With the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Rajon Rondo, the time has come to blow up the Celtics.
To pull a line from Stephen Covey, the best “win-win” trade partner the Celtics may be able to find is the Utah Jazz.
In a move that could benefit the Celtics in the long term and the Jazz immediately, a straight-up trade sending Paul Pierce to Utah and Al Jefferson back to Boston would benefit both teams.
If a sign-and-trade for Jefferson could be worked out, Boston would pick up a 28-year-old center capable of putting up 20 and 10 on any given night. The Jazz would strengthen the biggest weakness on their roster by adding one of the league’s better small forwards.
Why This Trade Makes Sense for Boston
Rajon Rondo’s injury will have a huge impact this season, and on next year’s team as well.
The veteran Celtics were languishing in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 21-23 record, even with a healthy Rondo. His injury leaves them with virtually no shot at competing for anything more than a first-round playoff exit this year.
Rondo’s surgery and rehab will most likely force him to miss a sizable chunk of next year as well.
The Celtics now feature 36-year-old Kevin Garnett, 35-year-old Paul Pierce, and an injured 26-year-old point guard. Rondo’s injury emphatically pushes Boston from “win now” to “build for the future.”
If You Ran the Celtics, Would You Trade Pierce for Jefferson?
Al Jefferson would be an ideal building block to pair with Rondo in shaping Boston’s future.
Jefferson is one of the NBA’s best centers. From 2008 through 2013, the list of active NBA players to average at least 19 points and 10 rebounds (min. 200 games) consists of two players: Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson.
Additionally, Jefferson spent the first three years of his career in Boston and blossomed into a 16 and 11 player in 2007, before the Celtics traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the deal that landed Kevin Garnett. Jefferson understands the unique pressure and high expectations of playing in Boston and has proven he can handle them.
Why This Trade Makes Sense for Utah
The Jazz currently have a problem most teams would love to face—they have too many good, young big men.
Al Jefferson and power forward Paul Millsap are both in the final year of their contracts. It has been widely speculated the Jazz will not be able to re-sign both of them.
In addition to Jefferson and Millsap, Utah has 21-year-old, 6'10" power forward Derrick Favors, who is poised to break out once he can find more than his current 21.8 minutes per game. On a per-36-minute basis, Favors is averaging 15.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game.
The Jazz also have 20-year-old Enes Kanter, a 6’11” big man who is developing nicely in his second NBA season, averaging 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and shooting 55 percent from the field in just 14.7 minutes per game.
The drop-off from Jefferson to Favors would not be too dramatic, but the upgrade at small forward by adding Paul Pierce would be a game-changer for the Jazz.
Utah has been trotting out the perpetually underachieving Marvin Williams for 25.4 minutes per game. Williams has responded in his first season in Utah by posting career lows in scoring (8.4 PPG), rebounds (3.3 RPG), and field goal percentage (43.2 percent).
With a starting five of a healthy Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Paul Pierce, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors with Gordon Hayward coming off the bench, the 24-21 Jazz could make some noise in the playoffs for the next two years of Paul Pierce’s current contract.
Wrapping it All Up
Boston’s championship window was slammed shut with Rajon Rondo’s injury. Bringing Al Jefferson back to Boston gives the Celtics a dynamic duo to build around for the next five-to-seven years.
Utah, on the other hand, would significantly improve their starting five by having a SF/C combo of Paul Pierce/Derrick Favors instead of the current Marvin Williams/Al Jefferson tandem.
Rajon Rondo’s ACL injury leaves Boston with a bleak present.
Bringing back Al Jefferson would give the Celtics a much brighter future.