Ricky Rubio will be an unrestricted free agent and the Jazz have a tough decision to make regarding his future. Although Rubio has been a solid floor general for the franchise, Utah has appeared to hit its ceiling with him playing alongside Donovan Mitchell.
“We want to move the group forward,” GM Dennis Lindsey said at season’s end (via Jody Genessy of the Deseret News). “And while we have a very good team, the results told us that we don’t have a great team.
The Jazz attempted to take a step forward and deal for Mike Conley at the trade deadline, but ultimately didn’t complete the much-rumored move.
“Unfortunately,” Lindsey said, “a team leaked something and it was unethical.”
Rubio landed in Utah during the 2017 offseason and the Jazz have made the postseason in each of his two seasons with the team. They were able to win a playoff series during that stretch, but ran into the Rockets each spring and proved to be a notch below the top tier in the Western Conference.
Rubio tried to stay positive as he heard his name on the rumor mill. The point guard admitted that hearing the team’s trade talks impacted his mindset.
“I play with heart, and you go out there and you want to play with heart, but you don’t know if tomorrow you’re going to be here,” Rubio said. “It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. Luckily, it didn’t happen and I ended the season on a good note and I’m happy.”
Assuming the Jazz look to free agency, finding an upgrade on Rubio won’t be easy. The franchise has no immediate replacement on the roster and players like Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker seem unlikely to consider Utah as a destination.
Pairing Mitchell with a point guard who’s a better shooter than Rubio could be a feasible option. Goran Dragic could opt to hit the market. Malcolm Brogdon is a restricted free agent and perhaps the Jazz can take advantage of Bucks’ potential spending trepidation and snatch the efficient play-maker.
Utah could have upwards of $39MM in salary cap space, though that’s an unlikely figure as it would require the team to renounce the rights to Rubio and let go of Derrick Favors, whose $16.9MM contract for next season is non-guaranteed.
The Jazz believe Rubio can improve on his game and Lindsay said there are “a lot of scenarios” in which he could see the point guard return for his third season with the team.
“We really appreciate who he is and we think we can get him better from a health perspective and skill standpoint. We know who he is,” the executive said.