According to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, that price is two unprotected first-round picks. It wouldn't be a surprise if it were actually more.
As for the criteria, if you're looking solely at on-court performance at this current stage, then yes, Rondo would almost certainly make a bigger impact elsewhere.
That's primarily because Rondo is a distributor and a creator, first and foremost. It's only natural that the more capable his teammates are offensively, the more Rondo's skills will have an effect on the game.
Since the Celtics are rebuilding and lacking talent across the board, Rondo's primary abilities are indeed slightly diminished. It's like giving a world-renowned cook store-brand spaghetti noodles—there's only so much he can do with it.
Here's the thing, though. Rondo's impact doesn't necessarily need to be felt on the floor quite yet. There's no rush to win a bunch of games in Boston, at least not with a great draft class on the way.
Even if Rondo was scoring 20 points and dropping 10 assists a night while displaying perfect health, it wouldn't change a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Boston would still be on its current path.
As of right now, Rondo's value primarily exists in his ability to recruit other star players, and to eventually make those star players better than they've ever been before. In that sense, he provides potential in a way we don't usually evaluate.
The whole point of rebuilding is to accumulate assets for future use, and the Celtics already have 11 first-round picks in the next five years. Players like Jeff Green and Brandon Bass could possibly fetch even more.
Rondo definitely would as well, but sooner or later, Boston will need a player capable of making all the ingredients work together and maximizing everyone's abilities. Chances are, any point guard drafted won't be as good as Rondo is in that department, and certainly not right away.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge, of course, is likely well aware of that, and he has a ring on his finger to remind him if he ever forgets.
Perhaps there'd be more incentive to deal Rondo if he was raising a stink about wasting the prime of his career, but like the Celtics, he too is rebuilding back to peak form.
Rondo has already had to accept that being patient is the best course of action on a personal level, and so maybe he'll be able to do the same on a personnel level. There hasn't been any bumps in the road yet with head coach Brad Stevens, and all the potential fears about Rondo not wanting to be in Boston have been, for the most part, shut down. Per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
Rajon Rondo said he is open to staying with the #celtics long term: "Always. I like to stick to the script. I don't like change much."— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) January 24, 2014
With that in mind, you can understand why Ainge would place such a high asking price on Rondo.
Is Rondo worth two unprotected first-round picks, and possibly more?
It of course depends on the team and if Rondo would be willing to re-sign, and what players he'd be replacing.
Source said Kings and C's discussed a deal involving Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick for Rajon Rondo, but Rondo wasn't interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.
Whereas Ainge may view Rondo as his next Paul Pierce, the player who sticks through the bad times until there are enough assets to acquire other stars, other teams that already have star point guards (which are a lot of them) or need their point guards to be good outside shooters likely wouldn't touch Rondo for two unprotected picks.
After all, throwing Rondo into an already established system is significantly more difficult than building one around him. It's easier to account for Rondo's flaws and accentuate his strengths when you can handpick his teammates. That's not exactly unique to Rondo, but it's true nonetheless.
Ainge is likely aware of that, and perhaps that's why Rondo has never been dealt before.
A source reiterated that sentiment recently to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News:
It really is the same thing, teams call about him but the Celtics want him and he wants to be the leader of that team,” one source said. “It has always been his intention to establish himself in that role, to be part of the rebuilding and to stay in Boston for a long time. Nothing has changed.
Perhaps the biggest fear with not trading Rondo is that he'll walk in free agency during the 2015 offseason, despite his current insistence that he doesn't want to change teams.
That's certainly a possibility, but don't read too much into Boston's previous attempt to extend Rondo not working out. Here's what Danny Ainge told Boston sports radio station 98.5 the SportsHub, as transcribed by Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com:
We did talk to Rondo about extending him," Ainge said Thursday during his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the SportsHub. "But that's all part of the negotiation that will happen again this summer and most likely the summer after."
Later Ainge added, "In the collective bargaining agreement, there are limits on what can and can't be done. Really, it's not that Rondo doesn't want to accept an extension, as much as it's just not financially smart for him to accept it right now. We didn't think he would [sign], but we did try.
That's exactly what Ainge seems to be doing now in these Rondo trade talks—trying for something that he knows is unrealistic. Recruiting another star in free agency or via trade without Rondo is going to be tough, and only a select group of players can maximize the talent of all those draft picks like Rondo can.
Ainge doesn't need fair value in a Rondo trade. He needs outrageous, impossible-to-pass-up value.
Are any teams going to provide that? Is Rondo worth an asking price that high to other teams?
The answer, like it always has been, seems to be no.