With superstar point guard Rajon Rondo nearing closer and closer to his return from a torn ACL -I predict four to six more weeks- trade rumors and speculations regarding his tenure have amplified. My cohort Michael Sykes, II wrote an awesome piece a few days back about the trade rumors surrounding the star. Sykes brought up numerous solid points about why teams would be so interested in trading for him. But I’m here, writing away in my Rondo jersey with Celtics banners plastering my room, screaming my diehard heart out saying no. Please don’t do it Danny Ainge. Not just no. Hell no. Please no.
The reasoning for that no comes from so much more than just a fan’s wants and wishes. I truly believe the Celtics would be making the mistake of a lifetime if Rondo was traded away. In our hands we have the best POINT guard in the Eastern Conference. You can say Derrick Rose is (was?) the best scoring guard, but his creativity, passing skills, and court vision are not even comparable to Rondo’s. The best way to gauge Rajon’s value is to look at the guys that have left. The most notable players that come to mind are Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Since being traded from Boston, all four have seen decreases in their field goal attempts, free throw attempts, and field goal percentages; three key statistics that rely on a good passer. The Celtics play thus far has been steady and inconsistent at the same time. On some nights, we look like a playoff team as we hang in with the stars of the league like LAC or Miami. But then the next night the same group is slipping against the likes of Milwaukee. With a consistent leader and an elite point guard who can be relied on to take games over when needed, imagine how far this team could go. Take Tuesday night’s loss against the Nets for example. Star Deron Williams scored 25 points and had eight assists to help power Brooklyn past Boston. What if Rondo was in there? An elite guard on both ends of the ball, Rondo would have surely tired out Williams, thus reducing his production and impact. And the dominating Brooklyn front court the Celtics couldn’t contain? How would they have made much impact if Rondo was intercepting or disrupting entry passes with his 6’10 wingspan. (For video evidence of his stealing anticipation, click here). With a player of Rondo’s intelligence, his impact goes way beyond the box score. While I love considering myself a stats geek and analytics junkie, there’s just no stat that John Hollinger could possibly come up with to represent Rondo’s impact. The closest comparisons, in my opinion, are Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Now before you jump all over me in the comment section, understand that I’m making those comparisons on impact level alone, not on talent or skill set (to help, picture the Clippers without Chris Paul all season, do they look 10-14?). With Paul on the court, the Clippers offense has been 10.2 points per 100 possessions better than without Paul playing. Westbrook’s Thunder have been 5.2 points better. So if we were to slate Rondo somewhere between those two (not overly outlandish if you ask me) then we’re looking at the Celtics being about 7.7 points per 100 possessions better. Coincidentally, 7.7 points per 100 possessions is the same number as Jared Sullinger. So now picture adding another player of Jared Sullinger’s impact level to the team… that Brooklyn game looks much more winnable now, right? And what would we trade this great impact for… draft picks?
Before we jump into the “2014 NBA Draft Is The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread” discussion, we need to be realistic about where the Celtics are likely to be selecting. Yes, the top five or six prospects have insane upside and have the potential to be franchise-changers. But are we suggesting that we should trade a current franchise-changer for the chance at maybe a slightly better franchise-changer? Sounds too risky for me. If the Celtics keep Rondo and benefit from his addition, I predict that we will be selecting between picks 12-17. Using the most recent mock draft from nbadraft.net, players such as Wayne Seldon, James Young, Jerami Grant, Adreian Payne, Glen Robinson III, Aaron Gordon, and Dario Saric look attainable. While they may not be Wiggins or Randle, I could certainly see all of those players contributing to the team and benefiting greatly from a point guard like Rondo, like Jared Sullinger did last year. With the expected growth from Kelly Olynyk, any of those picks could help bolster our roster and even further accelerate our rate of rebuilding. Another point to remember is our plethora of draft picks. We have our own pick as well as the worst pick between Atlanta and Brooklyn. Neither franchise is looking like a 50-win team right now, so there is a very good chance the Celtics could wind up getting more than one of those guys I just listed. Why trade Rondo for young assets or draft picks when we already have an abundance of both? Patience is rarely preached in the NBA, but with all our young talent growing and draft picks waiting in the wings, I think it would behoove Danny Ainge to wait this one out.
Finally I think there is another aspect of Rondo’s importance that I haven’t read about
anywhere yet. But yet, I think this may be the MOST important factor. And that is what Rondo means to us, the fans. Boston fans appreciate only one thing more than winning, loyalty. Watching Ray Allen spurn us for the Heat was a gut-wrencher, seeing Doc Rivers flee to Hollywood was a brain-bruiser, and having Kevin Garnett waive his no-trade clause for Brooklyn was a tear-jerker. But none of those top what Celtics fans have had to cope with in losing Paul Pierce. Pierce was more than just the leading scorer. Pierce was my generation’s Bird, Havlicek, and Russell all rolled together. Pierce’s commitment to Boston was remarkable considering how bad some of those Celtics teams were in the beginning of the century. Watching The Captain hoist the championship trophy in 2008 was the happiest moment of my life. And when he was traded away, the only glimmer of fandom I could muster up laid in the talents of Rajon Rondo. Rondo had been drafted before the dynasty was built, had quietly played a huge role in the run to the championship, and slowly endeared himself to Bostonians with his hard work and effort. His popularity is evident in jersey sales, outselling guys like Steve Nash, Paul, Westbrook, and Garnett. With KG and Pierce traded, the only man who would be any bit deserving to run our beloved franchise would be Rondo. And if we trade Rondo?! That would just be putting this whole fanbase through those same senses of gut-wrenching, brain-bruising, tear-jerking, depression overdose. Then who’d we be handing the keys to? Jeff Green? Jared Sullinger? That sounds an awful lot like the Dee Brown era if you ask me. The true Celtics fans still find their way to the Garden night after night, and attendance is sure to spike with Rondo’s return. To ruin that for the chance at future would be soul-crushing to me and every other Celtic diehard.
Did I get a bit too sappy there at the end? Rightfully so. From the statistical, futuristic, and fandom points of view, retaining Rondo and building around him should be the only positive option. Obviously it will all come down to what Danny Ainge thinks is best for the team, but if he reads this article, I sure hope I’d help persuade him. I know I wrote a lot of controversial things in this 1,300 word behemoth, so I’d love your feedback and opinions in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and go green!