The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks both lost in heartbreaking fashion on Friday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz, respectively.
While both proud franchises nearly came away with a win, it underscored an important point for the 2014-15 NBA season: The best the Celtics and Knicks can realistically hope for is to come close to contention. The pieces just aren’t there to win anything of note this year.
It is no surprise, then, that New York and Boston will be part of trade rumors all season, as stockpiling young assets and future draft picks is the surest way to rebuild. Following those lines, there were whispers surrounding both J.R. Smith and Rajon Rondo on Friday.
Read on to find out the latest.
Ian Begley of ESPN New York passed along an update on Smith:
The talks are in place, so we know the Knicks could possibly move the shooting guard at some point this season. In light of that, one league executive had a very interesting take, via Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York:
J.R. has had a lot of issues but he can be a big-time scorer when he's doing the right things. There's always a team out there willing to take a chance on somebody if they feel he can put them over the top, and there's no doubt J.R. can play. People are going to be concerned about chemistry issues in the locker room, so it would have to be a strong leadership and coaching staff that take him in.
As with so many people on the trade block, there are ups and downs when discussing Smith, which is exactly what that executive said. One of the positives with Smith is that he is only 29 years old and theoretically has a few productive seasons left in the tank. He also has a $6.4 million player option for next season, which isn’t exactly a crippling contract from a team perspective.
The Knicks will likely be patient before making any drastic moves since they are adjusting to the triangle offense under head coach Derek Fisher, but Smith is underperforming as a scorer in the early going.
His lowest per-game scoring total in the last eight years was 12.3, and he even scored as many as 18.1 a night in 2012-13. However, Smith has scored more than 12 points in just one game this season, and he has not asserted himself as a reliable or consistent second scorer behind Carmelo Anthony.
Smith may just not be meant for the triangle, so there will likely be other teams interested in him as a streaky scorer. Now the Knicks have to pull the trigger.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated provided an update on Rondo through a quote from an Eastern Conference executive:
I don’t know how high it is. He is a free agent at the end of the year. A team that trades for him will have half a season to convince him to stay. He has to be in a city that he wants to be in. If he didn’t get hurt last year his value would have been higher then. A team would have had a year and a half and convince him to stay. And I don’t know how many teams truly need a starting point guard. Houston needs one. The Lakers. But if you’re the Lakers, why would you give up anything for him now when you can try to sign him this summer?
There is a lot at work here in these comments, especially with the injury history. For as talented as Rondo is, NBA franchises need their cornerstone players to be reliable health-wise. Mannix opined in the same piece that Rondo isn’t quite a max-contract player because he isn’t capable of carrying his team deep into the playoffs without the right surrounding pieces.
What’s more, there is simply an incredible amount of talent at point guard around the league, as the executive suggested. The law of supply and demand implies that Rondo’s trade value is not as high as it could be with such a large supply of talented point guards across the NBA landscape.
However, Houston is an intriguing option because Rondo would not be asked to score much with Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza and James Harden leading the way in that department. And there really isn't a top-notch distributor already in place.
Rondo is racking up ridiculous assist numbers with Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner as his surrounding pieces in Boston. Just imagine what he could do with Harden and Howard flanking his sides.
Given that Rondo is an impending free agent, Boston probably isn’t going to get as much as it would like in return in a trade unless the other party receives a guarantee that Rondo would sign an extension after the season.
The Celtics will still explore their options, though, as they look toward the future in their rebuilding efforts.
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