I'll be honest: I didn't know what the heck was going on for most of the time. Every time the situation seemed resolved, it wasn't. Every time Rubio seemed to lean one way, he didn't. While one can argue that the nature of the uncertainty is enough of an indictment on Rubio himself for the Wizards to stay away from having to deal with that drama, the unbelievably unreliable European media is to blame for a lot of this as well. Throw in Minnesota's unique situation -- they drafted a point guard right after Rubio, they stripped down their team, they're rebuilding, etc. -- the difficulty with the buyout and several other factors, and there's a lot more to this debacle that simply Rubio's own immaturity and indecision.
But enough about that, what about the Wizards? The obvious reaction to the news is that this vindicates Ernie Grunfeld's decision to pass on drafting him for the surer thing of Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Is there an element of truth to this? Certainly. If we assume that there would have been some sort of difficulty in bringing Rubio on board and/or trading his rights for something of value, then yes, with the roster currently in the state that it's in, it would have been a very risky move when risk may not be the best thing for the team's psyche.
However I'd say there's too much unknown and forgotten here that makes Grunfeld's vindication a little more complicated.Point 1: Grunfeld didn't trade Rubio, he traded the fifth pick
Recall that the Wizards made their trade with Minnesota two days before draft day, not on draft day when Rubio actually slipped. While Ernie is paid to have some foresight, there's no way he could have guessed with 100% certainty that Rubio would indeed be around by the fifth pick. (This applies to David Kahn too; he could have taken Rubio only because he felt like he had to, not because he had him highly ranked on Minnesota's draft board).
Therefore, to say Grunfeld decided between Rubio and the Miller/Foye package is misleading. In reality, Grunfeld decided to take the Miller/Foye package instead of having the chance to select Rubio or anyone else. You can't say honestly that Grunfeld was thinking to himself "you know, I'd rather have Randy Foye and Mike Miller than Ricky Rubio." In reality, he was saying "I'd rather have Randy Foye and Mike Miller than be in a position where I'm deciding between several prospects, which may include Rubio if teams get scared by him."
You could look at this one of two ways. You could say that Grunfeld knew Rubio was going to be a difficult sell and could very well stay in Europe, which means he ruled him out and figured he wouldn't draft him anyway if he kept the fifth pick. In this case, getting something for a pick he wasn't going to use anyway is a good thing. However, you could also say that, by making the trade two days in advance, Grunfeld took his myriad options away from himself. On draft day, he could have selected Rubio, traded the pick, selected someone else, etc, and those options may have potentially yielded a better return than Foye/Miller. We won't know the answer to that question definitively until we see how the season plays out.
Point 2: Ernie would have handled things differently than David Kahn if he drafted Rubio
I'm not going to sit here and say Kahn handled things the wrong way. He was put in an unbelievably difficult situation (though you could say he did it to himself), and I have no doubt he worked as hard as possible to get Rubio to come play in the NBA right away. But if Ernie Grunfeld was put in Kahn's situation, you can be sure that he wouldn't have done several things Kahn did, including:
- Draft another point guard right after Rubio. It's unclear how much drafting Jonny Flynn affected Rubio's decision, but it probably added an unnecessary layer to an already complicated situation. Now, the Wizards do already have Gilbert Arenas, and Rubio's agent has said he wouldn't have wanted to play alongside him. But it's far different to come from the US and play with an NBA all-star that could potentially move to SG more easily than to have to compete for minutes with a six-foot rookie point guard.
- Announce to the world that he definitively did not intend to trade Rubio. Kahn essentially told teams, "Don't bother with your trade proposals, I'm not trading him anyway." I'm sure Ernie would have left the situation much more open, which might have improved the offers.
- Done nothing else to try to improve his team. Even with Rubio in tow, Ernie would have certainly tried to make other moves to improve the ballclub for next year. He's sensitive to the wishes of his coach, owner and star player, and the Wizards had several tradeable assets to give to other teams to upgrade the roster.
- I'd guess with several other pressing matters affecting his ballclub, Ernie would not have directly negotiated with Rubio's Spanish teams as much as Kahn. I'm not sure what kind of affect this would have had.
Some of those factors would have made it easier to convince Rubio to come here. Some of them would have made it harder. Regardless, the larger point is that Ernie would not have handled the situation the same way as David Kahn, meaning we can't really say whether Rubio would have made the same decisions he made.
Point 3: Minnesota's rebuilding and is in a less visible place than Washington
Again, this isn't to definitively say that Rubio would have played in DC and not Minnesota, but the very fact that we have to ask ourselves this question means we can't just unilaterally pat Grunfeld on the back. Maybe Dan Fegan's comments about Rubio playing alongside Arenas were just hot air, and Rubio wouldn't have minded. Maybe Rubio was ready to play right away. The fact that Rubio won't play right away for Minnesota doesn't get us any closer to answering these questions than we were on draft day. We can have opinions, but we won't have any additional facts
It's also worth noting that Minnesota doesn't need Rubio as much as the Wizards needed him (or, more accurately, some value for the fifth pick). The Timberwolves are committed to a long-term plan, and having Rubio aboard doesn't change that. They aren't planning on being a winning team for a couple years, and even if they were, Miller and Foye were not in their long-term plans. The Wizards, however, were under pressure to get someone who could help them win next year. Perhaps if Rubio is the pick, the Wizards would have been more aggressive in getting him to come play right away.
Why am I spelling this all out?
My only point is this: Ernie should not be judged on his Minnesota trade based on Ricky Rubio. Rubio was arguably not an option for the Wizards, and even if he was somehow picked by them, we have no guarantee that this whole debacle would have played out the same way. Michael Lee hit it perfectly with this sentence.
The only question now -- which can be answered somewhat this season -- is, did Grunfeld get enough for No. 5? Either way, it's really not worth debating Foye and Miller vs. nothing this season.
I don't think Rubio going to Europe should have any affect on how we view the Foye/Miller trade. The way we evaluate the trade is to see whether Foye and Miller help the Wizards win a lot of games. If they do, the trade was good. If they don't, then it wasn't. Ricky Rubio has nothing to do with it.