The Minnesota Timberwolves welcomed point guard Ricky Rubio (left knee) back with open arms earlier this month, but he has been on a limit of 18 minutes per game in the four games he has played and he did not play in the second game of a back-to-back when the team played two games in Florida last week.
But there is some positive news, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that Rubio’s minutes limit will be reevaluated ahead of the Timberwolves’ next game Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets. Nothing is guaranteed at this point, and it’s not like he’ll suddenly be playing 40 minutes a game, but the Timberwolves may soon find themselves with a logjam at point guard as Rubio takes an increased role. Could someone be on the move to another team soon?
Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved have all had good moments during the early part of the season when Rubio was out and as he has worked his way back to full strength. A potential pairing of Rubio and Shved would give Minnesota perhaps the best duo of passers in any back court around the league, and Shved is unlikely to be moved anyway as a much younger player (24 years old) than both Ridnour (31) and Barea (28).
Ridnour and Barea are more interesting cases, as both are not an obvious complement to Rubio. Ridnour did start 53 games last season, with many of those coming when Rubio was healthy prior to being injured in March, but he is not a shooting guard by trade and does not match-up well defensively with the better players at that position around the league.
Barea has played well lately, as he has scored in double figures in 11 straight games while displaying a willingness to take and make shots at crucial times in games. But he missed time earlier in the season with foot and ankle issues, and he also missed a lot of time last season (his first with the Timberwolves) due to various injuries. He is not necessarily built (6’0″, 180 lbs.) to play a lot of minutes on a consistent basis, and his overall style of play makes him well suited to a bench role.
If the Timberwolves look to make a move involving either Ridnour or Barea, the overriding factor for any interested team is sure to be money. Ridnour is making $4 million this season and is in line to make $4.3 million next season in the final year of his contract. Barea is in the second-year of a four-year deal he signed with the Timberwolves prior to last season, and he will make around $9.2 million over the final two years of the contract in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
With all the injuries the Timberwolves have been hit with already this season, the best move may be to just hang on to whatever healthy bodies they have even if they seem to have too many players that play the same position. That said, I feel like Ridnour would be the most trade-able player they have at point guard and it would not surprise me to see him moved as February’s trade deadline gets closer. Of course that assumes Rubio continues to make progress and guard Brandon Roy is able to return soon from his own knee issues.