Best Trade Targets for Boston Celtics in Potential Rajon Rondo Deal
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Trading Rajon Rondo is a very real possibility for the Boston Celtics.
Sure, there’s no doubt that Rondo is one of the elite point guards in the NBA. But for a Celtics team entering the rebuilding process, is that talent really worth keeping around?
Given the team’s current circumstances, not so much.
According to ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg, general manager Danny Ainge has refuted allegations that he is shopping Rondo around. However, given his recent track record, those remarks don’t hold too much weight.
If you recall, the 27-year-old point guard is no stranger to these sorts of rumors. His name came up repeatedly in trade talks throughout the 2011-12 season and again in speculation during this past year’s trade deadline.
With the departures of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it only makes sense that Rondo would be next.
Now, Boston has a new head coach, a roster with only one player over 31 and a one-way ticket to next year’s draft lottery. It’s quite difficult to see where a four-time NBA All-Star point guard in his prime, who can be a bit of a head case, fits into that equation.
The Celtics' best bet, whether they like it or not, might just be to unload Rondo and try and get back some valuable assets to aid their rebuilding process.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
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CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reports that the Pistons have shown a strong interest in pursuing Rondo. But what exactly could a squad coming off a 29-53 season and a fourth-place finish in the Central Division offer Boston?
The answer: Greg Monroe.
At 23, Monroe already plays with the poise of an established veteran center.
In 81 contests for Detroit last season, he averaged 16 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists over 33.2 minutes per game. Monroe also shot 48.6 percent from the floor.
Although the Celtics added a pair of seven-footers through the draft in Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson, neither looks ready to start in the league.
That could be worrisome for a team that just lost Kevin Garnett and needs to rely on Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries for frontcourt depth. Not exactly the most formidable trio.
Monroe could change that.
In just his third season, the former Georgetown standout has grown to become an intimidating presence inside the paint. He utilizes his 250-pound frame to get points down low and doesn’t give up on the glass—with a career average of 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.
With Monroe in tow, Boston won’t need to worry about being exploited for easy buckets down low anymore.
Omar Asik, Houston Rockets
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GM Danny Ainge should take note.
In 82 games for Houston last year, Asik had somewhat of a breakout season, averaging 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 30 minutes per game. He also shot 54.1 percent from the floor.
But Asik’s biggest impact was on the defensive end, where the Rockets opponents posted a lower offensive rating when he was on the court (104.2) as opposed to when he was off it (110), via Basketball-reference.com.
The Celtics could certainly benefit from having a defensive-minded center that can also score. Consider this: After Kevin Garnett’s departure, the team has no big men on the roster who averaged more than nine points or six rebounds last season.
As far as rebounding goes, Asik has it covered. The seven-footer ranked fourth in the league in total rebounding and fifth in offensive rebounding (3.5 ORPG).
At 27, Asik is still relatively young. He’s also a piece that proves extremely beneficial to Boston’s rebuilding efforts down the road.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
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If Rondo were to leave town, the Celtics would need an efficient point guard to make up for his loss.
Enter Jeff Teague.
In 80 contests for the Hawks last season, Teague had a career year, averaging 14.6 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals. He also shot 45.1 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from beyond the arc.
However, Atlanta doesn’t seem too worried about whether the 25-year-old restricted free agent leaves or not. As a result, Teague has begun to grow frustrated with the team, per Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears.
With trouble brewing in paradise, Boston should jump on that.
Not only would Teague give the Celtics a young point guard who can distribute the ball well—he ranked 10th in the league in the category—but he also can score and shoot well from distance. The latter is something Rondo has struggled with over his career (24.1 percent).
Furthermore, there’s also the fact that Teague would likely earn significantly less than the $11.9 million Rondo is set to bank for the 2013-14 season. Teague cost just $1.6 million last year.
It would be the perfect sign-and-trade situation to help Boston save cap space as the team prepares for what should be a loaded 2014 free-agent class.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
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DeMarcus Cousins has been targeted by the Celtics for quite some time now. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the team was “highly interested” in the 22-year-old back in December.
It’s hard to imagine that a lot has changed in seven months.
In 75 contests for the Kings last year, Cousins averaged 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 30.5 minutes per game. He also shot 46.5 percent from the floor while registering a 20.2 PER.
Cousins’ aggressive and physical style of play has him considered one of the top young centers in the league. Believe it or not, he’s still a couple years away from his prime.
That has to be a scary thought for opponents.
It also has to be what makes teams look past his well-documented attitude issues. It got to the point where Cousins actually demanded a trade out of Sacramento via the Associated Press.
What makes the Celtics think he wouldn’t do the same in Boston?
Maybe it’s the fact that Rondo also has his attitude issues. However, the 27-year-old has four All-Star game appearances and a championship to his name. Cousins has none of that. So it might be a little easier for 36-year-old, first-time NBA head coach Brad Stevens to coach a player like Cousins, who still has yet to put his stamp on the league.
With both players being extremely productive at their respective positions, it really comes down to who Boston views as the lesser of two evils.
Draft Picks/Clearing Cap Space, Anywhere
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Sometimes, the best asset to a rebuilding team is simply clearing out cap space and grabbing a possible draft pick or two in return.
That’s another option the Celtics could pursue.
As it stands, the team currently has six players who are set to earn more than $5 million next season: Rondo ($12.9M), Gerald Wallace ($10.1M), Jeff Green ($9.4M), Brandon Bass ($6.9M), Courtney Lee ($5.4M) and Keith Bogans ($5.1M).
Bogans’ contract is non-guaranteed and Green has certainly proven he’s worth the price. So aside from Rondo, that leaves Boston with Wallace, Bass and Lee that are disposable.
With Wallace on contract till the 2015-16 season, it’s highly unlikely any team would want to take back both his and Rondo’s contracts. However, Rondo, paired alongside Bass, Lee or maybe even both could net the Celtics a couple draft picks to go along with some expiring contracts.
While it would be a move that would banish an already subpar team to the basement of the Eastern Conference, it would also certainly pay dividends in the long run.
Hey…one step back, two steps forward.
All salary cap information is courtesy of hoopsworld.com