After less than two months, the first major move of the 2014-15 NBA season is here.
On Thursday evening the Boston Celtics traded Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, a conditional first round draft pick, a 2016 second round draft pick and a $12.9 million trade exception.
The move demonstrates the different directions of each team. The Mavericks are contending for a title now while the Celtics are rebuilding for the future. Here is a breakdown for both sides.
The writing was on the wall: All-Star point guard, championship winner, expiring contract, no commitment of a long-term deal. All the signs pointed to Rondo’s departure from Boston this season.
The Celtics had to trade their captain or risk him walking in free agency without getting anything back. Years ago he was mentioned in talks for Chris Paul. This deal is nowhere near the same level. The Celtics held on to him until the last season of his contract, and his trade value is lower than it once was.
A torn ACL in early 2013 impacted what eventually happened in late 2014. It also changed scenarios for two trade deadlines and one offseason. Another team isn’t going to offer up big pieces for a player rehabbing from a serious injury. Even when he returned in mid-January, he sat out of games during the remainder of the season. Had Rondo never suffered ACL injury, there is a possibility a trade could have happened sooner and yielded more in return.
The deal isn’t just about moving Rondo, it’s also about what the Celtics got in exchange. Since another star player wasn’t on the table, the Celtics opted for draft picks and roster flexibility. Wright and Crowder have expiring contracts, Nelson has a player option for next season. They also added more picks to their already-stacked arsenal of them.
This summer the Celtics drafted Marcus Smart sixth overall. When healthy, he gives them another gritty defender who can run the floor and has quickly shown he is a fit for Brad Stevens system. He also makes a fraction of what Rondo will garner. Cap space flexibility is key when looking to add new pieces down the road.
Both Rondo and the organization had expressed their interest in continuing their relationship together since the topic was approached on Media Day in September. At the end of the day, though, basketball is a business and it just didn’t make business sense. Rondo has been the Celtics most valuable trade chip since the dismantling of the “New Big Three,” some could argue the most valuable asset even when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were still around. He also wanted to be paid as such in his next deal.
But the Celtics are not in the same phase they were in for most of Rondo’s tenure. There were many years where shelling out money for a star player to boost their championship potential was the right thing to do. That time is over.
As the Celtics rebuild, there is no need to commit major dollars if they aren’t going to make the playoffs. Of course that is the long-term goal, but they can achieve it with players earning far less. While Rondo can change a game while he’s on the floor, he alone isn’t enough to take the Celtics to the next level.
“Hello, would you like to become an instant contender?”
Competitive at 19-8 and currently sixth in the Western Conference, acquiring Rondo should bolster them up the standings in the West. Reports point to Rondo re-signing with the Mavericks, drastically improving their short- and long-term outlook.
Rondo will join Monta Ellis in the backcourt and round out a starting five with Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. Welcome to the pick-and-roll era.
The point guard position was the Mavericks weakest of their five and has been vastly upgraded. Rondo leads the league with 10.8 assists per game. When he’s not asked to be a major offensive contributor and just focus on facilitating, those numbers can rise.
For years there was skepticism as to how good Rondo really is due to his shooting inconsistencies. Was he a top caliber player, many wondered, or did his teammates like Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen make him look better? Rondo has his weaknesses, but in the right system, his strengths will overshadow them. Being on a team already stacked with scorers will allow him to run the floor, get creative and make those “did you just see that” passes he stealthily pulled off during the Celtics playoff runs. He will also be able to focus on defense, helping the Mavericks when they encounter many of the sharp-shooting guards in the West.
The Mavericks landed a player who is hungry to win again. (He’ll have new teammates who can relate to that.) Rondo captured a championship with the Celtics in 2008, his second year. Since then he has made deep playoff runs, including a trip to the 2010 NBA Finals, and is itching to play beyond the regular season.
He is ultra competitive, especially on the big stage. Rondo thrives in the spotlight, so much so that at one point Celtics fans created the persona “National TV Rondo.” The Mavericks play seven games on TNT and ESPN this season.
The Mavericks sent a handful of pieces to the Celtics in this deal. While Wright is having the most solid season of all those involved, parting ways with him for Rondo is a move worth making.
Rondo is an enigmatic player, but he could be the clear answer for the Mavericks this season.
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