Rajon Rondo is the most enigmatic star in all of basketball, which places Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge in an undesirable position when the time comes to decide how his best current player fits in with his team's long-term future.
Rondo's absolute ceiling is nearly unparalleled to anything we've ever seen before. He's able to go toe to toe with the world's very best (and come out on top just as much as he falters), but his inconsistent effort makes people hesitate to include him in any top 10 player conversation.
He's now 27 years old, with seven seasons under his belt. We know what he is (assuming he comes back full strength from a torn ACL), and despite being selected to the last four All-Star games, that answer isn't a franchise cornerstone.
Rondo is hyper competitive, the best passer in basketball. His ability to make life easier for teammates is well documented and empirically evident. His inability to threaten defenses with a jumper, and non-existent three-point shot, have allowed opposing teams to scheme against the Celtics in ways Doc Rivers hasn't had many successful answers for.
And, like every other point guard in the league, he can't do it all. Rondo needs individual scorers around him. He needs mastodon-sized screen setters who can also shoot. He needs knock down three-point shooters to space the floor. He needs athletic wings to run with him in transition, either for a pull up shot or lob at the rim.
All of those pieces are similarly valued by other teams, and the good ones aren't cheap. In order to compete for a title, the Celtics need to surround Rondo with the good ones, and it's difficult to gauge whether or not they'll view it as a worthy effort, if shelling out a max contract for Rondo's services two seasons from now is wise in the long run.
Here's a clip best exemplifying what Boston's half-court offense has long looked like under Rondo's lead. It isn't pretty.
He's obviously an important part of what the Celtics do, and a wondrous decision-maker every time the ball touches his hands, but Rondo's impact on the team's offense has statistically been dwindling. Boston's overall offense this season was three points per 100 possessions better with him off the court than on. The previous season the Celtics were 7.1 points worse, and in 2011 they were 9.9 points per 100 possessions better when he played.
After signing an extremely team-friendly five-year, $55 million extension in 2009, Rondo, at 29, will be looking for every penny he can get as an unrestricted free agent, and the Celtics most likely won't be in a position to overpay, which is what a five-year max contract would be.
This is why he'll inevitably be dealt, and why the Celtics would be wise to wait until his value is at its peak before cashing out for a strong haul that'll immediately accelerate the team's renovation.
Rondo is one of the five best point guards in the world, and being that he plays the game's most important position, that alone makes his trade value high. He might not be someone who a team can successfully build around, but he brings excitement to the game.
For an organization that's long lacked All-Star caliber talent, Rondo would be a site for sore eyes, a considerable step in the right direction.
Rondo is the only player on Boston's current roster who'd be worth a first round pick in return, and with the upcoming 2014 NBA draft glistening with franchise-altering talent, it'd make sense to move him either at this year's trade deadline or after the season in exchange for a lottery pick.
Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz are all currently looking for a franchise point guard, and a trade for Rondo would fill their hole. In return, players like DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could all be included in conceivable deals.
The Celtics will most likely keep the gang around for one more competitive season before tearing down the walls and starting all over. When they do, don't be surprised if Rondo is apart of the demolition.