Roundtable: Breaking down the Rajon Rondo trade

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The Boston Celtics have finally decided to part ways with star point guard Rajon Rondo; sending he and forward Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick, and a future second-round pick. We have asked five of our writers to examine the trade, including if the deal makes Dallas the best team in the West and if Rondo is worth the risk for the Mavs.

Writers:

Alec Walt: @AlecWalt 

Chris St. Jean: @CSaint3 

Ryan Cowan: @RCC1992

Cyril Mpacko: @Cee_Armel 

Mark Gavigan: @GarkMavigan


1. Where do the Celtics go from here?

Walt: The Celtics still have plenty of moves to make before the trade deadline. With veterans like Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton, and even newly acquired Jameer Nelson and Brandan Wright could be traded to a playoff team looking to add depth to their bench. Look for GM Danny Ainge to continue to stock up on draft picks to go with the young players already on the roster. The Celtics are in full rebuilding mode. 

St. Jean: This was the plan all along. This team is now not much different from what they were last year. The rebuild started once Peirce and Garnett were dealt to Brooklyn, it was just a matter time before Rondo would go too. So, where do they go from here? They rebuild. Three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, plus the slew of picks from Brooklyn over the next few years. They may not use them all, but they will all be assets in the rebuild process.

Cowan: Celtics continue to build for the future with the assets they picked up, which included the tradable contracts of Brandan Wright and Jameer Nelson. But the first round draft pick they received will probably be more valuable than any other asset they gained. GM Danny Ainge has been breaking this team down, and now the reconstruction process can fully begin. 

Mpacko: With Rondo gone the championship era in Boston is finally brought to a close. The Celtics have some young pieces and valuable draft picks to build on from here. Look forward to a drawn out rebuild from here on out. Dog days could be ahead for Beantown.

Gavigan: It’s tool time! The C’s will be in serious rebuilding mode for the foreseeable future, but they do possess some young talent and high draft picks. But who knows, maybe they’ll make a KG/Ray Allen-esque trade next year and return to postseason relevance. Celtics fans, get ready to sing the Beantown blues at a pub near you.

2. Is Marcus Smart ready to lead the Celtics to a new era?

Walt: During the 2014 NBA Draft scouting process, Marcus Smart was considered the safest pick in the draft due to his NBA ready size, intensity, defensive abilities, leadership qualities, and ability to make plays when it matters most. This season, the Celtics are 6-6 when Smart has been healthy and 3-8 when injured. With the passion to succeed and faith from head coach Brad Stevens and the organization, Marcus Smart will be ready to take on the challenges of rebuilding a new era in Boston.

St. Jean: Not even close. But he won’t be asked to yet. Brad Stevens will be a leader for this team for the next year or so. This roster will turn over much more before clear roles are defined in the Marcus Smart era.

Cowan: Yes. He’s had some time to watch Rondo and learn from him, which will help him be a better leader in the future, but he won’t lead the team too far if he’s the best player. More moves from the front office need to take place before this team is truly ready to develop together. 

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Mpacko: Marcus Smart although ready physically, would’ve greatly benefitted from an extensive learning period co-starring behind Rondo. But now he gets to learn the way a lot of rookies need to, by being thrown into the fire. I believe Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are better suited to lead these new look C’s in the short-term while Smart continues to adjust to the pro game and battle his injury bug.

Gavigan: Negative. He’s still rough around the edges and hasn’t shown much to this point in the season. With that said, he will get some more PT with Rondo gone, so he’ll most likely improve his game. If the Celtics fall deeper out of playoff contention, look for them to give their 2014 first-round pick some serious run.

3. Is Dallas now the best in the West?

Walt: I believe the Golden State Warriors are still the best team in the Western Conference. The Warriors have a solid starting five led by point guard Stephen Curry to go along with a very deep bench highlighted by Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Shaun Livingston. Steve Kerr has been a fantastic coach in his first season in the Bay and currently at 22-3, there are no signs of the Warriors slowing down.

St. Jean: No. The crazy thing is, they may still be a bottom three seed. The West is so ridiculously good that the Mavs can go and upgrade the point guard position significantly, and still not differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail BlazersCowan: No. While it’s a great move for Dallas, It doesn’t propel them into the top 3 in the West. I’d place them behind the Thunder, Warriors and Grizzlies at the very least, and probably still behind the Clippers and Spurs. 

Mpacko: On paper, Dallas looks like the team to beat out West. I liked them before this move, so depending on the adjustment period I think Rondo makes them an absolute threat. Point guard was probably the weak point of their team, and seemingly overnight it becomes a strength.

Gavigan: No. While their starting five is intimidating, they don’t have the depth from top to bottom, particularly in the frontcourt. Who’s going to hold down the paint if Tyson Chandler goes down? Greg Smith? Charlie V? Golden State is still the team to beat.

4. Does Rondo give Dallas the best starting five in the NBA?

Walt: Rajon Rondo – Monta Ellis – Chandler Parsons – Dirk Nowitzki – Tyson Chandler is the best starting five in the NBA. Before the trade was made, Dallas was already first in the NBA in points scored and seventh in the league in assists per game. This team likes to pass the ball and they have just acquired the best passer in the game. This starting five can now pass, score, defend, and rebound at an elite level.

St. Jean: The best starting lineup in the NBA is still Golden State when Bogut is healthy. But the big concern for Dallas is, after this trade, how good is that bench going to be? They lose perimeter depth in Jae Crowder and front court depth in Brandan Wright. It leaves them extremely thin up front. That has to be a concern. If Tyson Chandler gets hurt, the Mavs are in trouble.

Cowan: No. Luckily this trade occurred so early in the season, because now the Mavs lineup will have time to build chemistry with one another. They aren’t the best starting five as of now, but after the All-Star break, and heading into the final stretch of the season, they could find themselves among the top-tier.

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Mpacko: Portland’s starting five is pretty awesome as well. Dallas’s starting five cannot be judged until they figure out each others’ games. I think with time and a good run of health, this Dallas team can position itself atop the best five ladder.

Gavigan: On paper, this lineup is pretty ferocious, but we’ll have to see how it plays out. I still think the Warriors have the best five because of their versatility and the way they can spread the floor. The key is if Rondo and Monta can get on the same page since the latter is accustomed to having the ball in his hands quite a bit.

5. Is Rondo worth the risk for Dallas?

Walt: Rajon Rondo is worth the risk. The Western Conference is stacked with elite point guards and now the Mavericks have one without moving a core starter. Now Dallas has three starters with championship experience, who had to beat LeBron James to get their rings, who they will most likely face if they reach the NBA Finals. With Tyson Chandler’s big contract off the books next season, Brandon Haywood being amnestied, and rise in salary cap, the Mavericks will have the ability to give Rajon Rondo the max contract he is looking for. Rondo even said he would be willing to sign an extension with the Mavericks, but will sign with whoever gives him his money.

St. Jean: Absolutely. Dallas has been searching for a point guard for years. It will be fascinating to watch Rondo integrate with the NBA’s best offense. Rondo has captained a top ten offense only twice in his career and the last time was 2008-09. And he doesn’t bring as much to the table defensively as he used to. But Rondo is an enormous upgrade over Jameer Nelson and he should give Dallas even more versatility. I envision Rondo and Dirk playing with the bench unit and running pick and pop to death against other NBA benches. Rick Carlisle will get the best out of the out of his personnel, he always does.

Cowan: Yes. Rondo is absolutely worth the risk for a Dallas team that has been trying to land a big name for several years now. Missed opportunities such as Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have left the Mavs desperate for a blockbuster move, and landing Rondo will set them up nicely to add more talent in the coming off-seasons. 

Mpacko: With Rondo’s assertion that he would resign with either the Mavs or Rockets, there is little risk in this move for Dallas. Brandan Wright was playing some great ball for them but he is replaceable as are Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder. The picks come with the territory when you acquire a perennial All-Star. Since Rondo is truly a pass first PG, there really couldn’t have been another guy as valuable as he is. Low risk, incredibly high reward for Dallas.

Gavigan: Yes. This offense is going to fly with Rondo at the helm. He’s a beast at both ends of the floor and brings championship experience to the table. Every player that Dallas traded is expendable, so not too much damage done there. However, with Dirk in his twilight years, the first-rounder does hurt a little bit.

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