When the Celtics called off their pursuit of Kevin Love, fans began picturing what life without Rajon Rondo might look like. When the regular season rolls around and the games begin to count, the most likely scenario is that number nine is showcasing his talents for teams around the league, and proving that he is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered two years ago.
In preparation for life without Rondo, Boston selected Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick in June’s draft. The Oklahoma State product is currently drawing rave reviews while competing against some of the game’s top point guards at team USA training camp. Should Rondo in fact be dealt, Smart is in line to be handed the keys to the team. This would make Smart and Avery Bradley Boston’s backcourt of the future.
That duo has the potential to be a nightmare for opposing offense’s. The pressure and physicality that the two provide could wear down opposing guards and help create transition opportunities for a Celtics offense that as constructed will likely struggle to produce in half court sets. One bright spot is Bradley’s improved three-point shooting, which rose to 39.5 percent last season, after falling from 40.7 percent to 31.7 percent a year ago. In addition to making 36.5 percent of his three-point attempts from the corners, Bradley also saw his ability to hit threes from above the break balloon from 15.8 percent on just 19 attempts to 44.6 percent, per NBA.com. Provided this continues, Smart will now be operating with the same spacing, if not more than what Rondo has been working with.
In a vacuum, swapping Rondo out for Smart is a downgrade. Before the knee injury, Rondo was one of the best floor generals in a league that is loaded with talent at the position. However, Smart is now playing on a bigger court, with more room to attack the basket. Unlike his predecessor, Smart brings a scorers mentality to the point guard position, which given Boston’s current roster, the team needs. The rookie also has a solid chance of becoming a better defender than Rondo, although the two approach that end in very different ways.
It is unclear whether or not the Celtics would be willing to pay Rondo the max. Perhaps once they get into the season, Boston decides that they want to hold on to their resident star. This would give the team an effective backcourt trio of Rondo, Bradley and Smart, albeit they may struggle through some poor shooting nights. But the better move is the one that is more likely to occur. Trading Rondo for high quality assets. What the Celtics can get in return for Rondo will depend on his performance in the first half of the season and will be impacted by his impending free agency, but could very well lay the groundwork for them getting back to being a contender.
Perhaps Boston finds a team that is willing to take on Jeff Green’s contract in order to acquire Rondo, creating even more future cap space and increasing the likelihood of landing a quality prospect in next year’s draft. Maybe the Celtics net the center that they so desperately need, top young prospects or continue to grow their army of draft picks. The bottom line is that while many view moving Rondo as a sign of a prolonged rebuild, it might just put them on the fast track to championship contention.