Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.
RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE
When asked if Rondo looked like the player who earned four straight NBA All-Star Game nods from 2010-13, one of the players he’ll battle for a fifth trip to the exhibition didn’t hesitate.
“He had a triple-double tonight,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said after Rondo collected 15 assists, 13 points and 10 boards in a 110-107 loss to Toronto. “That’s pretty good, ain’t it?”
It’s true. The most telling indicator of Rondo’s return to health has been his ability to hover around a triple-double on a nightly basis. He’s posted averages of 11.2 assists, 9.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 33.2 minutes over five games. Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to post those numbers over a full season (he did it twice … while averaging 30 points), so it’s unlikely he’ll maintain that pace through 82 games. Regardless, he’s been remarkable.
While the shooting stroke that produced one of the game’s most effective mid-range jumpers just prior to his injury has yet to return (Rondo’s 43.8 true shooting percentage currently ranks among the league’s worst for starting guards), he currently leads the NBA per game in assists (11.2), assist opportunities (21.0) and points created by assist (26.4).
Through six games, the Celtics rank second in points per game (106.3), fourth in pace (96.3 possessions per 48 minutes) and seventh in offensive rating (110.5 points per 100 possessions), and their success can in large part be attributed to Rondo’s orchestration on that end.
Defensively, though, the Celtics rank among the league’s six worst units, allowing 110.1 points per 100 possessions, and they’ve only been slightly better (107.8 defensive rating) with Rondo manning the point. Still, his 1.6 steals per game and 22.6 defensive rebound percentage place him in the league’s upper echelon in both categories, regardless of position.
Overall, Rondo has returned to All-Star form, and the rest of the league has taken note.
RAJON RONDO TRADE IDEA
Over the past week, the notion of swapping Rondo for Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving gained steam when retired All-NBA wing Tracy McGrady suggested the deal on Twitter.
At the time, Irving and Cavs teammate LeBron James had just exchanged words following a 101-82 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, and the 22-year-old two-time All-Star answered with an assist-less performance in a losing effort to the Jazz. Somehow, Irving strung together 760 dribbles, 158 touches and 36 shots without an assist, according to ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh.
Meanwhile, Rondo continues to orchestrate the offense by deconstructing the defense. His assists have translated into 24.4 points per game for fellow Celtics starters Bradley, Green, Sullinger and Olynyk. Imagine what he could for James, Kevin Love and Cleveland’s other wings.
Except, Irving is six years Rondo’s junior, and the Cavs handed him a five year, $90 million extension this summer. He responded with 44 points (62.7 TS%), 15 assists and nine rebounds in a pair of wins over the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans. Results for the Cleveland experiment may be inconclusive in the incubation period, but the Cavaliers are going to give Irving more than a month in the new system before deeming it a failure.
Still, it’s worth watching the relationship between Irving and James, because the four-time NBA MVP gets what he wants. Should Rondo end up on LeBron’s wish list come Christmas, Celtics president Danny Ainge would pull the trigger on that deal faster than Wild Bill Hickok.
Idea: Not bad
It’s time now to ask the Magic 9-Ball.
RAJON RONDO TRADE ODDS
At least publicly, Rondo appears fully invested in Year 2 of the rebuilding process. He spent the summer studying his teammates’ tendencies alongside coach Brad Stevens, and the pair honed an offensive game plan that has produced remarkable results six games into the Celtics season.
The Celtics (3-3) are currently a playoff team, even if they’re one loss from the lottery, and the once daunting November schedule suddenly doesn’t seem so brutal. If the current state of affairs remains status quo, the Celtics are more likely buyers than sellers at the deadline.
But NBA fortunes change awfully quick, and next week will tell a different story. Just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder, who arrive in Boston Wednesday sans Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.