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It's tempting to trade Rajon Rondo. It really is.
He's the best player on a team that's underperforming. If something is broken at a foundational level, there's usually a strong case to be made for fundamental changes. But this is one of those times when conventional wisdom isn't very helpful.
Rondo would be difficult to replace, and it would be hard to acquire equal value coming off a season marred by injury. The Celtics might be able to get a very good draft pick, but they will already have a very good draft pick.
And they already have plenty of young talent.
This team doesn't need to get younger. It needs to get better. It doesn't need many more pieces. It needs the right pieces. Rondo is almost certainly part of that puzzle.
Here's one thing we can be reasonably sure about. Between now and next season, Boston probably isn't going to acquire an All-Star caliber scorer. Its best bet in the near term is to get points on an ensemble basis, spreading the ball around to above-average scorers like Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and whomever else comes aboard.
In short, there will be no hero-ball in Boston anytime soon.
Given this offense's need to share the ball, a point guard like Rondo is essential. He's a force-multiplier, capable of making mediocre scorers look much better than they actually are.
There's an important psychological component to keeping Rondo too. He's a holdover from better times, a connection to Boston's winning past. And largely because of that, he knows how to lead. He's learned from the best, from Kevin Garnett to Doc Rivers—the latter of whom he remains in touch with.
One recent conversation with Rivers emphasized the importance of enduring a rebuild, per the The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes, with Rivers reportedly telling Rondo, "You’re going to have to have patience."
Rondo has come a long way gleaning wisdom from the best of them. His understudy, Phil Pressey, has taken notice, according to MassLive's Jay King:
There’s so much you can learn from (Rondo) from a talent aspect. But the most I’ve learned from him is his leadership on the court – how he manages the game offensively and defensively. It’s like when he’s on the court, everything’s where it needs to be. Guys are in their spots. Guys are competing at a high level. Just, his leadership is unmatchable out there.
Even if you could replace Rondo from a talent standpoint, it's hard to find a match for the things Pressey's talking about. And those are the kind of things that will speed this rebuild along, turning younger talent into professional talent more rapidly and assuring a strong fabric between whoever's out on the court.
You just don't trade that.