As part of my article analyzing the first 11 games, I included the following bit about Rondo:
"Rondo is absolutely the wrong PG for this team... The perfect PG for this current Celts team would be Steve Nash because of his veteran savvy, short-term contract, and what he can do on the court. This team needs a PG that controls the half-court, being able to hit open shots and create their own offense... With Phoenix currently outside of the playoff picture, perhaps they’d take on Rondo to lead their young team of athletes, while allowing Nash a shot at joining three future HOFers in Boston for one last push. With Nash at the helm, this Celts team would be tremendously improved, as he can find the open man, hit the open shot, and create his own offense. Rondo simply cannot do two of those three things... If anyone is traded on this team before the season is through it needs to be Rondo, but only in exchange for a top-flight, half-court-capable PG like Steve Nash; preferably, one with a short contract. I don’t believe this will happen, but if I were Ainge I would look into it." [To read the rest, please go here.]
Some of those who commented on the article claimed I was beyond foolish for even considering trading Rondo for an old PG like Nash. To be fair, I understand their concern. However, I disagree with their assessment of Rondo's talent and where it fits with this current team.
A few points:
- Rondo's speed is not an asset to this current squad. His talent lies in directing a speed-oriented offense where he can lead the break and view the court, but no one on the Celts can keep up with him. He often goes it alone, and as I discussed, he is a below-average finisher at the rim and a poor free throw shooter; so, Rondo going it alone is not the team's best option.
- When there is one player on a team who doesn't correctly fit the system employed to maximize all the talent on the team, who do you sacrifice: that player or the system? This Celts team is old, and Doc is not going to change his system. There is little that can be done to make them younger. Outside of Rondo, they have no trade bait other than Ray Allen, and he will not bring anything more than draft picks or expiring contracts. If the team is old and slow, then what good does it do to have one young, fast player (no matter how exciting he can be)? The team cannot get younger and quicker this season, and Rondo's talents will continue to cut against the grain of what this team needs to do - play efficient half-court basketball.
- Rondo's weaknesses are highlighted in the half-court offensive sets the Celts employ. Rondo's inability to develop a consistent jumper (or even a below-average three point shot) makes the Celts' offense less efficient. Often times, when the opposing defense shuts down the Celts first offensive set, the ball ends up in Rondo's hands 24 feet from the basket with the shot clock running down. What transpires almost every time? He either drives awkwardly toward the hoop to draw a foul or he bricks a jump shot. How much more efficient would this offense be if they had a PG capable of knocking down an open three or 18-footer on a consistent basis? How much burden would that take off of the Big-3?
- I will quickly mention that Rondo's defense, though often highlight-worthy, can be so for both good and bad reasons. He too often gambles, leaving his player open for either a shot or a drive. I believe that he is replaceable on the defensive end. The team may have fewer steals, but I believe they'll be just as efficient as they are now (which isn't too efficient).
- Keeping Rondo throughout the length of his contract accomplishes what? What kind of team can/will they build around him? He has proven during these six years that he is incapable of being the lead player on a championship team - there is probably only one PG in basketball who can do this - Rose. So, what are the Celtics left with once they have Rondo, an older Pierce, and ??? Free agency is not what it used to be. True superstars now demand trades and middle-of-the-road players garner above-average contracts. With Rondo at the helm, can Danny build a team around him through free agency? Not likely. And, without any tradeable assets, what can fans hope for over the next 5-10 years? To be clear, the Celtics are years away from having enough young talent to either make a run in the playoffs or trade for bonafide superstars (like they did with KG and Allen). That far down the line will Rondo even be the player he is now? He'll be older, and probably a bit creaky after taking all the hits and body shots he absorbs. Will he have a consistent jump shot by then? Will he be passing the ball to three Hall of Fame shooters like Pierce, KG, and Allen? It's probably not in the best interest of the organization to build around him. There isn't even a young second banana on the current squad to ease the transition of building around Rondo. He'll be going it alone during this transition period, and he is not talented enough all-around to carry a team.
- There is a reason why there has been only 9 championship organizations over the past 30 seasons. Each of the past 30 championship teams, outside of the Pistons of 2004 and the Rockets of 1994, has had multiple Hall of Famers on their roster. The Celtics have three Hall of Famers right now, and even though they're old and slower than before, the Celts face their best shot at Banner 18 by building around the Big-3 today. Not building around a pass-first PG tomorrow. Hall of Famers win championships.
All of these points lead to this:
- Nash can help this team today. He does three things PGs need to do: distribute the ball with accuracy, hit open shots, create his own offense when needed. Rondo cannot do two of those things, and this current Celts team needs a PG that can do all three. Nash can do all three. So can younger guys like Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rose, and Westbrook, but the Celts aren't getting any of those guys. The Suns may be willing to send Nash away to pursue one final championship push if they can get a young, fast PG in return - young and fast being exactly what Phoenix needs. The Celtics' best bet is to try to push this current roster over the top, not wait and hope to build something around Rondo.
Two other notes:
* I know a lot of fans have been panting over the possibility of Dwight Howard joining the team at some point in the next 6 months, but why? What would a team of Rondo and Howard accomplish? The entire point of having a true center that draws double-teams is that he can kick it out to open shooters. That is a system that is near-impossible to defend when done right. What good would Rondo be with Howard? Rondo cannot hit open shots. And a true PG of Rondo's nature won't be needed to dump the ball into Howard for alley-oops and dunks. Jameer Nelson can do that just fine. Will Dwight be running the fast break with Rondo? Not likely. Will Dwight clog up the lane, making it more difficult for Rondo to penetrate? Absolutely. Rondo would be better served alongside PFs/Cs like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, or Marc Gasol, guys who can do an equal measure of running the floor and hitting the outside shot. Did Shaq ever win with a top-flight PG? No, he won with score-first SGs. Did Hakeem win with a top-flight PG? No, he won with a stable of shooters (but mostly he did things himself). Tim Duncan (not a true C, but often played the position) won with both a score-first PG and a terrific SG. No other center-dominated team has won the title in the past 30 years, unless you count Moses Malone's 76ers back in 1983 (and they had Dr. J, Andrew Toney, and Maurice Cheeks). There is no precedent for a pass-first PG and a true C ever winning the championship during the past 30 years. I think these fans have on beer goggles, thinking how great it would be to have the Big-3 and Rondo and Dwight Howard. That's an unlikely scenario, even if only for next season.
* Despite everything I've written, I love Rondo. He is a true Celtic. He's played hard these past six years and he has a stable of highlight-reel moments embedded in my mind. I think he'll be an All Star for the next few seasons, regardless of where he plays. I just don't think he's the right PG for the current state of the Celtics, not this year or next. And, for all the reasons above, I would trade him (+O'Neal/JaJuan) for Steve Nash (+Gortat +a draft pick).
Be respectful and keep it clean. Thanks.