With the roster they've assembled, the Pistons are in need of a point man to tie it all together. Not just any floor general.
Strong point guards aren't exactly scarce in today's NBA, but pass-first catalysts are becoming an increasingly rare breed. Finding one who's available is an even more difficult task, which is why Detroit can't pass on the opportunity to acquire one of the best in Rondo.
That doesn't mean he can't be had. And according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, the Pistons know it:
The Pistons are quite interested in Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, but they don’t have a package to offer that would attract president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to making a deal.
The Celtics would presumably ask for emerging center Andre Drummond, who is as close to untouchable as a younger player can get. Detroit would like to send the Celtics Brandon Knight and an expiring contract, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough. Detroit doesn’t have a first-round pick to offer because of the Ben Gordon deal that gave the Bobcats the choice of a Pistons draft pick over the next four seasons
Landing Rondo isn't going to come cheap. Then again, procuring an All-Star point guard never is. Detroit's situation is only more complex because of its draft-pick situation.
Beantown has snagged nine first-round draft picks over the next five years as it begins an extensive rebuilding process. Ainge isn't going to be swayed by an expiring contract or two and Brandon Knight. The Pistons are going to have to sweeten the pot considerably.
Tailoring any package to meet Boston's needs may be as simple as re-working the structure of Detroit's presumed proposal to allow it to take back the extravagant deals of Courtney Lee and/or Brandon Bass, or maybe even Gerald Wallace. It may also dictate they breakup the Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond duo down low.
Whatever the price, the Pistons have to consider paying it.
Joe Dumars is fresh off committing $56 million to the enigmatic Josh Smith. Before he signed, it was unclear whether J-Smoove could be considered a superstar. Detroit settled that argument in one swift, and perhaps slightly excessive, offer.
Teams don't bring in superstars to contend for a top-eight spot in the conference. They sign them, they pay them heaps of cash to rival the absolute best teams in the league.
Rondo makes the Pistons what they aren't just yet, even with Smith—a contender.
Neither Chauncey Billups nor Knight are equipped to run an offense where the three primary scoring options aren't known to create for themselves. Smith and Monroe can, just not as consistently as one would like, and Drummond is still a work in progress.
They need direction on the offensive end. All of them. Even Monroe, who, while more self-sufficient than his two comrades, has yet to play next to an elite distributor. Drummond especially, being so young, would benefit from the presence of a pick-and-roll savvy point man like Rondo.
Admittedly, that's part of the problem. Pursuing Rondo sounds so much better when his name is mentioned in the same breath as Monroe and Drummond (and Smith too). Once "or" comes into play, the Pistons may begin to back away from the table.
Washburn asserts that the Celtics will demand Drummond in return, and then posits that the Pistons fancy him untouchable.
To Detroit's credit, its trepidation behind moving him is understandable. Drummond became just the second rookie in NBA history to log at least 20 minutes a night—minimum 50 games—and subsequently post at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes. Willingly relinquishing him isn't going to sit well.
But neither is feigning contention.
There is no title to be won in Detroit, a somewhat harsh reality the Pistons are well aware of. They wouldn't be interested in adding Rondo if they didn't know they needed a point guard to take them to the next level.
They wouldn't be calling the Celtics about him if they weren't determined to win now.
Drummond isn't going to help them win now, not like Rondo can. His propensity for over dribbling and clashing with coaches precedes him, but so does his value as a point man.
Rondo is one of only three players in league history that have closed out their first eight years in the Association with averages of at least 10 points, eight assists and 1.5 steals per game, while also assisting on 40 percent of their team's made baskets when on the floor.
Like anything else that pertains to Rondo, that's a lot to take in. Just know that the other two are Chris Paul, widely heralded as the best point guard in the game today, and John Stockton, a Hall of Famer and the NBA's all-time assists leader.
Rondo fits the mold of the win-now outfit the Pistons are trying to be. He can work wonders on the jagged offensive player Smith is, and Drummond too—if Detroit is lucky enough to hold onto him. He can take them to the next phase of their development, the one Smith helps them approach, just not eclipse.
Which player should the Pistons refuse to trade in any Rajon Rondo deal?
None of which is to say the Pistons have to dangle anyone and everyone to make it happen. Exploring scenarios in which they find a third or fourth team that can perhaps aide in their pursuit of Rondo without it coming at the expense of Drummond is encouraged.
Baiting the Celtics with a "take whatever you want" coupon isn't what should be expected of the Pistons, though. Understanding that they're at a point where they've committed money to a player (Smith) under the pretense they want to win now is what needs to be made clear.
But, if it's one player, one inclusion, that is preventing Detroit from pulling the trigger, or even from legitimately entering negotiations, any original plans must be put aside.
Things changed when the Pistons went after Smith. They changed when Rondo became someone they began to pine for. And there's no going back. They have to try. Legitimately try.
Going all in on Rondo proves that the Pistons are all in on winning now. That the dry spell they've suffered through for the last half-decade is over.