Trading for Ricky Rubio would be a risky move for the New York Knicks, but it would change the future of Kristaps Porzingis.
During the 2016-17 season, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns received 1,337 passes from point guard Ricky Rubio. New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis received 1,445 passes. From two different point guards. In his first two seasons combined.
Porzingis and Towns are in completely different places after two seasons in the NBA. While Porzingis has struggled to develop chemistry with either one of the New York Knicks point guards he’s encountered, Towns has thrived with Ricky Rubio.
Ian Begley of ESPN New York reported that the Knicks are still interested in acquiring long-time target Rubio via trade. A sign-and-trade option for pending free agent Derrick Rose is a possibility. Minnesota Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau would welcome the former MVP back into the fold.
If Porzingis is lucky, New York will make a move. The unicorn has never played with a floor general like Rubio.
During Porzingis’ rookie season, the primary starting point guard was Jose Calderon. The veteran was second on the team in total assists (remember when Carmelo Anthony tried being unselfish?), so he didn’t contribute much to the rookie’s success.
In 2015-16, Calderon assisted on just 18 percent of Porzingis’ made field goals. He assisted on less than 10 percent of New York’s total FGM (via NBA.com).
Per NBA.com, Calderon made 11.2 passes per game to Porzingis. That’s almost an entire three fewer than the veteran guard made to Anthony.
The 21-year-old shot 42.6 percent on 3.0 FGA per game off passes from Calderon. He was 38.2 percent from three-point range. Porzingis received 807 passes from Calderon and got 216 shots up. Melo got up almost 100 more shots than Porzingis off passes from Calderon.
The plan wasn’t there yet for Porzingis to be the man. That was supposed to change as a sophomore. He was going to step into a more convincing role.
Conversely, Towns and Rubio clicked right away. In Towns’ rookie season, Rubio assisted on over 33 percent of the youngster’s buckets.
Towns, who was named Rookie of the Year, shot 53.2 percent and 41.5 percent from three-point range on passes from Rubio (via NBA.com).
The former Kentucky Wildcat put up 449 shots off the 1,114 passes he received from Rubio as a rookie.
It was supposed to get better for both players as a sophomore. Phil Jackson shipped off Calderon and rookie Jerian Grant and brought in Rose. Towns was getting the almighty Thibs as coach.
Rose was a nightmare for the Knicks, their fans, and worst of all Porzingis’ development. He’d be an anchor on the young star’s future. The franchise can’t have that.
Per NBA.com, Rose assisted on 8.7 percent of New York’s baskets this season. 8.7 percent! Rubio assisted on 21.1 percent of Minnesota’s baskets in 2016-17. The two players couldn’t be more different.
Also, Rose somehow finished second on the team to Brandon Jennings in total assists. Jennings finished the season with the Washington Wizards after being cut in February, by the way.
The way Rose utilized KP was even more shocking. Per NBA.com’s tracking data, Porzingis was third on the list of players who Rose made the most passes to. Yes, Rose made three more passes to Courtney Lee than to Porzingis in 2016-17.
Rose made almost 200 more passes to Anthony than he did to Porzingis. Ironically, he still had the most assists on passes to Porzingis. By a long shot actually. Porzingis had 70 assists from Rose, while Anthony was in second with 56.
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The 21-year-old shot a higher percentage on Rose passes but got over 30 more shots up with Calderon. Considering his improvements since his rookie season, he could’ve done well with a table-setting point guard.
Towns had that point guard again as a sophomore. Rubio assisted on 30 percent of Towns’ buckets in 2016-17.
Rubio has been in the top ten in assists per game and assist percentage for five of the six seasons he’s been in the league. He’s in his prime, his health issues seem to have stabilized (he’s played 75-plus games in the past two seasons), and he has a great contract.
Pulling the trigger on a Rubio trade isn’t as risky as people think. He’s only signed through 2018-19.
With the reasonable salary and the potential chemistry between the two international stars, it’s a calculated risk the front office must seriously consider. For Kristaps Porzingis’ sake.