The situation of the NBA’s Spanish stars in the 2022 market
Ibaka will be a free agent this summer and could return to Europe. Ricky Rubio, after his transfer to Indiana, might return to the Cavaliers.
The NBA free agent market market opens today, 30 June and the six Spanish players who were involved in the 2021/22 season each have different aims and priorities during these next few days. Some are happy with their current contracts - even though they could be traded or exchanged; others must make a firm decision about their future. It seeks to keep the number one more year.
At 31 and after going through a rough time, Ricky Rubio had been enjoying one of his best seasons in the NBA - his first with his new team the Cavaliers - his fourth in four seasons (Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Wolves, Cavs). He produced some stellar performances and acted as a mentor for younger members of a team in reconstruction. His efforts were admired and appreciated by players and fans alike - he even received a compliment from LeBron James on Twitter.
But things took a turn for the worst when he fell injured in December 2021; all of a sudden, Ricky went from team leader to bargaining chip in the operation to bring in LeVert from the Pacers. The Cavs needed to use up the salary space allotted to Rubio, who was going to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a serious knee ligament injury. In spite of the rupture, it didn’t end up too badly for the Spaniard who has been linked with a return to Cleveland and a new contract.
Nothing has been confirmed, but there is a real possibility it could happen... A return to the Cavs isn’t out of the question although it remains to be seen how his troubled left knee responds.
Willy and Juancho Hernángomez
The Hernángomez brothers are expected to have a quiet summer. Willy, 28, currently plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. He has a four-year contract in force for over 7 million dollars in a deal which expires in 2024. For his part, Juancho, after several comings and goings, it seems that he will not be on the move either. He’s tied until 2023, with 21 million dollars included with Utah, where he seems to have found his place.
The young Spaniard is a promise for the future. This season, despite having played several games with Memphis’ B team, he showed his level in the few minutes he played in the NBA. Aldama fits in with the Grizzlies’ project, so it looks like he won’t be going anywhere. He has a four-year contract that expires in 2025.
Garuba’s situation is similar in terms of his contract. He also has four years to tun on a contract that expire in 2025. The 20-year-old was a sensation with his previous club Real Madrid, but has not had many opportunities so far with the Rockets, who are trying to rebuild after the departure of James Harden. He could find his place in the team, but this season will be key in determining whether he is given more playing time within the rotation management.
Of all of the situations of the Spanish players in the NBA, Ibaka is the great unknown. After his back injury, he returned to play some games with the Clippers. After his transfer to the Bucks, he was also unable to enjoy many opportunities, with less than four minutes per game. At the time, he was one of the best defensive players in the league, but now the situation is very different. This summer he will be a free agent and there are rumors that he could leave the league. One of the possible destinations could be Italy with Virtus where he would be reunited with Sergio Scariolo - a coach he already knows from the Spanish national team. There is nothing confirmed but it could be a way out for the Spanish center.