I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Rajon Rondo.
There’s no point arguing about whether Rajon Rondo is a great player any longer. He’s capable of things on a basketball court previously reserved only for Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, and that’s all I’ll ever need to know.
We haven’t seen Rondo at full strength since Jan. 25, 2013, when he dropped a 16-10-11 triple-double and played the final 12 minutes of a double-overtime loss to the Hawks on a torn ACL. How anyone hates on him is beyond me.
Playing at 87 percent health or whatever weird number he assigned to his rehabbed right knee last season, Rondo still averaged 11.7 points, 9.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 33.3 minutes over 30 games. You know who else achieved those averages in 2013-14? Nobody. Not Kevin Durant. Not LeBron James. Not Stephen Curry. Not Chris Paul. Nobody.
Rondo is one of the most extraordinary players in the NBA, if not the league’s strangest bird, and it’s good to have him back. The broken metatarsal in his left hand will prevent Rondo from reaching 100 percent for a week or two, but he’ll be collecting triple-doubles before we know it, ascending everbody’s player rankings all year.
Like it or not, he’ll also be the biggest name on the trade market as the NBA’s highest-profile free agent in 2015 (assuming LeBron and Kevin Love are staying in Cleveland.) There’s simply no way to escape the trade rumors. It makes too much sense for a Celtics team that just drafted its point guard of the future and remains years away from contending to shop a four-time All-Star banking on a big payday come July.
The problem is finding a trade partner. Two-thirds of the league has a point guard in place for the foreseeable future, half of the remaining teams wouldn’t sign him long-term and the other half doesn’t have the assets to meet Danny Ainge’s considerable demands. All that probably adds up to Rondo remaining in green this season. Unless, of course, the Pacers give up Roy Hibbert or the Heat, Kings, Knicks or Lakers come up with a more enticing package than draft picks and Mario Chalmers, Ben McLemore, Iman Shumpert or the now injured Julius Randle.
The problem comes next summer when Rondo becomes a free agent, and the Knicks, Lakers and Mavericks all have cap space to pursue his services. The Celtics can still offer the most money, but do they want to? And does Rondo want to stay in Boston for a rebuilding project still in its infancy? (A Dallas starting lineup of Rondo, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler is an instant title contender.)
If Rondo returns to form and commands anything close to max money on the open market, then maybe it’s best to re-sign him, keep a valuable asset in the holster and consider trading him down the line. (Great, more trade rumors.) These are questions Ainge must answer before considering lesser offers at the trade deadline.
It’s a circular argument, and we’ll be driving around that roundabout all winter. Buckle your seatbelt. It’s gonna be a weird, wild ride, and at least Rondo is at the wheel this year. Let’s get this Celtics season started.
Asset Rating: A
This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.
ASSET MANAGEMENT: Brandon Bass | Avery Bradley | Vitor Faverani | Jeff Green | Kelly Olynyk | Dwight Powell | Phil Pressey | Marcus Smart | Rajon Rondo | Jared Sullinger | Marcus Thornton | Evan Turner | Gerald Wallace | James Young | Tyler Zeller