With a truncated NBA season on the horizon and the free agency period beginning in a few days, trade winds have started to swirl. The movement that will take place during the next three weeks could be substantial. Some of the rumors in the air have been lingering for months while others have just recently popped up seemingly out of nowhere.
Two of the more interesting possible moves the have been discussed involve star point guards Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. Both Rondo and Westbrook have been able to raise their respective games to All-Star levels and have established themselves as two of the NBA's elite lead guards.
At 25 years of age, Rondo is one of the most unique talents in the league. A gifted athlete and superior ball-handler, Rajon has the ability to get anywhere on the court he wants. Despite his limited shooting range, Rondo is surprisingly accurate from the field, connecting on 49 percent of his field goal attempts for his career. Equipped with superb court vision, Rondo ranked second in the NBA in assists averaging 11.2 helpers a game.
His feisty attitude and competitive nature has pushed Rajon to the upper echelon of NBA defensive players. He has earned three All-NBA Defensive selection and his 2.2 steals per game ranked second overall last season. Most important, the two-time All-Star is a proven winner helping his Boston Celtics team to an NBA Championship in 2008.
Russell Westbrook has also found a high degree of success in his three short years in the NBA. Westbrook is one of the NBA's truly elite athletes. Incredibly quick and strong, Westbrook can get to the rim at will. He scored a career best 21.9 points per contest, good for 13th in the league.
Westbrook's explosive athleticism allowed Russell to be both effective offensively and disruptive defensively. He was able to reach the charity stripe 7.7 times per game and converted 84 percent. He is a fantastic rebounding guard and an excellent defender. His 1.9 steals per game ranked him fourth in the NBA in 2011. An underrated aspect of Russell's game is his durability. He has never missed a game in his three seasons.
Westbrook's versatility was on full display in a game seven match-up with the scrappy Memphis Grizzlies, where Westbrook 14 point, 14 assist, 10 rebound effort registered as only the fifth triple-double in game seven playoff history.
Both young lead guards would seem to be fixtures in their cities for years to come. That, however, does not seem to be the case with either. While the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder are not looking to jettison either player, both seem to be open to moving either in the right situation. Westbrook's explosive demeanor and hiccups running the point full time have put questions in the minds of some fans if Russell is the right man for the job. Rondo also has attitude issues and his difficulties shooting the ball and hitting from the free-throw line lead many to believe he may not be a franchise-level player.
Why not trade one for the other? At first, the notion may seem, for lack of a better word, crazy. In reality, the swap would give fans of both teams exactly what they want.
Rondo is a point guard in the truest sense of the word. He is a pass first, pass second facilitator who loves to get out in the open court. He has had the chance to play with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, so concept of finding shooters like Kevin Durant and James Harden has become second nature to him. He brings championship swagger to a team that is on the cusp of true contention. He is also extremely close to Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins.
While the Thunder is looking to contend for a title, it would seem the Celtics window is closing fast. The retooling process started with the acquisition of Jeff Green in a mid-season deal for Perkins. Trading for Russell Westbrook would give the Celtics a superstar for the future and start a new era in Beantown. The explosive scoring prowess he has shown and ability to play both sides of the court could be a huge asset and could be an attractive piece to lure another star to New England. Dwight Howard and Deron Williams will be free agents and having a player like Westbrook in place could go a long way in jump starting a rebuilding project.
Both Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo will most likely stay put this season. Despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum, both teams figure to be in the hunt for a ring next summer. We must remember, however, that the NBA is full of surprises and anything is possible. Due diligence is not just a catch phrase and maybe Danny Ainge or Sam Presti may want to make a few phone calls before the the season gets underway.