If you're listening to sports radio these days you've likely heard that the Boston Celtics NEED to pick a direction. They can either go after the championship, or they need to trade Rondo. And that makes sense. Good sports radio generally is argumentative, and encourages people to pick one sider or the other. 'The Boston Celtics need to be opportunistic and find value when they can' isn't a wildly entertaining topic.

But while the idea of 'picking a direction' might be good fodder for sports radio, it's in all likelihood not the best way for the Boston Celtics to move going forward. The path to rebuild in the NBA isn't a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book. There's more than two successful paths.

With that in mind, let's examine some of the myths on why the Boston Celtics have to move Rajon Rondo in order to rebuild.

They need to bottom out!
Make no bones about it, the NBA is a superstar driven league and getting an elite wing-scorer like Lebron James and Kevin Durant immediately transforms a team into a serious contender.

However, the list of players that can transform a team regardless of surrounding talent is limited to the two names above. Kevin Love has never made the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony missed the EASTERN conference playoffs this past season. Dwight Howard needed to force his way out of Orlando, and then left the Lakers after a horrid season.

The idea that the Boston Celtics need to trade Rajon Rondo in order to bottom out is conveniently ignoring the fact that the Boston Celtics were 6 and 24 in games he appeared last season. He's a very good player, but not one capable of carrying a team.

That's not a negative reflection on him - Rajon Rondo is an elite talent - but a reflection on how much, or little a pass-first point guard can do by himself. It's why Chris Paul demanded a trade. Why Steve Nash couldn't win in Phoenix. Why in the past 25 years the best player on the NBA champion has either been a big or a wing-scorer.

And while Rajon Rondo might not be the difference between this team being in the basement and being competitive, he has shown the invaluable ability to peak the interest of other NBA superstars.

So if he's not preventing you from bottoming out, but he is talented enough where a top-10 player would want to join up with him, it's fair to say that you don't trade him to trade him, right? Right.

And to be uber-clear, that's not saying you don't trade Rondo under any circumstance. You trade him if you can get some value out of a deal (even if it's arguably less), not because your 'picking a direction' to build.

Trade Rondo!
The problem with 'just trading him' is that in order to do so, you have to find a trade that actually makes sense for both sides. And the problem for the Boston Celtics is that the league is stocked with talented (and in a lot of cases young) point guards.

In a highly subjective exercise, I took a look across the league to find teams that would be motivated to trade for Rajon Rondo. I defined motivation as a team who didn't currently have a point guard who I thought could make an all star team.

Here's what I found:
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Houston Rockets
  • New York Knicks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Sacramento Kings
editor's note: I listed the Hornets because I believe Kemba Walker could play the shooting guard if needed

Now while there are plenty of teams who could certainly upgrade the position (Nuggets, Pelicans to name a few), they're far less incentivized to do so, because in almost all cases the team has much bigger needs.

That leaves us with - and again, by my highly subjective estimation - eleven teams who would be very interested in acquiring Rajon Rondo. Let's subtract the teams who have literally nothing but mid to late first round picks to offer:
  • New York Knicks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Sacramento Kings

So if you're wildly in the 'trade Rondo' camp, and looking to kill a few hours on the trade machine, there's seven teams to work with. What I think you'll quickly find is that it's very difficult to construct a trade that'd blow you away. In most cases, it's likely to be a b-level prospect (Shumpert, McLemore, Sanders, etc.) and a pick that's likely to fall somewhere in the teens.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might think there's a good trade in there, and in fact I could certainly talk myself into a trade with the Bucks. But it's worth pointing out that the likely trade for our young-ish All-Star, triple double machine (who is due a big payday at the conclusion of the season) will result in two spins at the prospect wheel. Players who are as likely to become all stars as they are to be out of the league in five years.

You need to get worse to get better

You need talent to attract talent. Whether that be through trade or free agency.

Players don't go to teams just because they like the cities. They go there to win. Either now or in the future. Take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers; they could barely get meetings with Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. And while I can't confirm, I think it's safe to say their decision wasn't because they didn't like the weather there. Likewise, there's a reason the Celtics are in the conversation for Kevin Love and the Lakers aren't. Just as there was reason the Celtics were able to acquire Kevin Garnett, and just as importantly, get him to sign an extension, seven years ago.


Rajon Rondo is an elite talent at the point guard position. He's not untradeable by any stretch of the imagination, but you don't move him so you can tell people you've 'chosen your direction.' Luckily, that's not something the Celtics are likely to do, either.

MattDotRich 7/14/2014 03:09:00 PM Edit
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