Will the Houston Rockets go all-in with a bid for Rondo?
Point guard is an increasingly deep position in the league. However, that only makes the elite ones all the more important. Teams looking to challenge the league's top franchises realize that Rondo could provide them a distinct advantage at a key position.
With the Boston Celtics currently going through a massive overhaul, everyone is fair game. Regardless of what Ainge may say, Rondo can be had for the right price. That price is steep and unlikely, but it is there and he'll know when he sees it.
Ainge isn't allowed to move any of his spoils from the Brooklyn Nets trade in another package for two months. Outside that move and the Brad Stevens hire, Ainge has had a very quiet free-agency period. That has to be gnawing at him somewhat.
A few teams in the league are a step away from legitimate championship contention, and Rondo could be that experienced missing link.
Other teams are adrift in a sea of unknowns. Rondo could give a team direction and leadership.
Point guards are everywhere in the NBA, but passing up an elite one would be a huge mistake.
The Orlando Magic have stockpiled a nice number of young players who now work for the league's worst team.
The pieces they have currently, including No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo, are great, but the climb from 20-62 is a long and steep one. That climb would be a lot quicker and more exciting to watch with Rajon Rondo leading the way.
It is easy to become attached to Jameer Nelson after eight years of him leading the offense. However, the Magic's insistence on Oladipo spending time at the point this summer and through training camp means they know Nelson isn't a long-term answer.
Nelson is 31 and took a nosedive in offensive productivity last season, as he shot just 39.2 percent. Rondo is still just 27 and has never finished a season shooting less than 41.8 percent.
The Magic have the assets to acquire Rondo while leaving him something to work with when he arrives. Along with their own picks, they own a first-round draft pick from Denver in 2014 and a lottery-protected first-round pick from Philadelphia in 2015. They also have cap space, depending on a couple non-guaranteed deals, and a healthy trade exception from the Dwight Howard blockbuster.
Danny Ainge is trying to rebuild on the fly in Boston, so bringing in one or two of the delectable prospects from Orlando, along with a pick and some filler, could entice him to part with Rondo.
Rondo gives the Magic a definite direction. With Nelson, a potential free agent next summer, they lack the necessary leadership and strength to make this steep climb from the Eastern Conference cellar.
The Houston Rockets are going to have to ask themselves an important question a lot sooner than expected.
Is Jeremy Lin the point guard who can get you into championship contention?
When they signed Lin to his current contract, Dwight Howard was a glint in the future's eye. However, the future came faster than expected, and now the Rockets have to start shaping a legitimate contender instead of a surprise playoff team.
Lin proved last season that he was not just a flash in the pan over 30 games with the New York Knicks. While he may still be overpaid at $8.3 million per year, it isn't a gross number for a quality point guard. He played all 82 games for Houston last season, averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists.
However, a quality point guard may not be enough to help Howard and James Harden get to that next level of the postseason. Lin was dealing with some injuries, but he shrunk in the playoffs. The Rockets need a legitimate performer now, and Rajon Rondo is just that.
At just three years Lin’s senior, Rondo's playoff track record is staggering. Over 92 games, he averaged 14.5 points, 9.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds, all while shooting 44.5 percent. He has the necessary moxie to lead the offense in the postseason.
Omer Asik wants out now that Howard is in, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. A deal based around him and Lin or picks could entice Danny Ainge, whose team is starving for a legitimate center.
Houston was a fast-paced, high-scoring team a year ago. Introducing Rondo and Howard into the mix immediately puts them in the conversation for the Western Conference Finals.
The free-agent well is drying up quickly, and the Utah Jazz could be left empty-handed.
The team that once had immense cap space for this summer took a pass until next year by bringing in $20 million of expiring contracts for next year. The talent surrounding Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors right now is very limited.
Utah picked up a second-round pick for Randy Foye but is still waiting for Mo Williams to make a move in free agency. If and when he signs elsewhere, the Jazz will be totally out of last season's point guards. They picked up Trey Burke with the No. 9 pick in June's draft and he will be listed as their starter at the position.
While that may be fine for a team in clear rebuild mode, the prospect of bringing in Rajon Rondo should definitely cross Dennis Lindsey's mind at some point. If the Jazz could flip one of their new expiring deals and a pick for Rondo, they would maintain enough space for next summer's free agency, while also assuring whomever they bring in will play with the All-Star point guard.
It is unclear if that would be enough to entice Danny Ainge at this point. The Jazz picked up a couple extra first-round picks in a trade with the Golden State Warriors, but Ainge would probably request their own, much lower pick.
Even with a quality 2014 pick in the mix, Rondo is going to be tough to pry away from Boston. Still, what do the Jazz have to lose?
This move would certainly be a tall order for the Los Angeles Lakers, but bringing in Rajon Rondo could save this team from its current disastrous offseason.
The Lakers have no wiggle room right now, as they are staring at a real luxury-tax bill, even after amnestying Metta World Peace. What the Lakers do have is just $10 million guaranteed to players in 2014-15.
They also have a reputation you can’t buy.
Franchise cornerstones Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will become free agents after next season. Having Rondo on the team over Steve Nash would go a long way toward negotiating extensions for them. Rondo also props up the team in relevancy—something the Lakers have to be continuously mindful of, especially with the Los Angeles Clippers gaining steam.
Bryant has spoken at length about his appreciation for Rondo's game and would absolutely love having a point guard of his ability and mentality on the floor with him. Gasol's offensive game isn't wildly different than that of Kevin Garnett, whom Rondo has facilitated to for years.
It is impossible to know who else would be on the roster after next season, but the Lakers will have the cache and financial freedom to build shooters around Rondo.
The difficulty is obviously getting him there. Since both he and Bryant are recovering from major injuries, the Lakers' first-round pick could still be seen as valuable in 2014. Other than that and a host of expiring deals, Los Angeles doesn't have a ton to entice the Celtics to make a move.
Like the Houston Rockets, the Indiana Pacers have built a team that hopes to contend for championships right now.
So, like the Jeremy Lin question had to be posed, as does the same inquisition about George Hill.
Is Hill good enough to get the Pacers to the next level?
Hill had a very good season last year after being named the definitive starting point guard of the team. He started 76 games for Indiana in the regular season and 18 in the playoffs. However, during those 18 games, Hill shot just 40.1 percent from the field and turned the ball over 2.2 times per game.
Both those numbers became sizable issues with the Pacers advancing. Hill had some games where he would fade to the background and was occasionally overcome by opposing guards. In random important games, Hill disappeared offensively, scoring just five points and one point in Games 1 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
If a player the caliber of Rajon Rondo can be had, a team like the Pacers is doing itself a disservice by not entertaining the idea.
Rondo is the same age as Hill, but with worlds more high-level postseason experience. He is a proven thorn in the Miami Heat's paw, something the Pacers have to look out for next year and beyond. They need a point guard who can play well against that team.
With so many offensive options next season, the Pacers could use a talented distributor. Their offense could get sloppy before, but with Rondo, each player gets his best shot when available. He could push them over the top.
To get him is a tough move. The Pacers have only their own first-rounders in upcoming drafts. One of those and Danny Granger's expiring deal could have some traction in Boston; however, the Celtics are loaded at that position.
By signing Josh Smith and others this offseason, the Pistons have made it clear they are looking to win now. However, their current roster is a little top-heavy and probably not good enough to really contend for anything significant in the Eastern Conference.
The Pistons need to better space out that talented roster, so a move for Rondo would do that quickly. Not only do they pair long-time friends Smith and Rondo together, but they also bring in the league's best distributor to work with a rapidly improving roster with loads of young talent.
Depending on who they gave up to get him—probably either Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond—the Pistons would retain one of their talented bigs. They recently drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at No. 8 overall and signed foreign star Luigi Datome, both talented shooters who would surround Rondo well.
Not that he really needs or takes to mentoring well anymore, but the Pistons brought back Chauncey Billups to have some sort of minor influential role on the team. He could always lend a hand to the final stages of Rondo's development.
Of all the offers Danny Ainge could hear for his prized point guard, the Pistons offer the most definite return. Most proposals will be laden with future picks and unknowns. The Pistons can offer real, known quantities in one of their bigs and Brandon Knight.
The prospect of returning two young, talented players for Rondo would certainly catch Ainge's eye.
The Philadelphia 76ers truly have no direction right now.
Michael Carter-Williams, pick No. 11 in the 2013 draft, is currently looking like their starter on opening day. While it is clear the team is in a full rebuild, throwing him into the fire like that isn't a great choice.
Rarely do point guards who aren't taken in the top few picks have the ability and mental fortitude to succeed out of the gate as a starter. Carter-Williams is a solid player, but he isn't John Wall, Kyrie Irving or Derrick Rose.
A team with no direction isn't actually rebuilding, it is simply floating. Right now, the 76ers could use a player like Rajon Rondo. He gives a team definite direction and a definite piece to build and grow with.
Rondo gives the team leadership that it still lacks with no coach. He is a more accomplished and respected replacement for Holiday. His style is also a little different. Rondo doesn't need 17 shots per game to be effective. Instead, he could better incorporate pieces like Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young into a cohesive offense.
Philadelphia is currently bringing in two lottery picks, in Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, into a bad situation. They have the type of setup that can scar young players for a long time. Rondo gives them a light to grab on to.
Unfortunately, the 76ers don't have a ton to offer besides those recent draft picks. A lot of their future picks are tied up in trades right now. They owe lottery-protected picks to the Miami Heat in 2014 and 2015.
One thing the 76ers could offer Boston is the ability to take on one of their bad contracts. Philadelphia is still flush with cap space and could probably handle Gerald Wallace's deal, or at least a Courtney Lee or Brandon Bass contract.