On day two of free agency, the Cavaliers broke their silence.
But the silence wasn’t ended with an emotional scream or shout, but rather a well-reasoned and logical whisper.
While the Nets are imploding, the Timberwolves are growing, and the Knicks are praying, the Cavaliers quietly made a few moves to address key areas of need.
Cleveland re-signed Ricky Rubio and added Robin Lopez and Raul Neto to the ranks.
And while the report card won’t technically be complete until we see all three take the court, we can still give the thumbs up or thumbs down based on the current outlook.
Here are grades for all three moves:
1. Ricky Rubio
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
For weeks, rumors swirled that the Cavaliers wanted to bring back Rubio, who they packaged in a midseason deal for Indiana wing Caris LeVert.
The move made sense, considering Rubio tore his ACL and would miss the rest of the season (and then some).
Still, it was hard to see Rubio go, given how much he meant to the Cavaliers last season.
The Cavs traded Ricky Rubio & a first round pick for Caris LeVert, then proceeded to:
Use the 1st round pick.
Sign Ricky Rubio back.
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) July 1, 2022
In fact, for 34 games last season, Rubio eased the lineup loss of Collin Sexton.
Rubio notched a career-high in shot volume this season, and tied a career-high in points (13.1).
But Rubio was also an assist machine off the bench, averaging 6.7 assists in games that he did not start.
So it comes as no surprise that Rubio found his way back to Cleveland on a three-year, $18 million deal.
No, Rubio isn’t Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ latest attempt at finding a franchise cornerstone.
But Rubio is exactly what the Cavaliers need: a quality backup and feel-good story who has experience in Coach Bickerstaff’s system.
The only kicker?
Rubio probably isn’t suiting up until January as he recovers from that knee injury.
Hopefully, he settles back into his form this season, but it might be mid-January or early February before Rubio looks like his old self.
The Cavaliers, for their part, should be in no hurry to bring Rubio back on the court.
If Cleveland is eying a playoff run next season, a healthy Rubio will be necessary in making those dreams a reality.
Even though he’ll miss time, the contract is cheap and Rubio brings significant value.
2. Raul Neto
Rubio is a nice add, but his unavailability until next year means the Cavs still needed to address depth at point guard.
And that’s precisely what Cleveland did, nabbing seven-year vet Raul Neto.
Neto most recently played for the Wizards, where he averaged 8.1 points and 2.7 assists in two years in Washington.
Neto isn’t the flashiest name on the market, but he is coming off a season that saw his career-best in assists per game (3.1).
Neto also isn’t a guy like Gary Payton II, who just came off a championship run with the Warriors where he was integral to their defensive success.
But Payton’s $20 million contract over two years was probably too steep for Cleveland.
Once Rubio is back and healthy, Neto will inevitably drop to the third-string point guard for this team.
But in the interim, the Cavs could use his scrappy defense to lighten Darius Garland‘s load and ease the pressure on Rubio’s return.
Further, the Cavs secured Neto’s services on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum, meaning the Cavs have plenty of options to either move or waive him once Rubio is back.
Or who knows — perhaps Neto plays well in Cleveland, earning a roster spot even after Rubio returns.
It’s unlikely, but for now, the Cavs did what they needed to ensure cap flexibility and roster depth.
3. Robin Lopez
The Cavs have stayed away from splashy buys so far in free agency.
And it’s hard to fault them for it.
Instead, Cleveland appears ready to run it back with the same main core as last season, focusing instead on a lack of depth that plagued the team down the stretch.
Robin Lopez in his 14 seasons:
— 8,196 PTS
— 4,604 REB
— 1,034 BLK
— 26 mascots fought
Generational hook shot. pic.twitter.com/4Amn1b5mPT
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 1, 2022
Which is why Robin Lopez is another strong signing for the Cavs.
The Cavs found out the hard way that depth at center is critical.
After Jarrett Allen went down with a broken finger, the Cavs’ season spiraled.
Lopez is a quality backup option who brings 14 years of experience to Cleveland.
Last year, Lopez was sidelined by the Magic while Orlando focused on developing its younger players.
And now Lopez comes to town, fresh off a season with little labor.
Lopez has had a productive career so far, averaging 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.
And he comes to Cleveland on the veteran minimum, just like Neto.
All in all, not too shabby.
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