Forget Melo: Houston Rockets Should Focus on Acquiring Ricky Rubio
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While Houston does have the assets necessary to trade for Anthony while still keeping enough talent in town to remain competitive, the possibility that he'll just bolt once the season is over makes it a risky proposition.
Instead, the Rockets should make a concerted effort to try and pry the rights to Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio away from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rubio was drafted No. 5 overall by the Wolves in the 2009 draft, but currently plays for the Spanish club Regal FC Barcelona.
He signed a six-year deal with Barcelona in late August 2009, but the contract gives him an option to leave for the NBA following the 2010-11 season.
Rubio, 20, has been playing professional basketball since he was 14 years old, and his playing style has often drawn comparisons to guys like Pete Maravich and Steve Nash.
His ball-handling, court vision, defense and size (6'4") make him a tantalizing prospect. He struggles with his jumper, but as we've seen with guys like Derrick Rose, shooting is one of the easiest areas in which to improve.
The Rockets do have a pair of solid young guards in Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks, but neither is likely the "franchise" type player that Rubio can be.
So, why would the Timberwolves be interested in trading a guy like that?
Since being drafted, speculation has circulated with regards to Rubio's lack of desire to play in Minnesota.
Rubio's desire to start playing in the NBA was well-documented prior to the draft, but he then backed out of an agreement with Wolves GM David Kahn to come to America 48 hours after a deal was reportedly commenced.
A possible contributing factor to Rubio's hesitation to join the Timberwolves could be the fact that they drafted another point guard, Jonny Flynn, with the very next pick in that same draft.
The pick was baffling to many at the time, including Rubio himself, and looks even more ridiculous now, considering the early success of Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who was picked No. 7, and would've fit perfectly playing alongside Rubio.
Flynn has struggled early in his career, and has played in just 12 games this season due hip surgery over the summer.
Flynn started 81 games as a rookie last year, averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game on 41 percent shooting from the floor.
With Yao Ming out for the season again, his future with the Rockets is in jeopardy. This leaves Houston with no true cornerstone-type player around which to build, which is why they've been so active on the trade front of late.
A proven commodity such as Anthony obviously fits the bill, but with the rest of the league teeming with quality young point guards, acquiring Rubio isn't a bad start.
The Rockets have made themselves into an up-tempo team in the absence of Yao, and having a guy like Rubio at the helm of that offense would be something to see.
Rick Adelman's offense is predicated on quick ball movement with lots of motion off-the-ball. It runs efficiently with Brooks and Lowry in control, but a pass-first guy with Rubio's ability could take it to a new level entirely.
So, what might the Timberwolves want in exchange?
Houston GM Daryl Morey has made a point of stockpiling all sorts of assets to prepare for a major move over the past couple of years.
Young forwards like Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson, lottery picks in '09 and '10, respectively, have some appeal.
Swingmen? Chase Budinger and Terrence Williams are each in their second year in the NBA.
The Timberwolves have gotten very little offensively from their guards this season. Kevin Martin, averaging over 23 points per game with an insane true shooting percentage of 62.4, would be just what the doctor ordered.
One of the aforementioned point guards, Brooks or Lowry, would likely be involved in such a deal as well.
Then, there's the expiring and insured contract of Yao Ming, if Minnesota is interested in saving some cash.
Trading Rubio could help the Timberwolves, 9-28 so far this season, gain some much-needed depth at several different positions.
Houston is the team that will likely be able to offer the best value in return, and gets themselves a "face of the franchise" kind of player to replace Yao.
The Rockets have a long way to go before they're back to being true championship contenders, and are likely best suited to start anew and try to rebuild.
Trading for Ricky Rubio would be a nice starting point.
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