Ranking Best Potential PG Targets for Boston Celtics to Replace Rajon Rondo
They lost perhaps the most unique player filling the position in the game today. A ball-hawking, rebounding, pass-first player whose concerned with two statistics—Celtics wins and his assist totals.
Suffice it to say, there aren't many other players like him on other rosters, let alone floating around the trade and free-agent markets.
But that doesn't mean that we should expect Boston GM Danny Ainge to simply wallow in Rondo's absence. Not with the blend of championship-experienced veterans and budding, youthful talent remaining on the Celtics roster.
The question isn't if Ainge will make a move to fill Rondo's void, but rather, which direction will he look to make that move? Or even, will he be content to stop at just a single transaction?
The names available to occupy the spot—both in-house and abroad—may not match Rondo's level of intrigue, but they're not bereft of excitement. They just require a more creative approach toward the position than the team could have anticipated facing with a 26-year-old floor general leading the franchise.
8. Andre Barrett (Maine Red Claws)
Barrett would prove the toughest of sales for Ainge to convince Celtics nation that he's the missing piece with Rondo removed from the equation.
A career journeyman, he's failed to register prominently on American soil since his days at Seton Hall (2000-04), save for a few fleeting glimpses in the NBA, most recently a four-game stint with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2007-08 season. After a 2012 French ProA All-Star appearance (via usbasket.com), Barrett has since taken his talents to the D-League's Maine Red Claws.
He's only an option if Ainge believes that his team does not need any scoring from Rondo's replacement. Although he averaged better than 15 points for his collegiate career, he's managed just 8.3 points (on just 31.1 percent shooting) in 33.4 minutes per game with the Red Claws.
So, what is it that makes him an option? How about his Rondo-esque 11.3 assists per game? Throw in the fact that he's turning the ball over just two times per game and recapturing some of those possessions with his 1.3 steals per game, and it doesn't sound too outlandish.
He'll turn 31 on Feb. 21, so he doesn't have the high ceiling of Ainge's other options. But in terms of D-League players or free agents, no one will better appreciate the opportunity.
7. Chris Wright (Iowa Energy)
After a prolific high school career in Maryland, injuries (ankle, hand) have thus far derailed the career of the 2007 McDonald's All-American.
His four-year Georgetown career never lived up to the hype, though he did average 15.2 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field as a junior (via statsheet.com).
Since leaving the college ranks, Wright has served time in both the Turkish Basketball League and the NBA's Developmental League. In 23 games with the Iowa Energy (D-League) this season, he's averaged 14.8 points, 7.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
He has good size (6'1", 210 pounds) and at 23 years old, he still has time to rediscover that potential if he's healthy.
He won't have the name power that Celtics fans covet, but he wouldn't command a heavy financial commitment, either. He doesn't project as either a short-term or long-term answer to the starting lineup, but he could bolster Boston's bench both in Rondo's absence and after he returns.
6. Jeremy Pargo (Free Agent)
Pargo has some experience in this type of situation.
He spent the early portion of this season filling in for the then-injured Kyrie Irving on the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played 25 games with Cleveland (averaging 7.8 points and 2.6 assists in 17.9 minutes per game) before being waived on Jan. 22.
While his season averages are a bit underwhelming, he did post 14.5 points and 4.4 assists per game as a starter with Cleveland. Not to mention, he topped the 20-point three times during that span.
He won't always make life easy on coach Doc Rivers, as he has a tendency to sometimes play over his head. But if Rivers (and Celtics fans) are willing to live with some of his growing pains, the 26-year-old could help weather the storm this season and fill in as Rondo's backup going forward.
5. In-House Options
The Celtics don't have to make a move if they aren't blown away by any of the available options.
While Boston's remaining backcourt options won't individually fill Rondo's many roles, they can collectively assume the challenge.
The Celtics shouldn't miss a beat defensively, with Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee more than capable of harassing opposing point guards. In terms of quickness, Leandro Barbosa has it in spades. And Jason Terry has the ball-handling and mid-range jumper to give opponents fits in the pick-and-roll.
But there will be concessions no matter which option takes the floor.
Bradley and Lee aren't playmakers (the duo has averaged a combined 2.3 assists per game). Barbosa has a tendency to play too fast, which can be excused in a limited instant-offense role, but not easily forgiven if he plays closer to the 20-minute mark (he's averaging just 11 minutes per game). And as for Terry, he's never been one to heavily involve his teammates, nor bring a spirited effort on the defensive end.
4. Keyon Dooling (Retired)
No other options will provide the familiarity with the franchise or Rivers' system than the recently retired Dooling. Including the postseason, he played 66 games with Boston in 2011-12.
A career reserve, he's more likely to impact the game with his shot (34.9 career three-point percentage) than with his passing (2.2 career assists per game), but he takes better care of the basketball than a typical scoring guard (career 1.1 turnovers per game).
The 32-year-old walked away from the floor at the conclusion of last season, but he didn't stray from the organization. He has been serving in an advisory role since joining the Celtics front office in October.
His retirement stemmed from off-the-floor desires to integrate himself more in the community, meaning it did not derive from physical means nor on-court ineffectiveness. But Dooling himself has stated that while he would consider a return to the floor, he's unsurprisingly "not in shape" to do so yet (according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe).
3. Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)
If Ainge opts to look at the trade market, Evans is one player he'll have to consider.
Even amid the Kings' on-again, off-again sale, he's remained at the forefront of the rumor mill. So much so that he'd reportedly be neither "shocked nor devastated" if he were dealt (according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee).
Voisin pointed out that the Celtics were interested in Evans then, and surely that interest hasn't diminished with Rondo sidelined.
Evans doesn't have the skill set to be Boston's primary ball-handler (career 5.0 assists and 2.9 turnovers per game), but he would bring a dynamic slashing game to Boston's pick-and-roll sets. And he's a willing enough passer to find the Celtics shooters out of those sets.
He's also an imposing defender, capable of frustrating his man and clogging passing lanes. He has the quickness to defend speedy point guards and the size (6'6", 220 pounds) to stay with shooting guards.
He won't command top dollar on the trade market, but he may force Ainge to part ways with at least Avery or rookie Jared Sullinger (or both).
2. Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
What they probably didn't plan for, though, was turning around and dangling Lowry (not Jose Calderon) on the trade market. But that appears to be the direction that the franchise is now heading (according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com).
Despite Lowry's shooting struggles this season (41.7 field-goal percentage), he appears a solid fit for Rivers' system.
His physical, feisty approach would be a welcome addition to Boston's backcourt. His addition would mean more distributing responsibilities falling on the shoulders of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Celtics backcourt, but he's far from a liability with the ball in his hands (13.5 points, 5.8 assists and 2.1 turnovers per game).
His price tag won't be cheap in terms of a trade, but the cost is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he has just $1 million guaranteed beyond this season.
1. Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers)
The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the most coveted names on the trade market.
And for good reason.
The former Kentucky Wildcat brings the type of speed, athleticism and toughness that Celtics fans would appreciate.
He's not the playmaker that Rondo is, but that's a criticism extended to nearly ever other point man in the business.
The logical fit in Boston (a Bledsoe-Bradley backcourt is intimidating even on paper) isn't a question, but how much Ainge is willing to spend certainly is.
Given the Clippers' lack of frontcourt depth, Sullinger would absolutely be a target. A Pierce-for-Caron Butler addition could push Boston to the front of Bledsoe's countless suitors, but whether that proves too costly for Ainge will determine the fate of this deal.