Free agency 2014 is done and dusted, with most teams finalizing their transactions, and beginning to prepare for the long NBA season ahead of them. The West is stacked, and the East is getting better, but there are still teams who have failed to match the off season efforts of others.
One team which has failed to make a splash in the market is the Boston Celtics, who have become a non-factor in a lackluster eastern conference these past few years, calling into question the true metal of much revered General Manager and former player Danny Ainge.
Since trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the summer of 2013, fans of the 17-time Champs have become increasingly more unnerved about the direction of the ball club, and how they plan on returning them to their rightful place atop the eastern conference.
There are picks a-plenty, and the future looks bright with young rookies Marcus Smart and James Young joining the ranks via the draft this summer. They also have a young core of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green, all of whom are ready to help the team progress into the next stage of Boston basketball. But what is the next step? What direction will this team, steeped in history, take?
There is zero doubt that Boston’s back court is deep, having drafted a one and a two, in addition to their already talented lineup of guards, leaving many asking the question why they let enforcer and 7th overall pick Julius Randle fall to the Lakers during June’s NBA Draft.
Drafting Marcus Smart was curious, given 1 x Champ and former All Star Rajon Rondo is still performing at an optimum level for the team, and will return at full strength this October, following knee surgery in February, 2013. Smart is projected to be a high performance player for Boston, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to fully utilize him as a back up behind Rondo.
In this lies an interesting debate – Does it benefit the Celtics to trade their cornerstone, and franchise player before his free agency next summer?
Let’s look at the facts.
As mentioned previously, the roster is deep with guards. Rondo, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner only scratch the surface of their back court, with Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green the only players of considerable note anchoring down the paint. Having prided themselves as a defensive stalwart for years, the Celtics would undoubtedly benefit from the addition of a top 15 big, who can average 20/12 on a nightly basis, and help reinforce Boston’s leaky defensive structure.
Injury is a concern. While Rondo is one of the league’s top point guards when healthy, there is uncertainty about his durability after a torn ACL restricted his playing time drastically this past season. Thus far, his value remains high, but should that decrease, and his ability begin to decline, so will his appeal. There is interest in Rondo throughout the league at this point in time, so at the very least, the Celtics should be willing to listen to offers.
An article surfaced earlier this week which indicated that Rondo wants to be “wined and dined” this summer, in similar fashion to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Of course, this may be nothing more than a player wanting to have his ego stroked, but it could also indicate that that Rondo is willing to listen to offers come summer 2015. If the Celtics let Rondo test free agency, they’ll run the risk of losing him for nothing, and while he has said he wants to stay a Celtic, no one truly knows.
Should they keep Rondo beyond 2014/15, it will no doubt take up considerable cap space with the team having signed Avery Bradley to a four year, $30 million deal. There is little doubt he’ll sign for anything less than the max next summer, so the Celtics must make a decision about the style of basketball they’ll be playing for the foreseeable future. There is also the question of whether keeping Rondo will impact the development of Marcus Smart, if Boston do intend to utilize him to his full potential.
So, while it remains unlikely that Rondo will sign an extension with any team beyond 2014/15, there could still be something in it for Boston – It’s not so much that we’ll see a Kevin Love/Minnesota type situation between the Celtics and Rondo (given Rondo’s love for the team. A notion Love did not share when it came to the Wolves), but it would benefit Boston in a big way to shop him before he leaves for nothing when the opportunity at a title and max money rears its head.
So, with the information we have, does trading Rondo benefit the Celtics? In short, yes. Given what we know about the team’s current structure, Rondo’s tenure as a franchise guy/healthy player, and his impending free agency, it absolutely is in Boston’s best interests to move him.
While this may be the case, one must wonder if it hasn’t happened yet, will it at all? It’s getting to a point now where it looks more and more likely that the team is all in on Rondo, and should they decide against it in the coming months, it may already be too late.
Whichever way you look at it, expect to see a lot of Rajon Rondo in the trade winds throughout season 2014/15.