A lot of people are working under the premise that the Celtics are likely going to trade Rajon Rondo this season. The thinking is that it would be better to get something for him before losing him for nothing in the offseason. I've written at length about the fallacy of such simplistic thinking but despite my heroic efforts, the narrative persists. So let us take this other angle on the story. What might life without Rajon Rondo look like?
For kicks and giggles, let us use a Bill Simmons' trade idea. Sending Rondo to the Knicks along with Gerald Wallace's bloated contract, in exchange for Amare Stoudamire's huge expiring contract, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., and a couple of future draft picks (the Celtics would also likely have to toss in Joel Anthony's contract to make numbers work).
Immediate Future: Let's look at the new roster, shall we?
PG: Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey
SG: Avery Bradley, Marcus Thornton, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Chris Babb (waived), Kieth Bogans (waived)
SF: Jeff Green, Evan Turner, James Young, Chris Johnson
PF: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass
C: Tyler Zeller, Vitor Favernai, Amare Stoudamire (waived?)
That's not a very good team, though I'm not sure if it is a bad enough team to challenge the Sixers for the worst record in the league. So basically we've removed an All Star for the chance to very, very slightly increase our lottery odds (which has worked out so wonderfully in the past).
You can continue the full rebuild by dealing away vets like Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, but that's kinda sorta been the plan all along and it hasn't really resulted in any deals that Danny Ainge has wanted to pull the trigger on. So either we accept less favorable deals, or both of those guys become expiring contracts (assuming Jeff Green opts out and finds greener pastures elsewhere).
Long term: How does this team look a year from now?
As the payroll stands currently, the Celtics are going to have tons of cap room available this summer. After this trade, we'd have an additional $10M or so of cap room. Which is great since we can surely convince the next version of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh to all play together for us. Right? Let's look at who the top free agents are and how likely they would be to pick Boston as a destination.
Oh, it looks like the biggest free agent of next summer is... Rajon Rondo. That's awkward. Ok, how about Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge? Well, both are making noises that they want to stay with their current teams and when it boils down to it, most players stay because they can get the most money and years from their current teams. I put the chances of the Rondo-less Celtics landing either big man at about 0.1%.
Then there's a few free agent point guards on the market like Goran Dragic (who's already said that he'll re-sign in Phoenix) and maybe Eric Bledsoe (if he takes the qualifying offer) but I'm not sure if they'd want to sign with Boston to fight for time with Marcus Smart. That leaves us only 2nd tier free agents we'd have to overpay without even the draw of playing with Rajon Rondo to attract them.
Those future draft picks we'd get from New York? Those are long term assets at best. Because of existing trades and trade restrictions, the earliest picks we could get would be 2018 and 2020.
You could argue that we'd have tons of assets to use in a big trade or two. I'd counter that we have that now and we already have Rondo in place. You could make the case that we'd build through the draft with a solid foundation of Smart, Bradley, Young, Sullinger, Olynyk, and Zeller in place plus Shumpert and Hardaway. I'd counter that we've got that now, minus the 2 Knicks guards that only add to our logjam of SG's on the roster.
Bottom Line: I don't believe that trading Rajon Rondo really helps position the Celtics to rebuild any better than keeping him around (and yes, risk losing him for nothing) does. So how about we just take our chances with keeping him around unless someone blows Ainge away with an offer he can't refuse?