The rumors surrounding the impeding departure of Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics via trade have been going on for years, but maybe there’s a bit more seriousness to them this time, as the efforts to rebuild might send the point guard for the 8th overall pick the Sacramento Kings have, which will then lead the Celtics to draft Marcus Smart or Elfrid Payton with one of their two first round picks.
The Celtics aren’t getting big names this offseason, and aren’t going to get Kevin Love via trade. Their hopes of a quick fix seem to have been pushed out the window. The moves made by Danny Ainge to get rid of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn’t set them up for quick cap release, but also left Rajon Rondo, a player who isn’t as effective without better players around, in an uncomfortable situation.
All we have right now is media speculation. The Kings want a point guard and have four players they’re willing and might be able to move: Jason Terry and Derrick Williams, who become free agents in 2015, or Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, who have a deal that goes on until 2017, worth around $6.5 million a season, which might make it difficult for the Celtics to absorb if they’re thinking about big stars later on.
However, if moving Rondo on for another top 10 draft pick is true, the Celtics are in a different mindset. That of building slowly, which means not competing for anything in the 2014-2015 season unless the rookies become a big part and adapt well to the NBA quickly, and maybe not even in 2015-2016, with the fruits of the 2015 summer looking less and less likely to land with them.
Are Smart and Payton good enough to give up on Rondo? Rondo is an All-Star point guard, but part of what makes him great is having all-stars around him, or did make him great. His assist numbers are slightly inflated because he forces passes to players instead of scoring and entering his ninth NBA season, he still hasn’t been able to become a decent threat from outside the paint or make it not worth while for teams to foul him on the way to the basket.
Payton has a similar problem but his age and potential make him a nice bet to make for a team that doesn’t see a real future with Rondo, especially if he asks for a max contract once this one, worth $12 million, runs out. Marcus Smart probably has more of an upside but his tweener situation makes him even more of a risk. The comparisons to Russell Westbrook might turn out to be true, and the Celtics might be betting the bank on Smart living up to those expectations.