Rajon Rondo is an NBA champion, a four-time NBA All-Star, a proven winner and has led the league in assists twice in his young career. He is widely considered to be one of the best point guards in the league when healthy and continually demonstrates his ability to take control of a game when it matters.
Yet the seemingly inevitable trade rumors surrounding the mercurial point guard have begun once again this year. The facts surrounding Rondo and the Boston Celtics point to the idea that like so many times before these ramblings are nothing more than mere rumors.
Many fans and reporters have already declared that the best direction for this team is to cut ties with its All-Star point guard. However, the fact remains that not only are the Celtics likely to retain Rajon Rondo for the near future, they are significantly better off by holding on to their polarizing leader.
To Tank or Not to Tank
Due to the unfortunate knee injury Rondo suffered last year, Boston has already completed approximately a third of the season without him. During this time it has found itself in first place in the Atlantic Division with a disappointing 12-16 record.
For those of you out there hoping for the Celtics to tank this season with the idea of drafting promising players like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker with their own pick, you can essentially throw that idea out the window. If Boston continues on a similar trajectory and even loses the division, it would still likely hold a pick somewhere in the teens.
According to RealGM.com, the best team to ever win the NBA lottery was the Chicago Bulls in 2008, and this ninth-worst team in the league was also the best team to ever get to pick in the top five. Although the Celtics are currently not far away from being the ninth-worst team in the league, Boston would still only have approximately a 12 percent chance of landing in the top three even if it moved further down to eighth, according to Jeff Clark of SB Nation.
In order to get into the lottery this season the Celtics would need to miss the playoffs, which appears to be a tall task even with Rajon Rondo on the sidelines. Newly acquired Brad Stevens has already begun to look like a veteran coach and players like Jordan Crawford, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley have brought their games to a whole new level this year.
Understandably, adding Rondo back into the mix will make missing the playoffs an even more difficult task, but the truth is Boston could possibly make the playoffs in the dismal Eastern Conference without its best player's help.
Essentially the Celtics are in a bit of a conundrum, as holding onto Rondo will most likely keep the team out of the hunt for a top draft pick. However, it appears that trading him may not actually improve the odds that greatly. Therefore, whether or not Boston trades Rajon Rondo, the likelihood of getting a high draft pick of its own is minimal at best.
This raises the question: Why would the Boston Celtics ever trade an All-Star-caliber point guard in Rajon Rondo for a small chance of getting a draft pick that only might turn out to be as or more talented than their current best player. Rondo is still young at 27 years old, so the Celtics are much better off seeing what Rondo can do as the leader of this team rather than move him just to see if they can move up slightly in the draft.
A Lack of Attractive Options
The Boston Celtics should not focus on tanking this season, at least not by way of trading their All-Star point guard. Therefore, the only rational reason remaining to move Rondo would be the opportunity to receive promising assets in a blockbuster deal that would likely be made up of young players and/or draft picks.
Herein lies perhaps the biggest problem.
The current landscape of the NBA and the desire for so many teams in the league to lose this season leaves an underwhelming availability of options for the Celtics. This season's draft is shaping up to be one of the most promising in years, so it is likely that Boston would want a pick for him this year if it was to trade him soon.
There are currently 11 teams with a worse record than the Boston Celtics as of Dec. 21, and Boston already owns one of the picks from the Brooklyn Nets. However, due to obligations to the Hawks, the pick Boston will receive will end up being the higher of Atlanta's or Brooklyn's pick.
Further, four of the remaining 10 teams would likely not be interested in acquiring another point guard, as Cleveland (Kyrie Irving), Memphis (Mike Conley, Jr.), Chicago (Derrick Rose) and Philadelphia (Michael Carter-Williams) seem to be committed to their current situation at point guard.
There are four more teams that have expressed little interest in taking on talented players, as Toronto, Orlando, Utah and Milwaukee have moved on from veteran players in an attempt to rebuild through the draft.
Therefore, there only remain two other teams with worse records than the Celtics that would be even interested in discussing a deal for Rajon Rondo. However, RealGM.com details that both the New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings do not possess a 2014 first-round pick, as they already traded them to Denver and Cleveland respectively.
That essentially leaves the Celtics with no teams in the NBA willing to give up a potential lottery pick this year to acquire Rondo. However, Sacremento has been rumored to be interested in dealing for Rajon Rondo with other assets.
Mark Evans of Yahoo! Sports reported the potential offer centered around Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and two future first-round picks.
Although this may be the type of deal that the Celtics would be willing to jump at, there are several reasons that it would never come to fruition. The most important is that the Kings do not actually have two first-round picks to offer Boston.
According to RealGM.com, due to the protected nature of the pick the Kings traded to Cleveland they do not actually own a pick until the 2018 season. The NBA does not allow any team to trade away consecutive picks, meaning the Kings could not trade their 2018 first-round pick.
Therefore, the first pick the Kings could even offer Boston is the 2019 pick, and the consecutive draft pick rule would mean the second pick would have to be in 2021. However, according to Mike Dyer of CelticsLife.com, the NBA's "Seven Year Rule" prohibits any team from trading a pick further out than 2020.
This basically leaves Sacramento able to offer only its first-round pick in 2019 and a handful of young players for Rondo and perhaps a bit of cap relief for the Celtics. Although receiving Ben McLemore and Isaiah Thomas in return would be nice, without the inclusion of DeMarcus Cousins—which is extremely unlikely—I do not see this combination of players and a prolonged future pick being reasonable trade value for Rondo.
This basically leaves the Boston Celtics without any strong options available to them on the market today. Most teams that are bad enough to have strong assets either have point guards or have no interest in taking the risk of losing out at the top of the draft to take on an All-Star-caliber player in Rajon Rondo.
It appears that even if the Celtics really wanted to move Rondo, the options are just not strong enough to make it worth their time. Perhaps it will be explored again at the end of this year, but for the time being, Rondo will stay put.
Front Office Support
The final key, and perhaps the most important, is that Boston's management has continually stated that they support Rondo and are not looking to trade him.
In November, Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe reported that Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge expressed no interest in trading their All-Star point guard. Ainge went as far as to say, "People know that Rondo is a big part of our future and that we're not going to trade him."
Ainge has been known to be less than truthful in the past, but the most recent news coming out of Comcast SportsNet seems to support Ainge's statement. In an interview on the network, Cedric Maxwell reported that Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck informed him during a meeting, "I am not trading Rondo."
Obviously, taking what ownership and management say to reporters as the only evidence about an organization's direction is ill-advised. However, these statements certainly seem to put the final nail in the coffin for the time being.
Rajon Rondo Will Remain a Celtic
All of the evidence points to the fact that the Celtics believe in their All-Star point guard and truly see him as a key piece in the future success of this young team. Rondo still has some growing to do, but he appears to be ready to take the role of leader on this team and it has been clear for many years that he has the talent to keep a team competitive.
Rondo's chances of remaining the leader for the long-term will rely heavily on whether Boston continues to feel that it will be able to build a championship-caliber team with him heading up the roster. Not to mention the fact that Danny Ainge is never afraid to pull the trigger and send any player packing if the right deal presents itself.
Despite the challenges that Rondo may face in remaining with Boston for the long-term, the talent that he possesses and the current landscape in the NBA indicates that the Celtics will not be trading him anytime soon. So for now, it's time to put aside the argument that the Celtics are going to move on from him or are better off without him.
The truth still remains that Rajon Rondo is a major part of the Boston Celtics' future, and it is in the best interest of the team to allow him the opportunity to see how well he can truly lead his team.