9 Players Who Would Thrive with Boston Celtics Alongside Rajon Rondo
Whether fans think Rajon Rondo can be the centerpiece of a contending NBA team or not is somewhat irrelevant at this point. He is what the Boston Celtics have to build around right now, for better or worse.
What can get lost in that aforementioned discussion is that Rondo is very much a luxury for a rebuilding team. Not a lot of guys in basketball have as much ability as he does when it comes to making teammates better. His court vision, creativity and overall athleticism are so excellent, teammates are more often shooting from good positions on the floor.
So, when it comes to building up this Celtics team from the depths of 2013-14, seeking out players who can mesh well with Rondo is a must. Here are nine who could benefit from playing alongside him:
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
We recently had the opportunity to delve into what it would take to get Greg Monroe to the Boston Celtics. He is likely the top free-agent target once you eliminate all the stars who will return to their current team. There are also going to be financial and restricted free-agency hoops to jump through.
However, if we are talking about players who would thrive playing with Rajon Rondo, Monroe may also top that list.
With the arrivals of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, along with the breakout of Andre Drummond, Monroe is actually taking around one shot less per game than he was last season. Some of this can be attributed to his new teammates, and a fair amount can be traced back to Jennings' point guard play.
Playing the same position, Jennings is averaging around six more field-goal attempts than Rondo this year. The difference lies in what each point guard is thinking about doing first. With a quality interior offensive player like Monroe on the floor, Rondo would be looking to get him a quality look through a pick-and-roll or drive-and-dish. Jennings may be looking for his own shot.
Coming to Boston would likely give Monroe a lot more offensive responsibility, and his numbers would balloon next to Rondo.
Anthony Morrow, New Orleans Pelicans
According to the numbers, Anthony Morrow is the third-best three-point shooter in the NBA right now.
The 28-year-old shooting guard is hitting 46.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, an impressive clip despite only taking 2.5 per game.
In New Orleans, Morrow is still stuck playing just 18.1 minutes per game. He has been playing very well for a team with simply too many similar players. Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts are cluttering the Pelicans' wing positions.
In Boston, Morrow wouldn't have to worry about looking for his own shot in one-on-one situations. A ball-dominant point guard like Rondo would grant Morrow the chance to work off the ball. Turning his offensive game into a track meet like Ray Allen used to, he could work on getting open for corner threes or coming off elbow screens and being fed spot-up jumpers.
Morrow's 6'5" size is also a valuable trait to have alongside Rondo, even for shorter spurts than a typical starter. Defensively that would be a help, allowing Rondo to sag off his man a bit more due to the ground and air space taken up by Morrow's length.
Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers
Luol Deng may seem to have been around for a while, but he still has plenty left in the tank.
Occasionally forgotten after his trade into Cleveland Cavaliers obscurity, Deng is still posting solid all-around numbers and will be an unrestricted free agent following this season. If he has quickly soured on his experience in Cleveland, a 2013 All-Star small forward is available for the taking.
Deng brings a bit more to the table than Jeff Green in terms of what two guys can do playing off of one another. In that way, Deng is a bit more like Paul Pierce in terms of what a relationship with Rondo might mean.
He would have the ability and willingness to take over as a playmaker on the occasional possession. That would allow Rondo to experiment a bit more with the developing facets of his own game. Since returning, he has sometimes enjoyed floating off the ball, coming off screens and sinking into the area between the elbow and corner.
With the ball in Rondo's hands, Deng is still an incredible athlete who can play all sorts of roles in rapid transition. Having a point guard with a little more court vision and willingness to pass, as opposed to the high-scoring Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving, may suit Deng better.
Defensively, the two present a pair of long-armed terrors capable of locking down the perimeter.
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Getting Chandler Parsons to the Boston Celtics would seem to require a massive undertaking—one that remains highly unlikely, given how badly the Houston Rockets will want to maintain their bargain starter.
However, taking a moment to dream, Parsons alongside Rondo is an attractive idea, at least offensively.
Parsons has made his NBA bones by being a cruising figure in transition with excellent passing sense and occasionally electric three-point shooting. He won't create off the dribble as often or as well as Luol Deng, Jeff Green or Paul Pierce used to, but with Rondo that is an easily overlooked hole.
A body the size of Parsons' (6'9") would be an incredibly valuable weapon for Rondo to have flying with him in transition or fading into the corners.
Parsons has played his career with point guards like Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley and the improperly managed duo of Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Those guards possess a somewhat different skill set than that of Rondo. Parsons could become a more properly credited focal point alongside Rondo.
Prying him loose from Houston is another thing.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan Wolverines
Among those in the 2014 NBA draft class, Michigan's Nik Stauskas may be the most dangerous shooter.
If he remains available whenever Boston is taking its second first-round pick, the 20-year-old sophomore should be at the top of the team's list.
Since Ray Allen became hampered with lower-body injuries during his final Boston Celtics days, part of Rondo's game has been absent. Avery Bradley has done a fantastic job working his way into becoming an offensive option for Boston, but he doesn't have the game or style that we really saw with the on-court relationship between Rondo and Allen.
Stauskas isn't going to be Ray Allen by any means, but as an inexpensive option to fill a shooting role alongside Boston's All-Star point guard, he may be a solid choice.
He has honed his skills following a sophomore season that saw a lot more responsibility fall on his shoulders. The Wolverines suffered losses to graduation and injury this past college basketball season, and Stauskas stood out.
At 6'6", he also has the benefit of size to go with the developed athleticism and game of a smaller perimeter player. That is about a four-inch difference between him and Bradley, presenting a much bigger target for Rondo to hit on those mid-air turnaround passes from the paint.
Doug McDermott, Creighton Bluejays
A lot like Nik Stauskas, Doug McDermott brings a similar frame and shooting arsenal into the 2014 NBA draft.
McDermott has a bit more size and experience (6'8", 223 lbs, four years at Creighton), but the end result will be similar. If they are to make it as NBA players, it will be their ability to knock down jumpers that will keep them in an NBA uniform.
As a senior at Creighton, McDermott hit an astounding 96 of 214 three-pointers while maintaining an overall field-goal percentage of 52.6. Dialing back the attempts has only proven to increase his lethality. As a junior, he hit 49 percent of his 4.4 three-point attempts per game.
With McDermott, the Celtics might be able to find the somewhat elusive Rajon Rondo relationship they are trying to create with Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. This time, the player comes fully packaged, with batteries and an outside shot included. It isn't something Celtics coach Brad Stevens would have to explain away after every game.
McDermott will have a bit more going for him in the NBA as well. He has proven to be a solid rebounder in college—averaging at least seven per game in each season at Creighton—which is a necessity for playing in the NBA and with Rondo. Knowledge of motions in the paint are crucial to being open and ready for that unsuspected pass.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Going the route of signing a soon-to-be 34-year-old (July 6), power forward isn't exactly the Boston Celtics' first choice this offseason.
However, that doesn't mean that Pau Gasol wouldn't thrive alongside Rondo for the remainder of his career. The comparison here is Kevin Garnett, whether Boston fans want to admit it or not. Obviously the defensive side doesn't work in comparison, but offensively and in terms of what he could do with Rondo in the half court, it works.
Gasol has an incredibly crafty offensive game, one that Garnett had to develop as the power and athleticism of his youth left him during his Celtics tenure. Both players have that 15-to 19-foot jumper and excellent decision-making in the pick-and-roll.
Even at age 33 and with Kendall Marshall and Steve Blake as his point guards, Gasol is shooting well over 40 percent on shots between 10 and 19 feet this season, per NBA.com.
Having that shot in a big man's repertoire—something no current Celtic can 100 percent claim—is so incredibly important for Rondo. He regularly enjoys doing a sort of half-penetration, where he dives just deep enough into the defensive gut to attract a sliver of attention. He can then flip the ball back to his big on a pick-and-pop or set a screen coming off the other wing.
That is a play that has become scarce with no more Garnett, but a valuable one that could return with a Rondo-Gasol pairing.
Brandan Wright, Dallas Mavericks
Brandan Wright has had an interesting career in the NBA. Injuries and playing situations have kept him from ever developing into the player he should have been after going No. 8 overall in the 2007 NBA draft.
He is playing in his sixth NBA season yet has never seen more time than the 18.2 minutes per game he is playing in 2013-14. After missing the first month-and-a-half of this season and starting at a snail's pace even then, Wright has worked himself into becoming a valuable piece of the Dallas Mavericks.
A team that is fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot in the Western Conference has found a role for Wright.
In those 18.2 minutes per game, Wright is averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. However, the stat to keep an eye on is that in just 56 games this season, he has the 18th-most dunks in the league.
Wright is tied to Dallas for $5 million next season but also possesses an expiring contract as soon as this summer kicks off. He might be available for the right price in a trade. The attraction here is that Rondo has never had the real luxury of a high-flying dunker.
He played so many years with an aging roster of veterans who were great, but Rondo had to really work to get them shots late in the Big Three era. Chris Paul has been reaping the benefits of Lob City for a while now. Jeff Green is one of the better dunkers in the league but is mostly a ball-in-hand flyer.
It isn't wildly unreasonable to think that Wright's career could have a resurgence alongside Rondo. This season he has received most of his assists from Vince Carter.
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns
However, should the Suns be looking to clear a bit of space for a big-name free agent, a reunion with the team that drafted him in 2005 would be pretty cool. Green blends the fascination of a Brandan Wright with the shooting of an Anthony Morrow.
Green has put together a resurgent season that could honestly be called a breakout year, given the path his career has taken to this point. He is averaging 15.9 points in 28.6 minutes per game for Phoenix. That scoring has come with a 44.7/40.0/84.0 shooting clip.
Green is still very much the highflier he was when he won the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest, but he now has a more refined game.
Rondo and Green actually played together on that forgettable 2006-07 Boston Celtics team. Green received 56 assists from him before being shipped to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal. That was a fair amount more than any other player.
Green has thrived playing off a very good point guard in Phoenix, running with Goran Dragic (86 assists) a fair amount. If Boston could convince Danny Ainge's old assistant, Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough, to part ways with his newfound asset, Green would likely continue thriving.