Can Boston Celtics Rebuild the Right Way with Rajon Rondo on the Roster?
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
It's pretty clear that the Celtics are in rebuilding mode. Those who feel Boston should deal Rondo claim he cannot be the centerpiece of a proper rebuild. Here is the thing, though: he is not the only piece that the C's have.
People tend to forget that the Celtics also have players like Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, all of whom look to have bright futures if they can remain healthy. Rookie Kelly Olynyk looked very good in Summer League, as well, and his ability to stretch the floor and handle the basketball should make him very compatible with Rondo.
If Boston did not have that kind of supporting talent around Rajon, I'd be more inclined to agree with the faction that says Danny Ainge should look to move him, but that's not the case. The C's aren't just building their team around a point guard; they are building it around what is already a solid nucleus.
The Celtics have all of their bases covered. They have their point guard in Rondo, their perimeter defender in Bradley, their wing scorer in Green and their big man in Sullinger (and potentially Olynyk).
Now, again, that hinges on everyone staying healthy, and that could be a significant issue. Rondo tore his ACL this past season, Green underwent heart surgery two years ago, Bradley went under the knife to repair his shoulder during the 2012 playoffs and Sullinger missed the second half of 2012-13 due to back surgery.
Assuming those guys are able to stay on the floor, though, Boston should be alright for the future.
As a matter of fact, you can make a serious argument that the C's could end up with two All-Stars as soon as next season. Rondo will obviously be in the picture, and then you have to look at Green.
After getting off to a rather slow start in 2012-13 (and given that he was coming off heart surgery, that was to be expected), the Georgetown product exploded from late January and on.
Green enjoyed a monumental spike in production as the year progressed, and what's most impressive is how much his outside shot improved. He went from being rather awful from long range to being absolutely deadly, as evidenced by his three-point percentage of 52.6 percent in April.
What's even more notable is how well Green performed in a starter's role. In 17 games as a starter during the 2012-13 season, the forward averaged 20.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, shooting 52.3 percent from the floor and an insane 51.9 percent from downtown. Green will certainly be in the starting lineup this coming season, so expect an All-Star caliber year out of the soon-to-be 27-year-old.
Then there's Sullinger, the 21-year-old who averaged six points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes a contest during his rookie year. Over 36 minutes, those stats come out to 10.9 points and 10.7 boards, and to further illustrate how effective he was on the glass, Sullinger posted a total rebound percentage of 17.5 percent.
Sullinger is also one of the NBA's few youngsters with a refined back-to-the-basket game. That has become a lost art nowadays, but Rondo will fortunately have someone to dump the ball into on the low block when his team needs an easy bucket.
On top of all of that, Sully averaged .146 win shares per 48 minutes this past season, a fantastic number for a rookie.
Throw in Bradley's hounding defense out on the perimeter, and you already have three young and talented players for Rondo to go to war with.
The Celtics must also consider that Rondo is coming off knee surgery. For that reason, his value is not going to be as high as it normally would be. Does Ainge really want to sell low on one of the best floor generals in the game? Seems like a terrible idea.
Plus, Rondo is now the veteran on this Boston squad. He has been there and done that. Remove him from the roster, and you lose the only battle-tested player you have. Wouldn't it be wise to keep him around to help the youngsters work through their growing pains?
After all, seven years ago, Rondo was a rookie on an awful team. The following year, he won a title. He knows what it takes to get to the top, and that is a very valuable attribute to bring to an inexperienced ballclub.
It's not like Rondo is old, either. He is only 27. There is absolutely no reason why he can't still be an elite player in a few years.
Yes, C's fans are definitely spoiled at the moment. They are used to rooting for one of the upper echelon teams in the league. They saw their Celtics win a championship, go to two finals and head to the conference finals three times over the past six years. Clearly, it is not going to be easy to not even be in the title picture.
That being said, Boston is not nearly as far away as you may think, and Rondo is a big reason for that. Unless someone comes along and absolutely blows Ainge away with an offer, Rondo will remain a Celtic, just as he should.
This may be a transition period, but that does not mean that Rondo has to be playing elsewhere.
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