The Dallas Mavericks aren’t the only team trying to trade for Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics – the Houston Rockets are in on this as well, as to a lesser extent the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks are as well. For now, the Mavs seem to be closer than anyone to completing a deal.
Why now? Rondo becomes a free agent in the summer and the Celtics, despite saying for almost two years that they aren’t trying to shop him, know it’s better to offload him now. Rondo wants to test the free agency market next season and even if the Celtics do re-sign him – he’ll be looking for more than $12 million a season. Boston are already down for $46 million in cap commitments next season. Keeping Rondo on a multi-year deal won’t help them get significantly better.
Right now, the talk is about a number of draft picks, including at least one that is a first rounder, while also adding players to make the mathematics of salary cap work. Brandan Wright, a very useful member of the Mavs’ bench, averaging 8.8 points per game in 18.7 minutes a night, seems to be on the trading block. He makes $5 million a season and this contract expires at the end of this one, but the Mavs need to add more in order to complete a deal.
Is Rondo worth the gamble? If the Mavericks do sign him, they’ll have a starting five that includes him and Monta Ellis in the back court, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki at forward and Tyson Chandler at center. The Mavericks haven’t been happy with their point guard play on both ends of the floor, and Mark Cuban wants this season to be about going for it all. This means willing to take the risk that Rondo bolts after just one season. If it brings the Mavericks closer to a championship, something Cuban has been building towards for the last two years, he thinks it’s worth it.
Rondo himself is acting like nothing is new and nothing is changing. He’s simply planning on playing as usual, preparing for more games as a Celtics player, which isn’t that great these days. The Celtics are 9-14 and probably won’t make the playoffs this season or the next one. Rondo is averaging just 8.3 points per game while shooting his usually disappointing 40% from the field. His free throw shooting has reached embarrassing levels – only 33.3% from the line, but luckily for the Celtics, he’s taking just 1.6 shots from the line per game, the lowest average of his career.
The Celtics don’t mind taking players, but as long as it’s not contracts they’ll be stuck with for more than one season. They have had too many of those since breaking up their core to the Brooklyn Nets, which is why their rebuilding is taking so much time. Rondo was supposed to be the centerpiece, but it’s been quite clear that he’s not the kind of player you can build a contender around, and it’s better off making the most of his expiring contract before he leaves off for nothing.
For the Mavericks, his inability to score or shoot from the line is less of a worry. With capable scorers on the team, Rondo and his passing ability will flourish. It’s the stars around Rondo that make him look like a great point guard, not the other way around.