That means trade for, sign or draft at least one more All-Star quality player. But who? And when? Surely the Celtics wouldn't add another ball-dominant decision-maker, or a big with no touch outside the paint. Those types (star or not) would cramp Boston's offense and limit all the good stuff Rondo does.
What Boston needs instead is a very good player who accentuates Rondo's skill-set, and vice-versa. Are any available? Well, most aren't. The NBA has 30 teams, and not even half as many superstars. Every organization wants one.
But given Boston's cap flexibility and trove of tradable assets, almost any player in the league can be had if the timing is perfect. Here are six options, ranked on the likelihood Boston will actually grab them relative to the other players listed.
Bosh is an incredible mid-range shooter, knocking down 45 percent of his tries out there this season, per NBA.com/Stats. Thus, it should surprise nobody that the mid-range is where most of his attempts come from. He’s a dead-eye sniper when left alone, and is quick enough to take opposing centers off the dribble when afforded the space to do so.
How does this help Rondo? The pick-and-roll is one of his favorite schemes. Rondo is magical drawing both defender’s attention no matter what strategy they’re deploying, whether it be a sag, hedge or trap.
When Rondo turns the corner, the defense has no choice but to focus all their attention on him, leaving someone like Bosh wide open all day to knock down wide-open 18-foot jumpers.
On defense, Bosh is not Garnett in his prime, but he remains under-appreciated for his work protecting the rim and guarding pick-and-rolls. The Heat couldn’t be as aggressive as they’d are without Bosh’s quick feet on the perimeter.
It’s unlikely Bosh would ever sign with a rebuilding team like Boston, but crazier things have happened. If Miami fails to win a third championship and LeBron James leaves in free agency, though, who knows where that leaves Bosh? The Celtics would be more than happy to have him.
If Chris Bosh is the closest thing to Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge would be a very close second. Not quite as good a shooter as Bosh from the mid-range, Aldridge is the superior rebounder who handles a heavier nightly load. He also hasn't developed three-point range yet, like Bosh.
Heading into this season, Aldridge’s future with the Trail Blazers was uncertain, but their hot start and sustained offensive excellence has stifled that talk. Still, he’s a free agent in 2016, and a lot can happen between now and then. Aldridge can spend some time as a small-ball center and thrive as one of the league’s best power forwards. In Boston he could spend a time at both spots (much like Garnett), allowing his game to age gracefully.
Alongside Rondo, Aldridge would prosper in the pick-and-roll. Similar to Bosh, it’d be the centerpiece on which everything else in Boston’s offense builds from, and the two would have instantaneous on-court chemistry.
Rondo has experience playing beside an elite spot-up shooter: Ray Allen. The two formed one of the scariest backcourts in basketball, and complimented each other wonderfully before Allen left for Miami. Klay Thompson can be Rondo’s Ray Allen 2.0., the go-to option Rondo feeds when Boston needs a three-pointer or quick shot out of a time-out.
A lot of things need to go wrong in Golden State for the Warriors to trade Thompson under any circumstances before 2016, when he's up for an extension. The Warriors also hold the right to match all the offers Thompson receives at that time.
As of now, however, he's a 24-year-old whose PER has never been above average. He doesn't get to the free-throw line and has yet to develop into a capable passer. If his evolution as a player stalls out next season, and Boston were willing to overpay with a somewhat outrageous offer, maybe Golden State flinches. They're trying to win a title right now, and it's unknown how far into the tax they'd be willing to go in order to keep their nucleus.
If Harrison Barnes is still around, the Warriors will have his next deal to worry about as well. Draymond Green also becomes eligible for a raise (though he's not nearly as high a priority) in 2016.
The bottom line: Thompson can really shoot. Rondo can't really shoot. Having the two together balances out a team that would really need space to operate.
Carmelo Anthony has never played with a great pass-first point guard, which is a shame, because as great a scorer as he is, Anthony would be so much more efficient with a ball-dominant teammate constantly setting him up.
Rondo definitely qualifies as that player. According to SportVU, Anthony is shooting 39.7 percent on pull up shots. He's shooting 47.2 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers (46.5 percent on over three attempts per game from behind the three-point line).
Almost every player in basketball is more accurate on the catch as opposed to off the dribble. And with Rondo by his side, Anthony would be free to work more off the ball, a role he's clearly more comfortable in.
Would New York consider any sort of deal for Anthony, even one that allows them a fresh start with draft picks and a solid core? Probably not. They're the Knicks, and the Knicks don't do rational. But nothing is certain with this team, and if Anthony decides to pull a Dwight Howard (take less money to be put in a more opportune basketball situation), Boston would be the perfect destination.
Rondo has never had an elite secondary ball-handler run the floor by his side. Ray Allen was fantastic as a spot-up shooter (both in transition and the half-court), and Paul Pierce could work an occasional pick-and-roll, but neither operated a ton on the ball with Rondo on the floor.
Pierce was more of a play-maker than Allen, but he still operated with the mind of a scorer. Goran Dragic is also a score-first player, but has the quickness and creative flair to set teammates up all over the court. Known mostly for his work in transition, Dragic can also run a mean pick-and-roll, and his three-point shot is not to be taken lightly (he's currently at 40.4 percent on 3.7 attempts per game).
Dragic has experience thriving beside another point guard, as we’ve seen with Eric Bledsoe this season, and in years past when his partner in crime was Kyle Lowry over in Houston. Don't think he's a star? League wide right now he's 10th in Win Shares and eighth in True Shooting percentage. He's averaging over 20 points per game, making over half his shots from the floor.
The Phoenix Suns are in the thick of a tight playoff race, and if the season ended today they'd be a six-seed. If they were magically berthed in the Eastern Conference, only the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers would have a better record.
Dragic would lessen the pressure Rondo faces of having the ball in his hands so often. He'd give the Celtics another scoring threat from the perimeter, and watching those two work off the ball with one another would be aesthetically delightful.
Rondo’s most dangerous in transition, and to imagine him catching Kevin Love outlet passes in stride near half-court is mouthwatering.
That—along with the fact that Love is an undeniable top-10 talent with skills that blend beside just about any type of player in the league—is enough to justify his place on this list.
But is it even possible for the Celtics to get Love? Virtually every team in the league wants him, and there are several suitors (starting with the Phoenix Suns) who can assemble an attractive trade package, complete with draft picks and young prospects on delicious deals.
The Celtics are one of those teams, armed with approximately one bajillion first-round picks and a rapidly developing prospect named Jared Sullinger (whose skill-set is similar to Love's, but not nearly as influential).
Rondo and Love would be a cornerstone twosome, as mutually beneficial as any pair in the league. Boston's rebuild wouldn't be complete (acquiring a serious rim protector beside Love would be the next course of action), but the hardest part would be out of the way.