Wolves send Rubio to Jazz ahead of free agency


The Utah Jazz acquired Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio on Friday for a ‎2018 first-round pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The pick is top-14 protected, sources said.

The Jazz needed to make the deal before midnight Friday or would have lost the $16 million of expiring salary-cap space necessary to pull it off.

Minnesota, meanwhile, cleared space for a big run in free agency after already landing All-Star Jimmy Butler in a separate trade earlier this month.

“We’d like to thank Ricky for his time in Minnesota over the course of the last six-plus years,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Ricky has been a consummate professional over my time in Minnesota and has done tremendous things in the community. We appreciate all he’s done for the organization and wish him the best of luck in Utah.”

Rubio, 26, averaged 16.0 points and 10.5 assists per game after the All-Star break this past season.

He holds career averages of 10.3 points and 9.1 assists but has played 70 or more games just three times in his six NBA seasons because of injuries. His career shooting percentage is .375.

Rubio has two years left on his contract. He’s owed $14.25 million in 2017-18 and $14.95 million in 2018-19.

The Wolves ended the 2016-17 season with three point guards on the roster. They have now traded two of them (Rubio and Kris Dunn), leaving Tyus Jones as the only player at that position on the roster.

But the 2017 free-agent class at point guard is loaded, with Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Patty Mills and Derrick Rose among the big names expected to be available once free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday.

The Knicks had interest in trading for Ricky Rubio but were not willing to part with a first-round pick to obtain the guard, per sources. Minnesota, according to reports, traded Rubio to Utah for a protected first-round pick. GM Steve Mills appears to be following Phil Jackson’s rule of valuing first-round picks, which seems wise for a team that appears to be in the midst of a rebuild. On the point guard front, some in the organization like George Hill and Jeff Teague but the Knicks would need to clear cap space to make competitive offers to either guard.

Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer

Hill had been with the Jazz, but Rubio’s arrival means Hill will land elsewhere in free agency after playing a key role in Utah ending a four-year playoff drought despite a variety of injuries that limited him to 49 games.

Hill, whose sprained left big toe bothered him for most of the season and ultimately caused him to sit out Utah’s final two playoff games, averaged a career-high 16.9 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from 3-point range.

Utah acquired Hill from his hometown Indiana Pacers by dealing the No. 12 overall pick in the 2016 draft in a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks, filling the Jazz’s glaring need for a starting point guard. The Jazz were 33-16 when Hill played during the regular season and 18-15 when he was sidelined.

The Jazz had interest in signing the 31-year-old Hill to an extension during the season, but he opted to wait to test the open market, confident that he would command a significantly larger deal than what Utah offered.

Rubio, meanwhile, joins a Jazz team that could lose Gordon Hayward in free agency but does have one of the best young centers in the NBA in Rudy Gobert.

Rubio and Gobert do have a history.

They were on opposite sides of the Spain-France rivalry in Eurobasket during the summer of 2015. Spain defeated France 80-75 in a September 2015 semifinal, and Rubio took exception to Gobert’s public dissatisfaction with the officiating after fouling out in overtime.

Gobert, though, indicated Friday that that is all in the past.

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