Time to Trade Rondo?

"What?" you say.

"Trade Rajon Rondo? He's probably the Celtics' best player, he leads the entire NBA in assists per game and was just voted in by the fans to start the upcoming All Star game. He just got his own ESPN commercial. Why on earth should the Celtics trade Rajon Rondo now?"

First let me say that I'm a huge Rondo fan (see Year 6 of 5 for the Celtics) and he's been either my favorite or second favorite Celtics player since his rookie year. My reasons have nothing to do with a dislike of him or his game, I just think the time is right for a couple reasons:

  • Whether you're trading stocks, real estate or NBA players, the premise is the same - buy low and sell high. In previous years there were rumblings that Rondo didn't see eye to eye with head coach Doc Rivers and veteran players on the team, which in turn led to Rondo's name being frequently mentioned in internet trade rumors. Thankfully, Celtics GM Danny Ainge didn't trade Rondo when the rumor mill was swirling - doing so would have been foolish as the rumblings resulted in Rondo being labeled a malcontent which artificially lowered his trade value. This year, however, there are no such rumblings and Rondo's on-court accomplishments have his trade value at an all-time high (its hard to imagine it ever being any higher).
  • I'm not sure if Rondo meshes well with the other players on the current roster. When I've watched the Celtics play this year it looks like the other players are basically just waiting around for Rondo to deliver them the ball in a good spot. Rondo does setup his teammates an inordinate amount (as evidenced by his league leading 11 assists per game), but none of the other players develop a rhythm and the entire offense goes completely sour the second Rondo checks out. Amazingly, it seems to me that the Celtics ball movement has actually been better in the games he hasn't played (a small sample size I'll admit).  For example, the game against the Knicks two weeks ago was probably the best regular season Celtics game I've seen in a couple years (unfortunately Carmelo Anthony's post game theatrics got more attention than the Celtics' play).
  • I don't think this year's team as currently constituted is good enough to win it all - in other words what do they really have to lose by making a major trade? Ainge is frequently crucified on the airwaves for his 2011 trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma for Jeff Green. It's not that Perkins is or was a particularly gifted player (I think he was tremendously over-valued), it's that a lot of people felt that team had a legitimate chance to win the title and that trade seemed to ruin the team's Karma - they ultimately fell short in the playoffs. I'm sure a Rondo trade would lead to some nit-wits questioning why they're throwing in the towel for this year, but we're almost half way through the season and the Celtics are just 20-19 and barely holding on to a playoff spot.

If the Celtics were to make Rondo available there would be no shortage of offers. The Celtics could look for an offer that improves the current team or brings in young talent or (better yet) both. For example: 

Celtics send Rondo, Fab Melo, Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox (the last two are just salary cap ballast) to...

Phoenix for Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat and draft picks (they have the rights to 5 first round picks in the next 3 years)

I like that trade for two reasons:
  1. I believe it improves this year's team. In fact, according to sabermetric style statistics this trade would actually improve the Celtics' projected win total. "How could trading Rondo for two Euro dudes I've never heard of make the Celtics better?" you ask. Those Euro dudes both happen to be good players that don't get a lot of publicity because their team isn't particularly good (remember buy low). Dragic, a point guard, isn't in the same class as Rondo but would be a very reasonable replacement. Gortat, a center, would be a gargantuan upgrade over Collins and Wilcox.
  2. It doesn't hurt the Celtics future. Dragic will be 27 in May (he's two months younger than Rondo) and Gortat is just 28. If reasonable draft picks are included, then it's very easy to argue that the trade actually improves the Celtics long term prospects.
Would Phoenix make the trade? I think they would jump at the chance to acquire a marketable all-star point guard to (re)build their franchise around. If not, another suitor - Sacramento, Utah, Detroit,  etc. - would be waiting. Either way, there may never be a better time to trade Rondo. 


  1. I do like ROndo a lot too, but in the end it is a business and I agree with all your points - The Greater Good!!


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