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
During a dismal week in which the Celtics lost to the Hornets and Knicks before snapping a three-game skid with a wire-to-wire win over the hapless 76ers, here are Rondo’s three-game totals: 19 points (9-17 FG, 0-3 3P, 1-2 FT), 27 assists (8 turnovers), 24 rebounds and six steals. He was a minus-26 in 88 minutes.
And here are the combined totals for opposing point guards Kemba Walker, Jose Calderon and Michael Carter-Williams: 40 points (14-36 FG, 3-10 3P, 9-12 FT), 20 assists (9 turnovers), 13 boards and six steals. They were plus-20 in 98 minutes.
Not great, even if Rondo submitted his third triple-double of the season against Charlotte. While he owned a superior true shooting percentage (53.1 vs. 48.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.38 vs. 2.22) with more rebounds and the same number of steals, the C’s captain should wipe the floor with that trio.
As if we expected to solve Rondo over the first six weeks of the 2014-15 season, he remains an enigma. Should he continue averaging 10.6 assists, 8.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over 82 games, Rondo will join Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to produce those numbers. Yet, he ranks among the league’s worst shooters from mid-range (30.2 percent), 3-point range (24.1 percent) and the free throw line (33.3 percent).
Regardless of how you feel about either set of numbers, it’s hard to argue with these: The Celtics have been better both offensively and defensively without Rondo, outscoring opponents by 0.5 points per 100 possessions in 405 minutes without Rondo and getting outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions in 668 minutes with him.
It’s always been impossible to measure Rondo’s impact with traditional stats, but his positive on/off numbers from 2006-12 always reflected what we thought we were seeing with our own eyes: He made everyone around him better. Statistically, that hasn’t been the case this season, and that has to concern potential trading partners.
It’s time now to ask the Magic 9-Ball.
RAJON RONDO TRADE IDEA
Free agents signed this past summer are now eligible to be traded, and Hornets guard Lance Stephenson is the name most often mentioned.
While Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge could pursue Stephenson without dangling Rondo in a deal, he could also weave the four-time All-Star into a much larger trade.
Charlotte just signed Kemba Walker to a four-year, $48 million extension. So, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe suggested, the UConn product joins old friend Al Jefferson as (somewhat) untouchable, making Rondo of little use to owner Michael Jordan.
However, Stephenson’s availability at a price tag of $27 million over the next three years creates all kinds of three-team trade possibilities for Ainge involving both Rondo and Jeff Green.
Take the Rockets, for example, who might be willing to part with the injured Terrence Jones and picks. Would Ainge ship Rondo to Houston and Green to Charlotte if he could collect Stephenson, Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in return?
Same goes for the Pacers. If Ainge could land Roy Hibbert, Kidd-Gilchrist and/or Stephenson in a deal that sent Green to the Hornets and Rondo to Indiana, where Larry Bird has been enamored with him, would he do it?
Ainge might not pull the trigger on either trade, but the sudden availability of Stephenson and a host of other players who don’t quite fit with their new teams increases Ainge’s chances of getting value in return should he deal Rondo.
Idea: Not too shabby.
RAJON RONDO TRADE ODDS
Suddenly, Celtics rookie point guard Marcus Smart is injury prone.
After missing just three games in two seasons at Oklahoma State — all a result of his suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan — he has now missed 12 of the C’s 22 games due to an ankle sprain and Achilles strain in his left foot.
One injury may be linked to the other, and a dozen DNPs this early in one’s career does not a bust make, but in the process of determining Rondo’s future, the Celtics would like to know what they presently have in Smart. While the rookie’s 23-4-5 effort in a double-overtime loss to the Wizards last week was an encouraging sign he could ultimately be their next great point guard, another prolonged absence makes the entire process that much more difficult.
The longer Smart sits on the sidelines between now and the February trade deadline, the longer the C’s should hold onto Rondo in an effort to see as much as possible from his potential replacement. So, while more players are eligible to be traded in recent days, Ainge should hold out hope his starting and backup point guards increase their value.