the deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Johnson opted in to his $16 million option for the 2020-21 season.
The initial report that a Rubio move was impending came from The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski. The Timberwolves selected Serbian big man Aleksej Pokusevski with the 17th pick. Pokusevski played for the Serbian national team, and he also played for Greek team Olympiacos.
Rubio previously played for the Timberwolves from 2011 to 2017 after they made him the fifth overall pick in the 2009 Draft. His stint as a member of the Thunder didn't last long, as he was a member of the team for mere days. Earlier this week, Rubio was traded from Phoenix to Oklahoma City as part of the deal that landed Chris Paul on the Suns. He started in 65 games for the Suns last season, and averaged 13 points, 8.8 assists (good for fourth in the entire NBA), 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game.
The Thunder are clearly in the midst of a rebuild, so it makes sense that they flipped Rubio,30, into another young asset, as opposed to keeping him on the roster. The Thunder have amassed an arsenal of picks over the next several years, and as such, they are well-positioned to build back into a Western Conference contender. Pokusevski could potentially be a big piece of that.
In Minnesota, Rubio will join a Timberwolves team that now features the top pick from the 2020 Draft, Anthony Edwards, as well as Karl Anthony-Towns and D'Angelo Russell. Rubio currently has two years remaining on the three-year, $51 million contract he signed with the Suns last offseason.
- C Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17 pick)
- James Johnson
- G Immanuel Quickley (No. 25 pick)
- F Jaden McDaniels (No. 28 pick)
Oklahoma City trade grade: B+
The Thunder continue to position themselves extremely well for the future. They traded Chris Paul to acquire assets for a rebuild, and then they did the same with Rubio, who still has some solid basketball left in him. Rubio was never going to play for the Thunder, and they were able to use him to move up in the draft to snag a player that fits the franchise better. In Pokusevski, the Thunder got a player with a lot of potential that fits well with the team's timeline as a young team building back up in the West. The Thunder aren't necessarily entering next season in win-now mode, and therefore they will be able to afford Pokusevski time to develop.
Minnesota trade grade: B
The move is a solid, if not exciting, one for Minnesota. As a team with two All-Star-caliber players in Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, and now also the top overall pick from the 2020 draft in Anthony Edwards, the Timberwolves are in more of a win-now mode than the Thunder are at the moment, and Rubio could provide the team with a combination of on-court production and veteran leadership. He played for the Wolves for six seasons previously, so he is very familiar with the franchise and the city of Minnesota, so his adjustment should be minimal, which is good since the season is coming up quickly.