Can Boston Celtics Build Legitimate Future Around Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green?

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2013

Can Rondo rise to Chris Paul's level when KG and Pierce depart?
Can Rondo rise to Chris Paul's level when KG and Pierce depart?Harry How/Getty Images

Regardless of whether or not Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce return next year, it's obvious that the two key pieces of the Boston Celtics' future are Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

Rondo, 27, will be the clear-cut best player on the team once Garnett and Pierce leave. It's no secret that a Celtics rebuild hinges on his ability to teach a group of youngsters and lead by example, and some wonder if Rondo has it in him to do that.

Green, 26, demonstrated his ability throughout the 2012-13 campaign. We saw him erupt for 43 points against the Miami Heat and then average 20.3 points per game in the playoffs. The question with Green is not if he can do it; it's if he will do it consistently.

Let me preface all of what I am about to say by stating this: Boston needs more than just Rondo and Green.

In this day and age, teams absolutely need a reliable third piece in the NBA. Unless they have a Shaq and Kobe-type of duo (and I don't see anything currently in this league that even begins to resemble that), the teams must have at least three dependable scorers to have a shot at a title.

Now, taking that into consideration, the answer to the original question is a reluctant yes.

I say the word "reluctant" because it is strongly predicated on the C's finding that third wheel. Maybe that third wheel is already on the team. Perhaps it is Jared Sullinger, who also figures to be a significant part of a Celtics rebuild. No matter who it is, Rondo and Green need some support, preferably being in the form of a big man.

That being said, having Rondo and Green is undoubtedly a nice start.

Rondo is unquestionably one of the best point guards in the game, possessing otherworldly floor vision and a tenacity that few players in the league actually have. He is also incredibly unpredictable, making him all of the more dangerous, especially out in the open court.

Green is a Swiss army knife.

He can shoot from the perimeter, put the ball on the floor, explode to the rim and post up. He is also a fine defender, displaying solid shot-blocking prowess this past season and a knack for playing tough, physical defense on opposing small forwards. Green's versatility allows him to man both forward positions, creating mismatches at both spots.

What Celtics fans must understand is that this is going to be a rather difficult transition.

No matter how effective Rondo and Green are, they are not going to be as dominant as the combination of Garnett and Pierce (not to mention Ray Allen) was when the Big Three first formed in Boston back in 2007. That was essentially a once-in-a-lifetime type of team that we'll be lucky to witness again in the near future.

So, Rondo and Green will be good. Just not that good.

Then again, who knows? As has been said ad nauseam, if the C's can add another star to the club while also filling out the rest of the roster, Rondo and Green can do special things. After all, we already know that Rondo and Green will likely comprise a great tandem, given Rondo's affinity for getting out on the break and Green's propensity to run the floor like a gazelle and throw down monster slams.

Rondo also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

He definitely heard all of the chatter about the Celtics being better without him this year. People said that Boston's offense actually ran more smoothly sans No. 9, stating that Doc Rivers' squad shared the ball more and ran quicker, crisper sets.

Of course, that talk was thoroughly disproved in the playoffs, as the C's' offense came to a grinding halt without their floor general. Don't think that means Rondo has forgotten all of the criticisms that were thrown his way, however.

The ACL tear could serve as sort of an awakening for Rondo. When tragedy strikes, you really stop and put things into perspective, and we can only assume that the point guard did that and more while watching his brothers go into battle without him from Jan. 27 through the rest of the season.

Green has that chip, too.

The four-year contract he was given by the Celtics last summer was chastised by many, especially by former ESPN writer John Hollinger. Hollinger, who is now the vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, called the deal (ESPN Insider required) "without a doubt, the worst contract of the summer."

How about a personal apology to Jeff, John?

While Green does not have the type of stubborn personality of Rondo, you can bet that he has taken Hollinger's words—as well as the comments of everyone else who doubted him—to heart.

It's not just about playing with extra motivation, though. It's also about utilizing your talents to the fullest, and in the right situation, Rondo and Green are both perfectly capable of doing just that.

In the end, there is a large faction of individuals who consider Rondo to be a top-two or top-three point guard in the NBA. There is also the ever-growing Green bandwagon that feels as if we are watching the birth of a new star.

I think I'll take a top-flight point guard and a potential star forward as building blocks for a successful future.

Wouldn't you?


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