If Danny Ainge wants his Boston Celtics to remain contenders this year without mortgaging the future, his best bet is to offer the injured Rondo to the Phoenix Suns for a package including draft picks and Marcin Gortat, a player Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reports Ainge has already inquired about.
Maybe it's a bit of ESPN Trade Machine fantasy, but the deal could be a win-win. ESPN analyst and former Trail Blazers executive Tom Penn pitched the idea on air Wednesday of dealing Rondo for Gortat and two first-rounders, and it's not as crazy as it sounds. At 18-36, Phoenix's season is basically lost; with a torn ACL, Rondo's definitely is. But the Suns are reportedly looking to clear cap space, and they covet the Hawks' Josh Smith despite a deal currently being unlikely.
One piece that could then head to Atlanta for Smith is point guard Goran Dragic, an upgrade over Jeff Teague who would be expendable to the Suns with Rondo in tow. That would also provide rookie Kendall Marshall with the extra minutes to learn to play point guard at the NBA level. Then the Suns would bank on a healthy Rondo combining with Smith and a healthy Channing Frye to return to the playoffs in 2014. If not, the Suns could just go the cap space route, dealing Dragic for value elsewhere and making a splash in free agency.
Meanwhile, in Gortat, the Celtics would get a pure center who averaged a double-double last season with Steve Nash setting him up for points under the basket. But this trade idea is only partially about the Polish player's skills—the main idea is that it improves Boston's forward depth while delivering two (presumably, due to the Suns' record) high draft picks.
With Gortat at center, Doc Rivers could shift Kevin Garnett back to power forward, completing the starting lineup with Pierce, Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley. That allows both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to come off the bench, stabilizing the forward positions that lack depth with Garnett at center and Jared Sullinger out for the season.
The result is a Boston squad that improves in the short term, adds pieces without further subtracting from this year's roster, and possesses the talent to back up the confidence in the locker room. But most importantly, Ainge gets incredible value for his team's biggest enigma at his lowest value, a supremely talented player without whom the Celtics are 8-2.
The Celtics win now. The Suns win later. But everybody wins.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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