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Among the many questions the Celtics have to answer as they enter their rebuild is whether or not Rajon Rondo will be the guy they build around. As of now Rondo is making a very affordable $12 million per season on a contract that runs for two more seasons before expiring during the summer of 2015. Even the biggest haters of #9 would be hard pressed to admit that he is not worth a mere ~60% of a maximum deal for what he brings to the team.

However, that price tag is sure to go up in his next deal. Rondo has had several elite seasons since signing his last contract, and will be 29 years old in 2015, looking for what all players look for at that age — their big payday.

Complicating things for the Celtics is the ongoing development of point guards getting maximum contracts. Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are all maximum contract guys, and all players that Rondo (at his best) is comparable to. However, considering Rondo's ACL injury and lack of scoring ability (to this point), it's possible that he could have been convinced to take a slightly lesser deal than those players. That is, until John Wall happened.

According to several reports, including Marc Stein of ESPN, Wall is nearing an agreement to sign a max deal with the Wizards that will pay him $80 million over the next five seasons. Because Wall has only been in the league three seasons his max deal is quite a bit less than Paul's 5 year, $108 million pact. However, max is max, and with a talented but still unproven player like Wall getting paid through the nose it means that Rondo will almost assuredly be doing the same in 2015.

I mean, just look at what each player has accomplished and tell me that Wall should be maxed out but Rondo should not be.

Wall (3 seasons): 16.9 points, 8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 42% FG, 3.7 turnovers per game. 2.1 assist/turnover ratio.

Advanced stats: 38% assist percentage, 7% rebound percentage, 25.5% usage percentage, 3.4 win shares per season (number of wins the player is responsible for when adding up all of his impacts on the game).

Notes: Team has not surpassed 30 wins in his three seasons, never made the playoffs. Missed 30 games with knee injury in 2012-13.

Rondo (7 seasons): 11.1 points, 8.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 48% FG, 2.8 turnovers per game. 3.0 assist/turnover ratio.

Advanced stats: 41% assist percentage, 8% rebound percentage, 19.3% usage percentage, 6.3 win shares per season (Rondo does not have any advantage because the Celtics have been good, and the Wizards bad. This is a purely individual stat based on a players offensive/defensive capabilities and how they impact the game).
Is this the face of the next era of Celtics basketball?


Notes: Made the playoffs five times, appearing in 92 games and averaging 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6 rebounds and two steals per game. Starting point guard on two Eastern Conference champions and one title winner. Missed 39 games with knee injury in 2012-13.

At first glance you may look at the numbers and say Wall is better. After all he scores nearly six points more per game without sacrificing much in the assist, rebound and steal departments. But that's why we need to look deeper. Rondo is a far more efficient player on offense, hitting a higher percentage of shots, assisting on a higher percentage of his opportunities, rebounding more and turning the ball over less. He has also been a better defensive player in his career despite slipping the past two seasons.

There is also the little matter of playoff experience, where Rondo has played over a season worth of games and repeatedly shown his ability to raise the level of his game when it matters most. It's not fair to punish Wall too much for his teams futility, but it is fair to ask whether or not he'll be able to increase his production come playoff time the way Rondo has as many very good players are not able to do it.

The point of all this isn't to rip on Wall as he is an immensely talented guy well worth a big contract as he enters his age 23 season. It's simply to say that the clock is ticking on the Celtics when it comes to paying Rondo. Barring further injury he will be getting a 5 year, $110+ million deal in 2015 (a max deal for a player entering his 10th season, which Rondo will be in 2015, is 30% of the cap. In other words the exact price tag is unknown at this time).

Therefore it's vital that the team allows Rondo to get fully healthy and see how he responds to this new situation. Will he score more now that Pierce and Garnett are gone? Is that explosiveness still there post-ACL? Can he lead the team? All extremely important questions that need answers as we march closer to the summer of 2015. Boston owns Rondo's bird rights and has plenty of money to spend come 2015, so it will not be a question of, "can we afford him?", but instead "do we want to pay him?"

Among all of the important questions that Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and the rest of the organization need to answer — that is the most important of all. Is Rajon Rondo worth a maximum deal, and can he be one of the pillars of this next era? If the answer is yes, get ready to pay him. If the answer is no, dealing him with a year (or more) left on his very affordable contract is the best way to restock the proverbial shelves as the rebuild really gets under way. They don't need an answer to that question quite yet, but with Wall signing for max money the financial variable comes further in to focus.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

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Michael Dyer 7/25/2013 10:57:00 AM Edit
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