While the DeMarcus Cousins trade scenarios keep pouring in, all of the attention has overshadowed a brewing crisis that threatens to change the entire landscape of the Boston Celtics organization.
It’s a thought-provoking question that has seemingly split a frustrated fan base in half: Should the Celtics consider trading Rajon Rondo?
It's not too crazy of a suggestion, as Boston was reportedly shopping the point guard "aggressively" just last season.
Over the past few months, though, Celtics fans here on B/R have made their opinions heard.
There are those who are for a trade:
"I think it starts with [Rondo]. All that talk in the preseason, saying he’s the leader of this team. But he’s not playing like it. A leader leads by example, he knows he can take over games. He’s fast and talented enough to get to the basket, but he doesn't do it consistently. He settles for outside shots or passes even when he’s got an open lay up, and don’t forget his lack of defense, he has been getting eaten alive by opposing guards, mainly because he shows no interest. A true leader gives his team what they need, carries the team and makes sure they follow his lead. Rondo isn’t doing any of that. So how can we call him the leader?"
"We’re not going anywhere with Rondo as our leader and best player. The only way we make [another run] is if Paul Pierce somehow gets hot in the playoffs and becomes amazing again. He is the only one capable of carrying this team. Rondo is a terrible terrible terrible leader.”
Then there are those who are against his departure:
“Where do you think the Celtics would be without Rondo? He alone has kept this season from being a complete and utter train wreck. How about we trade those other players who air ball the wide open shots Rondo gets for them?”
“Rondo is the Celtics. Trade Rondo and get ready to be doomed for another 22 years.”
It’s amazing what a slump can do to a fan base.
So what should GM Danny Ainge do? Should he trade Rondo or not?
Making the Case Against Rondo
During Boston’s Media Day in September, Rondo confirmed that head coach Doc Rivers had designated him as the team’s leader. It was a move that did not surprise anyone.
So far, though, his inaugural season in command has not been all too impressive.
Don’t get me wrong, Rondo has been having one of the best statistical seasons of his career, averaging 13.0 points, 11.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. However, a leader’s impact should be felt beyond the box score, and that is an aspect that Rondo is currently struggling with.
The first instance came back on Nov. 28 against the Brooklyn Nets.
Kevin Garnett seemed to get fouled hard by the Nets’ Kris Humphries and hit the floor. As the newly appointed leader, Rondo figured it was his job to have his teammate’s back.
But he handled the situation completely wrong—shoving Humphries into the stands—resulting in his ejection and a two-game suspension.
Sure, it’s easy to see how Rondo’s actions could be seen as showing some fight and lighting a fire under his teammates. However, in doing so, he cost the team his production for the remainder of the contest, as well as for the next two games. That is a little counterproductive, if you ask me.
Upon returning, Rondo was asked whether he learned any lessons from his third suspension in nine months. His answer was an emphatic “no”, followed by a suggestion that he took a trip to Mexico during his unplanned time off.
Really? That kind of stubborn pride is not what you envision in a leader. The best leaders are the ones who will take full responsibility for their actions and know when to admit that they are wrong.
Instead, Rondo’s response seemed to show a lack of remorse. More importantly, it displayed no change in the bad attitude and immaturity problems that have seemed to follow him since he came into the league.
Then there’s the notion that Rondo has single-handedly kept the Celtics around .500. However, his impact on the team’s success, or lack thereof, is severely blown out of proportion.
In fact, whether Rondo is on the court or not has little to no bearing on Boston’s production.
As you can see, the difference is marginal at best. If anything, the Celtics defense actually plays a little better with Rondo sitting. Furthermore, Rondo’s on-court/off-court net of 1.1 is only the fifth-best on the team.
In comparison, look at the impact that fellow point guard Jrue Holiday has on the Philadelphia 76ers.
Now that’s a player who helps his team out significantly on both sides of the ball. His on-court/off-court net of 11.5 currently leads the league among starting point guards.
There’s no question that Rondo is a large contributor to Boston’s success—but is he irreplaceable?
That’s the question Ainge has got to ask himself.
Making the Case For Rondo
Rondo has missed only four games this season.
The Celtics’ record during those contests? 1-3.
Furthermore, Boston has only averaged 91.1 points and 20.3 assists per game in those games. That’s less than their season averages of 95.5 points and 23.1 assists per game. The Celtics also shot just 42.9 percent from the floor and 34.3 percent from three-point range during those outings. That’s a drop from their usual 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.4 percent mark from beyond the arc.
Sure, the sample is small, but it still speaks volumes about the 26-year-old’s impact on the team.
It’s an impact that has only grown this season with the considerable improvement to Rondo’s jump shot.
Last year, Rondo shot 44.8 percent from the floor. More specifically, he shot 58.9 percent at the rim, 26.0 percent from 3-9 feet, 27.8 percent from 10-15 feet and 39.0 percent from 16-23 feet.
This season, Rondo is shooting 49.2 percent from the field. He is shooting 63.2 percent at the rim, 44.0 percent from 3-9 feet, 29.4 percent from 10-15 feet and 51.0 percent from 16-23 feet.
While there are improvements across the board, it’s his mid-range shot that has undergone the most significant change.
Before, defenders would play off Rondo at the top of the key, switching to double-team a more threatening shooter. Now, that’s a tactic opponents will no longer be able to use against Rondo.
Of course, we can’t pinpoint Rondo’s strengths without mentioning his superior distribution skills. Through 31 games, Rondo’s 11.9 assists per game lead the league.
But it’s not the quantity that’s most impressive; it’s more so the ease and skill that he displays with every single pass.
His flair and court vision gives Rondo a bit of unpredictability when he handles the ball. Defenders don’t know whether he’s going to dish it, shoot it or drive. Even a split-second hesitation on their part is enough for Rondo to make them pay.
It’s just a pity that he does not utilize this to open up more shots for himself.
Rondo’s 13.0 points per game currently rank as the third lowest of any starting point guard in the league. One can only imagine what Rondo could do if he chose to attack a little more.
Instead of completely giving up on Rondo, why not just switch the offense to favor more shots for the budding superstar?
It might just prove to be the change Boston needs to jump start the second half of it’s season.
Possible Trade Scenarios
Now, if the Celtics did decide to deal their superstar point guard, what exactly is out there?
The deal works on paper. However, it would not make too much sense for the Celtics.
While it’s true that Cousins’ production—16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game—would go a long way in solving Boston’s post-game deficiencies, giving away Rondo is not going to help the team in the long run.
Essentially, any advantage the Celtics gain by bringing in Cousins would only be negated by the hole at point guard that Rondo would leave.
Sure, Tyreke Evans’ 15.1 points per game would serve as an improvement over Rondo’s scoring output. However, his 3.3 assists per game is a bit concerning. That would leave Boston at a loss of 8.6 assists per game from their point guard position—ouch.
Thanks, but no thanks.
A two-team deal might not be the solution. But what about a three-team deal?
ESPN writer, and Celtics’ enthusiast, Bill Simmons recently made his own proposal via Twitter:
(link fixed) I don't want to trade Rondo, but which team says no to this 3-team trade (Bos, Tor or Sac)? espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachi…
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 29, 2012
In the deal above, Boston would receive Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors, while receiving Cousins, Chuck Hayes and Jimmer Fredette from the Kings. The Raptors would receive Evans and Isiah Thomas from Sacramento, while the Kings would bring in Rondo, Courtney Lee and Fab Melo from the Celtics.
If you’re a Boston fan, you have got to love this trade.
Not only do the Celtics get Cousins, but they also get two point guards. Two young and talented point guards.
Lowry, who is the same age as Rondo, is having the best season of his career.
Through 19 games, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. His 34.1 percent three-point shooting makes him a threat from outside, as well.
Boston would be receiving a consistent scorer, someone who can distribute the ball and a point guard who can be active on the glass—Lowry currently leads all point guards in rebounds.
On the other hand, Fredette has been coming along nicely in his second year in the league.
The 23-year-old is averaging 8.6 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in 14.2 minutes a night. He is currently shooting 41.4 percent from downtown, making him a possible spark coming off the bench.
Giving up Rondo would be tough, but the Celtics do not lose with this deal.
The only roadblock would be whether Sacramento would be willing to part with a center only to get back a raw Fab Melo.
But hey, it would not be the first bone-headed move the organization has made as of late.
Summing It All Up
Rondo is a polarizing figure in the city of Boston. Heck, he’s a household name. He’s seen by many as the centerpiece for the Celtics for a long time to come.
But there comes a time when a drastic change might be needed for all parties included.
Is now the time for Boston and Rondo to part ways?
There really is no right or wrong answer. It’s all just a matter of opinion. However, Ainge’s opinion is the only one that matters.
So what do you think?
You have heard the arguments from both sides. You have seen the possible trade scenarios.
Is trading Rondo the right move for the franchise? Can he be replaced?
Sound off in the comments below and make your opinion heard.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of January 3, 2012
Also check out: Celtics Fan's Open Letter to Head Coach Doc Rivers