Boston Has to Consider Rajon Rondo Trade to Unload Bad Contracts
I hope you're sitting down, because I have a rumor that's going to come as the biggest shocker of the 2013 NBA offseason—the Boston Celtics already want their way out of the Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries contracts.
The next thing you're going to tell me is that Grown Ups 2 doesn't have a great Rotten Tomatoes score.
According to Comcast SportsNet's A. Sherrod Blakely, the Celtics have already started considering dealing Wallace and Humphries, the two principal players who came back in the team's jettisoning of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
I'll give you a moment to pick up your slacked jaw from the ground.
Boston wants out of the Wallace deal for the same reason anyone with a working cerebrum would. It's one of the 10 worst contracts in the league. Wallace is a 30-year-old big-bodied defender whose game on either side of the floor never developed past being really, incredibly athletic. He signed a four-year, $40 million deal last offseason, one that will last into his mid-30s and is not eligible for the amnesty provision.
Disney's The Lone Ranger budget found Wallace's contract insane.
And things only got worse when Wallace was at times completely unplayable last season. He shot 39.7 percent from the field and averaged 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game—his lowest totals since he was getting nine minutes a night off the Sacramento Kings bench a decade ago.
Synergy Sports measured opposing offensive players as scoring 0.85 points per possession on pick-and-rolls and 0.96 per on spot-up situations, coinciding with the game tape that shows Wallace's athleticism is waning.
So, yes, it's understandable that the Celtics want out of paying the $30-plus million remaining on his contract.
The Humphries thing is a little more curious from a rebuilding team's perspective. He has a massive expiring contract ($12 million), is a replacement-level player and does little else to help the franchise. Humphries is a good-numbers-bad-team guy who fell out of a Nets rotation that needed someone of his skill set.
In other words, he's exactly the type of guy you want on a team like this on paper.
One has to assume that Danny Ainge simply doesn't want a man who's been trapped in the Kardashian Hell Vortex these past couple years around young, impressionable talent. That's pure speculation, but there's no other logical reason to send him packing if you're trying to unleash holy war on your roster and punt an entire season—which is exactly what the Celtics are doing.
If you would believe Ainge, there's no such thing as tanking in the mighty Boston Celtics franchise. He scoffed at the notion in an interview with The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes, somehow forgetting the whole 1997 M.L. Carr fiasco that allegedly saw a direct order to bring back as many Ping-Pong balls as possible for the Tim Duncan Sweepstakes.
Ainge can say anything he wants. It's a free country, and there are probably some NBA rules against saying "we're trying to be the worst team in basketball next season, so you probably shouldn't come see us" in a public forum. But the Celtics are tanking. Or they're preparing to tank when the season actually starts. The consensus definition on the word tanking has sent many smart people into a tizzy.
Boston is going to be terrible next season, and that's exactly the way everyone in the organization wants it.
It doesn't matter how the tanking pie gets made. The Celtics are following a Daryl Morey blueprint, emphasizing young talent and pushing to land "assets," which is merely a buzzword for future draft selections. They're right in the same boat with the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns—only they're just not quite all the way there yet.
Ainge probably views ridding himself of the Wallace-Humphries combo as the coup de grace in his rebuilding project. If the Celtics boss can get his boss out of reluctantly cutting a check for $30 million worth of Wallace over these next few years, it could well completely justify the already justifiable Garnett-Pierce deal.
The problem is that moving those two players won't be easy. Humphries is doable in theory, but it's hard to see a team playing the matching-expiring-contracts game. Wallace is the human poison pill. The Celtics will have to sweeten the pot somehow, and the most logical option is attaching Rajon Rondo to any deal involving the two—particularly Wallace.
Everyone has made the standard plea for trading Rondo by now; most of the points I agree with. I'll just give you the highlights. Assuming this rebuild project goes perfectly, Boston is probably competing for a No. 4 seed in three years. Rondo will be 30 by then, just about the time players who don't develop a jump shot start to fade a bit (see: Wallace, Gerald).
Rondo is smart enough and a good enough player not to fall off the cliff completely—I can totally see him having an Andre Miller old-man game someday— but his contract only runs through the end of the 2014-15 season. Considering he's currently in the midst of perhaps the most team-friendly superstar deal in the league, Rondo is getting paid with his next deal.
Do the Celtics really want to be in business with a mid-30s Rondo eating up their cap, just about the time their assumed core would start coming together?
The answer is of course not. I would bet real live United States currency that Rondo is not on the Celtics roster come the summer of 2015. He's not on the same trajectory as this current roster, and he's a good enough player that he could push Boston to something like the No. 10 spot in next year's draft—a repugnant result from the Celtics' perspective.
The most obvious on-paper fit right now is the Detroit Pistons. Rondo would team with good friend Josh Smith, play in a city that appreciates ridiculously tenacious defense (not that Boston doesn't) and join a core that may compete for an Eastern Conference playoff berth before making another deal. Detroit and Boston could hammer out a deal right now that sends Rondo and Wallace to the Pistons for the expiring deals of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva along with either Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond.
Both deals work under the salary cap. The question would be whether the Pistons would balk at the prospect of giving up one of their two promising bigs and taking Wallace back.
Should the Celtics trade Rajon Rondo to get rid of bad contracts?
But the best part is that Boston doesn't have to hurriedly make this decision, either. They will have to wait a bit to move Humphries' or Wallace's contract in a multi-player deal, anyway. Rondo's return from knee surgery is still up in the air, and the team could tell him to take as much time as he needs early on, showcase him for a 15-game stretch and then make a deal at the deadline when teams are typically more prone to overpaying.
By then, the Pistons could be fed up with trying to find a spacing balance with the front line of Monroe, Drummond and Smith and be eager to move one of the youngsters. It might not matter come February, when eyes are starting to peer in on Dumars and other general managers who have underperformed and could be facing the hot seat.
Getting rid of Wallace and Humphries is doable. The Celtics just have to be willing to press the final detonator on the team's championship core to get it done.
Ainge did it to Pierce. Ainge did it to Garnett. Now it's Rondo's turn.
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