Rondo suffered an ACL injury that will leave him sidelined the remainder of the 2012-13 season, but NFL running back Adrian Peterson already has demonstrated that more than a full recovery can be made from such injuries. Derrick Rose will be the next to demonstrate this. These things should not and will not limit No. 9's value in any potential trade.
But could the Celtics get franchise cornerstone talent for Rondo? He led the Association in assists last season with 11.7 per game, and was leading the league again this year prior to injury with 11.1 per game.
Rondo is the game's best ball distributor, and the Celtics can still contend if they keep their team intact.
Moreover, how do they ascend back to the top leaving the Big Three era without him?
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are nearing the ends of their respective careers, and Rondo gives the team not only a franchise player but also an identity. Rondo, like Pierce, may spend his entire career in Boston and go down as the team's next legendary fixture in the rafters.
It's not just that it doesn't make sense to trade him now while his value may be lower due to injury, but it doesn't make sense at all. Rondo is about to turn 27 years old, and that means he's entering what could be a scary good prime.
He's improved his mid-range jumper and was shooting an effective field goal percentage of 51.6 percent this season, slightly above his career average of 51.4 percent. His career PER is 17.2, and it was as high as 19.1 in the 2009-10 season.
Rondo's win share of 9.9 percent ranks him on the same level as Celtics legendary Hall of Famer Sam Jones. His impact is clear: Rondo makes this team a contender.
Would It Have Made Sense to Deal Rondo for Dwight Howard?
There were rumors of a trade that would send Rondo to the L.A Lakers for Dwight Howard. In my trade rumors roundup, I polled B/R readers as to who would have won such a deal. 62.4 percent of voters feel the Lakers would have fleeced Danny Ainge and that Rondo is more valuable than a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
B/R readers may have felt, as former coach Stan Van Gundy does, that Howard has declined as a player and is no longer the talent he was in Orlando. Injuries to his back and shoulder have seemed to rob him of not only athleticism, but also his confidence.
"I don't think he looks as explosive or as quick as he has in the past...he's still above almost everyone in the league at that size athletically, but he has not totally looked like himself to me," Van Gundy told the L.A. Times.
What is Rajon Rondo's True Trade Value And What Other Trade Chips Does Ainge Have?
Why sell low on Rondo to obtain a guy whose career is in jeopardy? There are realistically only three point guards in the league who hold more value to GMs than Rondo: Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul.
A top-four talent at any given position is worth holding onto, and most especially a point guard. Having a great ball distributor can enhance the talents of everyone around him.
The Celtics are cap strapped with a hard cap of $74 million this season, and the roster is pretty inflexible. That occurred as a result of using the mid-level exception on Jason Terry this summer. It was what forced Ainge to cut second-round pick Kris Joseph and forward Jarvis Varnado (who was signed to a 10-day contract).
Paul Pierce ($15.3 million in 2013-14), Kevin Garnett ($11.5), Rajon Rondo ($11) and Jeff Green ($8.1) are all sizable contracts that are assured to be a part of the payroll.
The C's don't have a lot of valuable trade chips, and will have to decide if Jeff Green is a part of the long-term picture. Once Pierce hangs it up, Green, if kept, would be in line to be the starting small forward.
But any tinkering to address the lack of interior play begins with trading Green.
Trading Green for Suns center Marcin Gortat makes a lot of sense, if the C's are to stick with trying to contend again next season.
And that really should be the plan. Rondo has made four consecutive All-Star appearances and made the All-NBA Defensive team twice, while making the second team twice and the third All-NBA team last season.
What Does Rondo do for the Celtics on Defense?
Rondo led the league in steals in 2009-10 and was No. 4 in the league in 2010-11. This season he was averaging 1.8 steals per game prior to injury. His ability to play passing lanes ignites the C's fast breaks when they do get out in transition.
Coupling Rondo's defensive skills with Avery Bradley gives the Celtics one of the best trapping backcourts in the league. It's just staying healthy. Last season, it was Bradley who went down, and this year it was Rondo. The Celtics must stay healthy next season as they prepare to make one final push.
Ainge may have made Rondo available, but barring a package that absolutely blows him away, he should not deal the second best point guard in the east. The Celtics have gone 8-2 without Rondo, which in no way illustrates that he is unnecessary towards their success.
Rather, it all gives indication that a team without not only Rondo—but also two rotation players in Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa—could be in to give the Miami Heat one last push for Eastern Conference supremacy in 2013-14.
The Bottom Line
Ainge will have to address the need for frontcourt depth this offseason. The Celtics are the worst rebounding team in the league with a rebound rate of just 47.8 percent (via TeamRankings.com).
Even with those deficiencies, the C's are in a favorable spot to challenge a Heat team that they took further in the 2012 NBA playoffs than any other team, even the Western Conference Champion Thunder.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Ainge is about to make the right decision.
Advanced Stats: Basketball-Reference.com