Rajon Rondo's trade value isn't what it once was.
Forget about the Boston Celtics trading him for a superstar like Chris Paul. Coming off an ACL injury, his status has never been more uncertain. If the Celtics elect to trade him, they won't be netting a return like they would have a year ago.
Still, Boston might deal him.
With virtually every meaningful veteran already gone, the franchise made yet another splashy move in its rebuilding effort: hiring 36-year-old Brad Stevens as head coach. If Rondo clashed occasionally with Doc Rivers, how will he deal with a guy who has zero NBA experience?
Not to say the Celtics' future hinges on tanking toward the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. It doesn't. But they have entered a time when starting from scratch may prove far more beneficial to their future than anything else.
Teams have already come calling, as reported by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, and they're not going to stop, prompting the Celtics to consider moving the last cornerstone-worthy remnant of a team that no longer exists.
Boston Celtics Receive: PF Jonas Jerebko, SG Kyle Singler, PG Rodney Stuckey and future top-five protected first-round pick
Detroit Pistons Receive: SG Courtney Lee and PG Rajon Rondo
The future can be now for the Pistons.
Pairing Rondo with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe makes Detroit a pick-and-roll threat to be reckoned with. Both should thrive alongside the crafty stylings of the All-Star point man.
Lee will be a necessary evil (as you'll see more than once), but he can provide some much-needed perimeter defense. He's also a sound offensive threat when running the break.
Boston doesn't do much here beside acquiring a first-rounder and clearing some future cap space.
Stuckey can run the point in the interim, not to mention his contract comes off the books in 2014. Jerebko's deal spans only two more years, and he can sometimes be valuable as a stretch 4. Singler is cheap and won't fare any worse (if he plays) than Lee did this past season.
Moving right along to the draft pick, it gets complicated.
Detroit's first-round selection is owed to the Charlotte Bobcats in 2014. It's top-eight protected, so if the Pistons snag one of the first eight lottery picks, their 2015 first-rounder goes to Charlotte. In that scenario, it's top-one protected.
If for some reason the Pistons get the first overall pick in 2015, their first-rounder in 2016 goes to the Bobcats, and it's unprotected.
Knowing this, the Celtics would have to accept a draft pick in 2016 at the earliest and may even have to wait until 2017 or 2018. If they're amenable to such terms and cutting a ton of payroll, this is one scenario that could be explored to further their rebuild.
And to answer your question, no, I'm not overvaluing Rondo. If I'm undervaluing him, then the Pistons can feel free to make Brandon Knight a part of this deal as well.
Boston Celtics Receive: PG Alec Burks, C Enes Kanter and F Marvin Williams
Utah Jazz Receive: PG Rajon Rondo
Trey Burke could learn a thing or two (or 50) by being Rajon Rondo's understudy. He's a solid floor general for the future, but Rondo gives the Jazz a star point guard now.
Boston needs a center it could build around, and Kanter provides an interior cornerstone. Burks would also see more time as a primary playmaker and could emerge as a pleasant surprise for the Celtics. Williams' contract is valuable strictly because it's set to expire next summer.
Let's not ignore the obvious either: The Celtics would be in full-on tank mode, ensuring they enter the 2014 draft as a candidate to be snag the No. 1 pick, or at least a top-five selection.
Something to consider here is that Utah would likely have to be committed to re-signing Al Jefferson so it isn't down two centers. The Jazz were reportedly considering allowing him to walk, but Rondo's presence changes things.
Other assets may have to be involved as well (like the Jazz assuming Lee's contract if the situation calls for it).
Utah would be gambling on Rondo's knee, but if this trade pans out, the Jazz would have an All-Star caliber point man on their hands capable of leading them back toward the playoffs.
Maybe even title contention.
Boston Celtics Receive: SF Gerald Green, SG Lance Stephenson, Future first-round pick (via Pacers) and two future second-round picks (via Cavaliers)
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Danny Granger
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Rajon Rondo and SG Courtney Lee
Full disclosure: The Celtics and Pacers don't need the Cavaliers to make this happen. I'm going on the assumption that the Celtics won't want to pay the last year of Granger's contract because they'll have already taken on Gerald Wallace.
Of course, if I'm wrong, Granger can be sent to Boston, removing Cleveland from the equation.
Granger is owed just over $14 million next season, but his contract is expiring and his acquisition takes pressure off Cleveland in free agency. It also doesn't impede the team's plans for 2014.
The Celtics dump a whole lot of salary in this one while picking up a first-round pick and an explosive wing in Stephenson who could be everything Lee isn't in the long run.
Indiana doesn't have a clear cut floor general right now. At any given moment, Paul George or George Hill or Stephenson could be found running the offense. Rondo gives them a star point guard while allowing Hill and George to spend more time off the ball.
Lee is expensive, but valuable from a defensive standpoint. He could replace the toughness on the perimeter Indy would be losing in Stephenson.
To the Pacers' credit, they don't have to mess with what was a championship-caliber formula, but adding Rondo to the mix would certainly make things interesting leading into next season. The Pacers would have a go-to ball-handler down the stretch of close games.
Should the Pacers believe Rondo can successfully play alongside George and Hill, this would be something to consider if they wish to dethrone the Heat.
Boston Celtics Receive: PG Kirk Hinrich, PG Shane Larkin, SF Shawn Marion and 2016 unprotected first-round pick
Chicago Bulls Receive: SG Courtney Lee
Dallas Mavericks Receive: PG Rajon Rondo
This deal is simple, but it's also complicated.
The Mavericks aren't going to give up Dirk, so let's get that out of the way right now. The problem is, they don't necessarily have the assets it takes to acquire Rondo without him.
Marion's expiring deal would be a must, as would rookie point guard Shane Larkin. Dallas doesn't own the rights to its 2014 first-round pick, so the Celtics would have to take their 2016 selection.
My advice to Dallas here is to make it unprotected. You don't plan on being a lottery team anyway and you've got to give Danny Ainge something to be excited about.
Involving a third team to assume Lee's deal is also a must.
Enter the Bulls.
Sam Amick of USA Today reports they're once again interested in acquiring O.J. Mayo. But they can't afford Mayo outright, so they could settle for Lee, whom they've shown interest in previously. He'll come in handy if Chicago decides to move Luol Deng and his expiring deal.
Sending Hinrich to the Celtics gives Boston a veteran point guard on an expiring contract, saving the Celtics even more money. The Bulls would be down a backup floor general, but I'm of the mind Nate Robinson should be re-signed anyway. This paves the way for them to do that.
In reality though, the Mavericks may have to take back Courtney Lee themselves if they can't find a third team, killing their pursuit of Dwight Howard. The good news there is if they don't get him anyway, that may not be a big deal.
Any way the Mavs can land Rondo without giving up Dirk needs to be explored, even if it costs Howard. Rondo and Nowitzki make Dallas a playoff team again, and the former is a selling point for future free-agent targets.
Atlanta Hawks Get: SG Courtney Lee and PG Rajon Rondo
Boston Celtics Get: PG Jeff Teague (sign-and-trade), SG Louis Williams and top-five protected 2014 first-round pick
Go with me on this.
Josh Smith may not be so inclined to leave the Hawks if they bring Rondo into the fold. The two are known buddies and could form quite the trio with Al Horford in Atlanta. Boston has maintained a similar thought process since this past season's trade deadline, and it wouldn't be ridiculous to suggest the Hawks could do the same.
They get a franchise point man in Rondo who either a) keeps Smith in Atlanta and helps him broach his ceiling and/or b) draws in future prospective free agents. Lee's contract is hardly desirable, but he's a strong perimeter defender (bye, DeShawn Stevenson) and a formidable scorer in transition.
The Celtics could get a starting-caliber point guard in Teague who earned just under $3 million this past season. Though he's due for a raise, there's no doubt in my mind he could be had at a reasonable cost.
William's contract is worlds better (for Boston) than Lee's, and he could provide the scoring that Jason Terry (soon to be a Brooklyn Net) was supposed to.
That first-round pick is meant to sweeten the deal. Atlanta can and should give the Celtics their choice of year. Depending how confident they are that they'll stay out of the lottery (aka lose out on the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes anyway in 2014), it could be an unprotected selection.
Pencil this in as something that should be explored.