After last night's blow out loss to the Sixers, the Celtics right now are like a Jenga game fifteen moves in: they're teetering and wobbly and another Jermaine O'Neal-esque injury could topple the entire tower. Even if we can maintain balance and get to April whole and healthy, there are still questions about the Celtics future and what they'll do post-Big 3. We're now a week away from the trade deadline and although the trade rumors have quieted since Rondo's triple double and the Celtics five-game winning streak, speculation remains.
1. Rajon Rondo, G, Celtics
I know the Celtics are saying Rondo isn't going anywhere. But there are two problems with that. (1) It doesn't jibe with what a number of NBA GMs are saying based on conversations they've had with Celtics president Danny Ainge. (2) Ainge isn't stupid. He doesn't want to trade Rondo, but Rondo is the best chip he has to play right now.
If Ainge waits and does nothing, the Celtics will be a middling lottery team without much hope next season -- in the same spot where Ainge inherited them a few years ago. He doesn't want to go back there. If he can get two pieces back for Rondo, I think he'll do it. Atlanta, Portland and Indiana are interesting destinations if they are willing to pay.
2. Josh Smith, F, Hawks
Again, I know what the Hawks are saying. "We're not shopping anyone ... yada, yada, yada." The truth is, Rick Sund has been exploring possible Josh Smith deals for the past few years. If he could get a legit point guard and a credible forward to replace Smith, he'd do it. If the Celtics would offer Rondo, I think they'd have a deal. Ditto if the Suns would offer Steve Nash.
The dream scenario would be to keep Rondo in Celtic green and pry Josh Smith from Atlanta. They're good friends from their Oak Hill days and more importantly, Josh Smith is a perfect fit to Rondo's game. Unless Sund is just looking for expiring contracts, I don't see it happening.
Hypothetically, let's consider a Rondo for Smith straight up swap. Despite his attitude problem, Smith is one of those premiere big men that are hard to come by. He's stepped up big time in the absence of Al Horford and entering the prime of his career. He's got one year left on his contract and this is where it gets tricky. I have no doubt that he's going to demand max contract money in the summer of 2013. I just don't think he's worth that kind of commitment as a franchise player. Rondo, on the other hand, is the better building block for Boston. His affordable and lengthy contract aside, he's the difference between making his teammates better vs. making it easier for his teammates. A player like Smith can shoulder the scoring load and attract double teams, but Rondo's court vision and IQ is worth more to a team that is virtually building a team from scratch and I see more free agents being attracted to a team with Rondo rather than Smith.