Posted July 03, 2013

Should rebuilding Celtics consider trading Rajon Rondo?

2013 NBA offseason, Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo, Rob Mahoney
Rajon Rondo is all that remains of Boston Celtic's championship core.

Rajon Rondo is all that remains of Boston’s championship core. (Greg Nelson/SI)

Though they operate under the guise of opportunism, general managers more aptly tend to swarm as scavengers. At the first sign of trouble from some imperiled team, they swoop in — all in the hope of making gain from some ailing roster’s dissolution. They ask about any player with a remotely sizable contract, angling that such cap-filler might be a luxury unbefitting a rebuild.

And then, out of due scrounging diligence, those general managers might ask about even the the presumed fixtures on the roster, simply to see if they might be available. It’s a futile effort in most instances, but when stripping a team for parts, the league’s foragers would only naturally try to pry loose the most valuable piece.

Such is reportedly the case with Boston’s Rajon Rondo, the lone remnant of the Celtics’ long-standing core. Doc Rivers has been released from his contract to coach the Clippers, replaced by former Butler coach Brad Stevens, while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will soon be shipped to Brooklyn for a haul of draft picks. Rondo remains, and because Boston figures to be a miserable team next season with or without him, GMs have phoned the Celtics’ Danny Ainge just to see if the four-time All-Star point guard, 27, might be available. From Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

A source told Sporting News on Monday that, while Ainge gets calls on Rondo regularly, he has no intention of trading him, but rather, wants to see how Rondo operates as the team leader without Pierce and Garnett around.

As one opposing general manager put it, “I don’t think Danny has made a single call about Rondo. He has gotten calls. But it would be wrong to say he has considered shopping him.”

And Rondo is perfectly happy to be part of the Celtics going forward. He has not issued a trade demand or a request or even so much as a trade inquiry, a source told Sporting News. He has no incentive to do so. In fact, Rondo welcomes the challenge of taking over the new-look Celtics, however things might pan out.

By the word of Deveney’s source, Ainge may indeed have “no intention” of trading Rondo to one of the buzzards flying overhead, nor should he. Even with the disintegration of the roster around him, Rondo — who is still on the mend after tearing his ACL in January — remains a valued player well worth building around, and he shouldn’t be dealt as a component of change for change’s sake. But that isn’t to say that the concept isn’t worth exploring, as even Rondo isn’t so sacred a building block as to be untouchable. If the appeal of keeping a top point guard on a reasonable deal is obvious, what’s also obvious should be the potential to reap serious dividends from an interested team.

While there’s no denying Rondo’s talent, it’s fair to refer to both his personality and game as enigmatic. He’d undoubtedly prove difficult to some potential coaches and teammates, if only because he’s reportedly a bit adversarial. That seems to come from a good place — a thinking player probing and challenging at every turn — but nonetheless appears to grate on those around him.

We need not overgeneralize Rondo’s stubborn nature as some kind of “character issue,” but it’s well worth wondering if such a combative personality makes sense in a rebuilding context. Ainge knows that Rondo could be used effectively with Rivers, Garnett and Pierce around, but the removal of that buffer puts Rondo in an entirely new light as a locker-room personality. Rondo has to be true to himself, but Ainge and the Celtics need to consider whether Rondo is well suited to be the one-man hope of a now-flailing roster.

Things are further complicated by the greater questions about Rondo’s game, highlighted by his aversion to scoring and questionable defensive discipline. Rondo is widely and fairly regarded as one of the league’s preeminent playmakers, someone who can see the floor in a way that few can, and yet he hasn’t led an above-average offense since 2009. One might blame Rivers or the regression of Boston’s aging stars for that. But if the mark of an elite point guard is to transform and elevate, one could certainly — and easily — make the case that even Rondo’s amazing court vision has come up short.

Rondo was able to play his way because Boston’s defense was so consistently great and because Pierce and Garnett could do so many things, but the Celtics may not have similar luxuries on the roster next season. Even if they land talented players to flank Rondo, it’s entirely possible that those players might not be flexible enough to account for a point guard who can’t shoot and doesn’t care to score, or may lack the defensive capacity to prop up the Celtics on the whole in the same way that Garnett did.

Boston doesn’t figure to be competing for a playoff spot next season (much less contending for a title), and thus has a low-pressure window to evaluate and, if desired, gauge interest on a number of potential deals that may or may not involve Rondo. There’s power in those options, especially as Boston attempts to shed the incoming deal of Gerald Wallace, the mid-level-ish deals of Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass and perhaps even the $27.9 million owed to Jeff Green over the coming three seasons. Rondo is far too good to be a trade sweetener for Boston’s weightier contracts, but he’s flawed enough to be considered a potential trade chip with so much in flux for the Celtics.

Rondo is clearly a prize when framed in the right way and with the right players. But his game remains curious enough that Ainge must at least consider what trading him might bring, strange as that might sound. Dealing a high-level point guard in his prime is rarely a popular move, but constructing a roster around Rondo’s idiosyncratic game is a precarious experiment in itself.

27 comments
spiderminion
spiderminion

I'm a Heat fan, and I watched the 2011 and 2012 series between the Celtics and the Heat. In the 2012 series, Rondo was the best player for the Celtics. He continually shredded the Heat defense and almost won the Celtics that series. Rondo at 100% effort is a top 10 player.

He is a prima donna and kind of a head case, but you don't trade someone that good unless someone really gives  you a package of equivalent value.

Then again, having Rondo around keeps them at "8th seed, out of the first round" status.

I'd let teams now Rondo is available, but I won't trade him anything less of equal value.


tigersports
tigersports

Coming from a lakers fan, I think Rondo is a superstar. I'd love to have him as our PG. His defense is solid and he scores when he has to. As much as you hear that he's a headache with the older players, the younger players will love him. He's pass first in the truest sense. Watch this team be around .500 regardless of the supposed drop in talent. Green and rondo are formidable. If this new coach is any good, they'll be fine.

cjsamms
cjsamms

One thing JJ Reddick proved is that you CAN improve your defense by working at it. He's not going to be Andre Iguodala, but he's not a defensive liability anymore either. At least in theory, guys like Green and Olynyk can do the same. In the past, Boston's defensive schemes minimized Allen's and Rondo's flaws. The Bulls were able to do the same with Boozer and Nate too, even with all the injuries. In fact, the Heat, Bulls, and Pacers were all able to hide their flaws, offensively and defensively, with the right structure, a few high IQ guys, and everybody buying in.

DaviddeCourcy
DaviddeCourcy

People are so emotional about this. Ainge made the smart play. Doc wanted out. No sense in keeping older players when you can get the same production much cheaper. He now has cap room and draft picks to rebuild. No sense in giving Rondo away. See what he and Green can do as the primary guys and make your moves next year when you have a stacked draft and FA class. Rondo, Bradley, and Green are a nice defensive backcourt. If Sullinger is healthy and Melo develops..who knows, maybe you can squeak in as an 8 seed. Always better to dump guys a year too early instead of a year too late. 

trader2099
trader2099

Trade Rondo, are you kidding? I am thinking the Celts will be just fine and the 2014/2015 drafts will fix a ton of things. Last I looked I think the Celts own those drafts.

eddie767
eddie767

i don't know why ppl knock Rondo's d,it's not all nba d but he does what the team called for. He is what his position is called,a"point"guard. He get's his teammates the points. He can seem disinterested in scoring himself,but he'll score when needed. He might ask for a trade later,but that boulder on his shoulder makes him want to show the doubters he is a leader.

7sterling
7sterling

I think his defense is pretty solid.

BlackieCats
BlackieCats

In the Atlantic Division, even a sub-par 30 win team can make it to the playoffs, like the Bucks.  Beside Miami, Indiana, and NY what other team is on the upper crust?  As for Rondo, he had a major or semi-major injury last year but he's better than a lot of pg's out there because he plays well.

bobdevo
bobdevo

Hang on to Rondo.  They couldn't get much for him, anyway, and he can be a stabilizer while Ainge rebuilds.  I have no doubt the Celtics will be back.

ConnerSmith
ConnerSmith

Look.. STOP saying the Celtics are going to be HORRIBLE! They aren't going to be a championship team, surely, but they aren't going to the Bobcats or Wizards. They have a still talented and young core, which was nutured and groomed in a winning enviroment under Rivers and Garnett. This is still a proud bunch, who won't go down without a fight. Honestly, I'm excited to see how these young 'uns can play without the old men holding them back (kidding KG, kidding... please don't hurt me) I also think that the claims of tanking are short sighted: the Celts have enough pieces right now that they can make some significant moves in a draft if the right player is worth it.

BMase
BMase

Maybe Rondo can write the next MMQB for Peter King?

tigercub88
tigercub88

Rondo to Indiana for Danny Granger anyone? Pacers need an upgrade at PG and Granger, if healthy now, is an All Star at SF.

RonHawkster
RonHawkster

So, after all that expenditure, all that hoopla around "the big 3", "the big 4",  "dynasty", they got one championship and then just kept on going backward?  And they had NO plan to reload as time went on?  They end up BLOWING up the whole team?  

They just re-signed Doc Rivers last year.  Does that mean they didn't know what they were going to do next, or that this was all a plan to lock up Rivers and then get compensated for releasing him?

If they give up Rondo, then who exactly are they going to build around?   

Unless something spectacular happens 3-5 years from now as the result of some secret plan Ainge has for rebuilding this team, the fact that it's going to be boring between now and then, and possibly afterward, is going to be tarnish this proud franchise.

pm2875
pm2875

No. They shouldn't do that. What are they seriously going to get in return? Every team in the league needs a starting PG, including the Celtics. Keep Rondo build the team up around him.

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Led the league in assists despite missing 44 games! WOW....could someone still win the scoring title if he missed 44 games? Sooo, if I ave. 50 pts a game for 2 games then missed the rest of the season.....lol.

JoelPedigo
JoelPedigo

Geez Rob!  A couple of thousand words to say absolutely nothing!  Great job eh?

cjsamms
cjsamms

@ConnerSmithAt this point, they're not bad enough to beat out the bottom feeders for a top 4 draft pick. They're going to settle into that Jazz-Nuggets-Rockets-Bucks 8th-9th seed territory for a few years. On one hand, you don't develop that losing culture. On the other hand, you're never bad enough to land the next superstar in the draft. Probably why they're stockpiling draft picks and young prospects, ala the Rockets, to flip later for better players in a couple of years.

M20
M20

@tigercub88 Doesn't make any sense for Boston. No one knows what Granger is now. He has been declining for four straight years now.

Skins'Fan
Skins'Fan

@tigercub88 Why would the Celtics ever agree for a one year rental for their top player and a top-5 PG? Even if they threw picks in they wouldn't be great ones... They'll be in the 20's for the next 2-4 years.

M20
M20

@RonHawkster I'm not a Boston fan, but I don't get this. First of all, they won a title. That shouldn't be taken lightly. Secondly, how is this not reloading? They've got a young star on a reasonable contract, they're in good cap shape, and they're loaded with draft picks. I think they'll have one down year, and then they'll be right back on their way up.

If anything was going to tarnish the franchise, it would have been the late '90s. Not this purposeful rebuilding year.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@RonHawkster A couple of lean years will tarnish the franchise?  The Celtics had couple of down years post-Havlicek and pre-Bird, and then a run of seriously bad seasons post-Bird.   No tarnish on the franchise then.  None now.   All teams go through this stuff at some point.

M20
M20

@Wisconsin Death Trip To qualify for the assist title, you have to play at least 70 games or have at least 400 assists. To qualify for the scoring title, it's 70 games or 1400 points. So, to answer your question, no, you can't lead the league in scoring if you only play 2 games.

JPM
JPM

@JoelPedigo Exactly.  He could have just written the last paragraph, and taken the rest of the day off.