Seeing Rajon Rondo pass the basketball is like hearing Jimi Hendrix play guitar or tasting the most delicious food you've ever had. Rondo plays a beautiful game that satisfies the senses, which won my heart during his rookie year with the Boston Celtics...so much so that he quickly became my all-time favorite NBA player because of his flash and flair.
But the armchair general manager in me can't help but assess the state of the Celtics and believe that trading the 28-year-old superstar point guard is in the best interest of the future of the franchise, if a star like Kevin Love can't be acquired, which appears to a serious possibility especially since LeBron James took his talents to Cleveland.
With the selection of Marcus Smart and the re-signing of Avery Bradley, many fans believe those moves will directly correlate with a Rondo trade. I don't feel that way, as those decisions likely would've been made regardless of Rondo's destiny, but the acquisition of Smart certainly strengthens my belief that Rondo should be dealt.
Many Celtics fans apparently feel the same way, as 68 percent of CelticsBlog readers voted "Yes" when asked if they'd like to see Rondo traded for a fair package in the event another star player couldn't be acquired via trade or free agency.
Which teams can even trade for Rajon Rondo?
But the problem is finding a destination for Rondo. The 2014 NBA Draft was loaded with talented guards, so many teams will be ready to move on with the youth movement as opposed to trading for an expensive guard like Rondo.
Of course, a handful of teams would love to acquire the four-time All-Star, but would he even be willing to sign an extension with them? And if he does, how many have the assets to get it done?
Not many, that's for sure. From the nine teams possibly interested, the Hawks, Knicks, Pacers, and Pistons can easily be eliminated because they lack the assets to make a deal. Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Denver could have the assets to complete a trade, but they may not interest Rondo.
That leaves the top two possibilities as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, who both have the assets to make a deal happen, and would potentially interest Rondo for a multitude of different reasons, including the chance to win a championship.
Here are some possible trades as a means of a "salary cap exercise" to find out what can work and what can't. Please note that these are just hypothetical deals based on logic, team philosophies, and various rumors that have spread over the course of the past year.
How could Houston acquire Rajon Rondo?
Everyone knows that Houston is hot for Rajon Rondo -- especially after losing out on Chris Bosh -- but after trading Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, do they have the ammo to complete a trade? The short answer is no, unless Chandler Parsons is involved in a trade.
UPDATE: Houston decided not to match the offer sheet for Parsons, meaning he will go to the Dallas Mavericks. This section of the article is now impossible.
The problem is that even if Boston was willing to accept an offer centered around young players and draft picks, Houston doesn't have the cap room or the salaries to make a deal occur. The only way it would work is if they organized out a sign-and-trade with someone they have bird rights for, similar to how Brooklyn re-signed Keith Bogans last year to a contract to complete the Pierce and KG blockbuster.
But that's too much to speculate about, and Boston would likely demand that a player of Parsons' caliber be included anyway.
Assuming Parsons' offer sheet is matched, he can't be traded for a full year unless he gives his consent, and there's also a trade kicker in his contract. However, in the event that Boston had interest in Parsons anyway, he would likely agree to be traded knowing he'd get the chance to be in a feature role for the first time in his career.
|Boston Celtics Trade||Houston Rockets Trade|
PG Rajon Rondo ($12,909,091)
SF Jeff Green ($9,200,000)
SF Chandler Parsons ($14,700,000*)
PF Josh Powell ($1,310,286)
G Troy Daniels ($1,016,482*)
SF Robert Covington ($816,482)
C Clint Capela ($0)
New Orleans 2015 1st Protected
Houston 2017 1st Unprotected
Total Guaranteed: $15,762,482
Right now James Harden is the entire offense for Houston, which is why adding Rajon Rondo would fix virtually all of their issues. Harden would have more easy off-ball opportunities created for him, Howard and Rondo would make for one of the best pick-and-roll combinations in the league, and not to mention Rondo's ability to control tempo is something they have lacked.
For Boston, it would be hard losing Rondo, but the team wouldn't take a significant step back considering they add Parsons. Even though there are no guarantees that Marcus Smart will ever develop into a starting point guard, the backcourt would still be loaded with talent and versatility. Daniels would provide a knockdown three-point shooter, though he'd have to be re-signed to be included in a deal. Even though Clint Capela might be a draft-and-stash, he has potential as a rim protector and could find playing time in the NBA as soon as 2015.
Overall, it's the type of deal that would further bolster Boston's assets while retaining a relatively competitive team on the floor. For Houston, they give up quite a lot, but a starting line-up of Howard/Jones/Green/Harden/Rondo is arguably one of the best in the NBA, and they'd still have solid depth.
How could Oklahoma City acquire Rajon Rondo?
The chances are that it won't happen, but one of the best destinations (on paper) for Rajon Rondo is Oklahoma City. If they acquired Rondo, they'd be able to move Russell Westbrook to shooting guard, which would open up so many more easy opportunities for him playing off-ball, and they'd finally have a player in Rondo who could create for teammates, instead of always creating for himself like Westbrook does.
Surprisingly, there hasn't been a peep about "Rondo to OKC" at all, other than baseless speculation. But since we're looking for Rondo deals that actually make sense for both teams, here's one of the few:
|Boston Celtics Trade||Oklahoma City Thunder Trade|
PG Rajon Rondo ($12,909,091)
C Joel Anthony ($3,800,000)
SG Chris Babb ($816,482)
C Kendrick Perkins ($9,404,342)
PG Reggie Jackson ($2,204,369)
C Steven Adams ($2,184,960)
Oklahoma City 2015 1st Unprotected
In only one year, Steven Adams has already taken more steps forward in his game than most draft evaluators ever could've expected. Acquiring Adams would give Boston a legitimate rim protector who could make a large impact this season. Even though he'd be playing in a crowded frontcourt with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics would have plenty of flexibility to trade one of them down the line.
Even though Reggie Jackson will enter restricted free agency next summer, he'd be a great fit for Brad Stevens' motion offense because of his ability to effectively shoot the ball from the perimeter. At only 24-years-old, Jackson showed what he was capable of when Westbrook was out injured last season and during their playoff run. If he continues trending upwards, he could be a star in only a few years.
For Oklahoma City, it'd be hard to lose Adams, but Mitch McGary was just drafted, making him somewhat expendable. Even though Jackson has been a valuable player, Rondo is obviously an upgrade for the reasons stated above. It wouldn't be surprising if Westbrook's efficiency shot through the roof if he were playing alongside a pass-first guard like Rondo; they'd be a special team to watch.
How many fits are there for Rajon Rondo?
It's unlikely that a Rondo trade comes this summer because there are so few predictable deals that don't include a third team, and the market for him will be lower now than it will be during the season, so if the Celtics do want to deal him, they might be better off waiting until the regular season.
Of course, that's also a risk, since the number of suitors for Rondo may drop even more, and if the Celtics are a losing team for the second year in a row, then teams may know they are desperate to ship Rondo away knowing they can't lose him for nothing during the summer of 2015.
One of the options for Boston is just to keep Rondo and then make a huge impact signing for a player like Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or Al Jefferson. Essentially, they would do what Houston tried to do this summer by signing Bosh and then re-signing Parsons, but we saw how that worked out.
But that even assumes these guys hit the market; Love could be traded before then, Gasol has no reason to leave Memphis, Aldridge will likely re-sign with Portland, and is Jefferson really "enough" to contend for a title?
What looks like a strong 2015 free agent class could end up being a barren wasteland with high-end role players, featuring Rajon Rondo as the headliner, assuming the Celtics aren't able to trade him before the deadline or re-sign him.
With all that said, it's possible that Boston will look for deals that may be considered "lateral moves" in order to shake things up. Once again, there are very few teams that can make it work, but here are three possibilities involving the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Sacramento Kings.
How could Denver acquire Rajon Rondo?
Back in June, ESPN's Jeff Goodman suggested that the Celtics trade Rondo to Denver for Ty Lawson and the 11th pick, but now that the draft has already taken place that opportunity has passed. However, if the Nuggets are looking to upgrade the point guard position, a Lawson for Rondo swap could still be a possibility.
|Boston Celtics Trade||Denver Nuggets Trade|
PG Rajon Rondo ($12,909,091)
SF Gerald Wallace ($10,105,855)
PG Ty Lawson ($11,596,506)
SF Danilo Gallinari ($10,854,850)
Believe it or not, Lawson might be a better fit than Rondo for Stevens' offense because of his ability to catch-and-shoot, and the fact he has spent years playing under George Karl, who ran his own version of the motion. However, Lawson lacks the elite upside and the ability to just take over a game like Rondo has, which is why he doesn't present the same value.
That's precisely why Danilo Gallinari and Gerald Wallace would have to be added in the deal for Boston to even consider. Even though he hasn't played since 2013, Gallinari's only 25-years-old and still has plenty of upside. Dumping Wallace's salary would also take a huge load off of their cap number, freeing them to make more moves during the 2015 offseason.
Denver would consider this deal because they are loaded at small forward after Wilson Chandler performed quite well as a starter last season. Plus, they added Arron Afflalo, who could shift over to the three in certain lineups since their backcourt has talent.
How could Milwaukee acquire Rajon Rondo?
Before even considering the potential of Rondo in Milwaukee, one must wonder if he'd even have interest in joining the organization. Even though it'd be a hard sell, pairing him with young potential stars like Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and John Henson could be something he'd give a chance, even if he didn't give them assurance that he'd re-sign after the season.
|Boston Celtics Trade||Milwaukee Bucks Trade|
PG Rajon Rondo ($12,909,091)
SF Gerald Wallace ($10,105,855)
C Larry Sanders ($11,000,000)
PG Brandon Knight ($3,553,917)
SF Damien Inglis ($0)
Milwaukee is far under the cap, so they're one of the few teams in the NBA who can absorb Gerald Wallace's contract, which would be a huge bonus for Boston, since they need to dump them in order to maximize their flexibility. Obviously, that would come at the expense of Rondo, but the return is quite strong.
Sanders has his off-court risks, but he's one of the league's best shot blockers, and Knight is an extremely talented 22-year-old point guard. Both of these players, including one of the draft's most underrated International talents, Damien Inglis, could promote a healthy youth movement in Boston.
And from Milwaukee's perspective, Rondo would present a contrast from the otherwise youthful roster. Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo would likely see their development accelerated thanks to Rondo, and it wouldn't be too surprising if the team became a winner sooner rather than later. If things went according to plan, the Bucks would be only one or two years away from being a playoff contender.
How could Sacramento acquire Rajon Rondo?
The ship may have sailed for Sacramento. After sending Isaiah Thomas to the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade, they lost an asset that reportedly interested the Celtics. Now, it seems like the only chance Rondo gets sent to the Kings is if Boston is desperate to receive something instead of nothing in a deal.
|Boston Celtics Trade||Sacramento Kings Trade|
PG Rajon Rondo ($12,909,091)
PF Derrick Williams ($6,331,404)
SG Ben McLemore ($3,026,280)
SF Quincy Acy ($915,243)
Kings Future 1st (Earliest Conveyed: 2017)
Total Guaranteed: $9,357,684
On the surface this may look like a garbage deal for Boston, but it's actually not as bad as looks if the alternative is letting Rondo walk and receiving zilch. In this scenario they could still be in a position to have lots of cap room next summer because Williams could become an unrestricted free agent if his team decides to not extend him qualifying offer.
The 2014-15 season could be used as an "audition" for Williams, who has yet to prove that he can play at a high level in the NBA -- or at least a level worthy of over $6 million per. Picking up Ben McLemore isn't a bad incentive either, since he still has the potential to be a knockdown shooter who also excels playing in transition. Though Sacramento's first won't be conveyed until 2017 at the earliest (their 2015 first will go to Chicago if they're not in the top 10), it'd look nice sitting on top of Boston's mountain of draft picks.
For Sacramento, doing this deal is an easy decision since acquiring Rondo would give them a fantastic starting five. Even though they reportedly signed Darren Collison to be the starter, they wouldn't pass up the opportunity to net a guy like Rondo, especially at this bargain price.
Rondo rumors will come, but what about a trade?
You know it, I know it, the Celtics know it, and the NBA knows it: Rondo rumors are coming. The point of this article isn't to create speculation; it's just to spark thoughts within the minds of fans.
It won't be easy for the Celtics to deal Rondo even if they want him to, simply because of the fact that so many teams already have talented point guards. This is something people have to realize whether or not they want to see Rondo traded because the chances are slim a deal ever gets done.
With so many assets an unexpected star player could go on the block this coming season or next summer, and no team is in a better position than Boston to acquire that unknown player since they could have six first round draft picks in 2015 and 2016 combined. Unless Boston lowers their asking price for Rondo, they might just take their chances on hitting it big during the summer of 2015.
Despite saying that, there are a handful of opportunities, which is why five "mock trades" were outlined. Both the Houston and Oklahoma City deals look promising, but it's more likely that no deal occurs this summer, and Rajon Rondo goes into the season as Boston's starting point guard for the 9th year in a row, where he'll continue put on a show every night.
Regardless, It'll be amazing to see what happens next, though we might not be getting the fireworks we expected.