5 NBA Teams That Should Gamble on Potential Rajon Rondo Trade

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2014

5 NBA Teams That Should Gamble on Potential Rajon Rondo Trade

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    Any talk of trading Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has to be qualified by the fact that he may or may not even be on the market. 

    General manager Danny Ainge's most recent declaration expressed more hope than certainty.

    "The truthful answer is I really don't know," Ainge said when asked about the possibility of dealing Rondo, per the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Bill Doyle. "I have no intention. I'm not trying to trade Rondo, but because he's a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We'd love to keep him in Boston."

    "The possibility of a trade is not out of the question," Ainge added. "Nobody is untradeable, but I don't see that happening."

    That possibility will remain until and unless Rondo makes a long-term commitment to the organization. Otherwise, context suggests a trade may be even more than a possibility. Rondo is accustomed to winning, and it may be some time before the Celtics complete a protracted rebuilding process.

    We may have limited insight into Rondo's wishes and the front office's intentions, but we do know Boston is nowhere close to becoming the kind of contender the 28-year-old ostensibly prefers.

    As CBSSports.com's James Herbert put it, "Regardless of what Rondo has or hasn't expressed to Celtics management, trade rumors are bound to persist throughout this coming season if he's not moved beforehand."

    So if the Celtics do decide to sell, who should consider buying?

5. Sacramento Kings

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    Back when forward Rudy Gay was still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013, he admitted that close friend Rajon Rondo had lobbied for him to join the Boston Celtics.

    "It's hard to talk to [Rondo] because he is always saying, 'We need you over here. We need you over here,'" Gay explained at the time, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.

    So it's only natural to wonder whether Rondo would consider following Gay to the Sacramento Kings, an up-and-coming—though still rebuilding—operation that also boasts center DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings may not seem like much of an improvement over the Celtics when considering standings alone, but Sacramento has a talented young core that's due for a collective breakout.

    That said, there's little to suggest Boston and Sacramento have seriously explored such a deal.

    In fact, Basketball Insiders reported via Twitter in August that "sources close to the process in both Boston and Sacramento are adamantly denying that a Rajon Rondo deal is being discussed."

    Is the radio silence permanent?

    It's admittedly hard to imagine the Celtics getting excited about the prospects Sacramento has to offer. But guards like Ben McLemore or rookie Nik Stauskas would certainly fit alongside Boston's own youth movement, which includes rookies Marcus Smart and James Young—along with the still-developing Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller.

    And even if Sacramento's youngsters don't currently top Boston's wish list, that could change in the event Rondo's departure via free agency becomes more of a certainty.

    The Celtics are better off collecting a reasonably promising prospect or two than losing Rondo for nothing.

    Sacramento's potential interest is pretty self-explanatory. At the moment, the club's one-two punch includes Darren Collison and now Ramon Sessions—both solid rotation players, neither a star.

    Rondo is the kind of leader who could take this team to another level, in theory anyway.

4. Miami Heat

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    If team president Pat Riley is intent on returning his Miami Heat to the top of the Eastern Conference, an upgrade at the point guard spot is probably in order.

    Mario Chalmers collapsed during last season's NBA Finals. Backup Norris Cole has yet to emerge as anything more than a role player in his first three seasons. And there's really no telling how long it will take rookie Shabazz Napier to develop.

    So while Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng constitute a solid core, this roster desperately needs a playmaker or two in the wake of LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without a four-time MVP running the offense, a credible floor general has suddenly become more necessity than luxury.

    Miami doesn't have a whole lot to offer the Boston Celtics, and Rondo himself proclaimed during his 2013 basketball camp (per CSNNE.com) that "I will never play for the Miami Heat."

    Assuming those hard feelings have subsequently softened a bit, it's worth remembering that Riley has a pretty successful track record when it comes to getting what he wants.

    The contours of this deal aren't easy to picture at the moment, but stranger things have certainly happened.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Thus far, the Los Angeles Lakers have only been linked to Rajon Rondo by speculation. Rumors of the organization's interest have yet to emerge, but that could change soon enough.

    Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak added some depth at the point guard spot this summer by trading for Jeremy Lin, and 40-year-old Steve Nash is entering what will likely be his final NBA season. So the need for another floor general isn't necessarily an urgent one.

    That said, Los Angeles also hopes to make the most of Kobe Bryant's final years. 

    As a fellow star in the prime of his career, Rondo is precisely the kind of piece who could further that effort in a meaningful way. The eight-year veteran would give L.A. a much-needed infusion of effort on the defensive end, and his ability to orchestrate an offense would take some pressure off Bryant.

    Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Lakers also have a prime young asset in power forward Julius Randle. With Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis around, Randle's opportunities in L.A. may be somewhat limited early on.

    He'd fit right into Boston's rebuilding project, though—at least if head coach Brad Stevens could find a way for him to coexist with power forward Jared Sullinger.

    The Lakers would have to package some additional contracts to make the money work, but this certainly wouldn't be the first time Kupchak and Co. got creative in their pursuit of star talent.

2. Houston Rockets

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    There's plenty to like about Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley.

    The two-year veteran is one of the better perimeter defenders in the business, an absolute pest against ball-handlers and would-be scorers. He's also a solid spot-up shooter, converting on 36.5 percent of his career three-point attempts.

    But there should be serious doubts about whether Beverley has the playmaking ability to maximize James Harden and Dwight Howard's potential on the offensive end. The loss of Jeremy Lin puts even more pressure on Beverley's shoulders, testing the 26-year-old's ability to run an offense on a far more regular basis.

    Harden will run that offense quite a bit, evidenced by the 6.1 assists per game he averaged last season.

    That said, it doesn't require much imagination to envision the impact Harden might make with Rajon Rondo at his side.

    Back in February (prior to the trade deadline), ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that "the Rockets want to acquire Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, according to sources familiar with Houston's thinking."

    Stein added, however, that "sources told ESPN.com that talks between the teams have not progressed to a serious stage because the sides can't agree on the framework of a trade."

    According to Stein, the Celtics were principally interested in acquiring forward Chandler Parsons—now a member of the Dallas Mavericks. It goes without saying the Rockets now have less to offer Boston. After losing Parsons, Lin and center Omer Asik, the organization may not have the kind of assets general manger Danny Ainge is seeking.

    On the other hand, Boston reasons to be far more desperate come this season's trade deadline.

    With the risk of losing Rondo for nothing looming over the organization, its trade demands could become far more reasonable—perhaps even involving a package centered around Beverley himself. Though it would take some work to make the money match, one probably shouldn't underestimate Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and his penchant for getting things done. 

1. Dallas Mavericks

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    Reality check.

    There are numerous reasons the Dallas Mavericks have little to no shot at landing Rajon Rondo.

    The organization is short on the kind of young assets who would intrigue the Boston Celtics. Neither Dirk Nowitzki nor Chandler Parsons is going anywhere, and the same may be true of Monta Ellis. And Dallas appears to have completed most of its major maneuvering, dealing Jose Calderon (and others) to the New York Knicks this summer in exchange for center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton.

    But the glaring need for a floor general of Rondo's caliber makes Dallas a seemingly perfect fit. If there's indeed a will, might there also be a way?

    Besides Felton, the Mavericks are set to rely upon a platoon of point guards that also includes Devin Harris and former Orlando Magic starter Jameer Nelson. While there's plenty of experience in that group, there are also serious questions about its ability to lead the Mavs on a legitimate title march.

    Both ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that the Mavericks and Celtics were discussing a Rondo deal in the summer of 2013.

    At the time, Boston got a little too greedy—killing any chance of something going down prior to the 2013-14 season.

    CBSSports.com's Matt Moore then explained:

    One problem: ESPN reports the Celtics' asking price is Dirk Nowitzki. That's going to cause some hangups. Like, every hangup in the world, ever. The Mavericks want to stay in contention but there's been no indication that has meant a willingness to move the franchise player. 

    Over one year later, the big question is whether Boston's demands might become more modest.

    Should the organization find itself under pressure to move Rondo or lose him for nothing in 2015, perhaps it would engage the Mavericks on more favorable terms.

    Dallas still has little to directly offer—at least in terms of anything that would make sense for Boston—but you never know what kind of magic might take place in the form of a multi-team trade. If the Mavericks can pull a rabbit out of their hat, this is the time to do it.