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Breaking Down the Rajon Rondo Trade

Four time all-star Rajon Rondo is reportedly heading to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for three players and multiple future draft picks. This blockbuster deal involves two teams in completely different positions; the Celtics are continuing their full-out rebuild mode, moving the final piece of the 2008 NBA Championship team while Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks are improving their chances to make a title run this year. As there is with every big trade, there is much to analyze.

How the Rondo Trade Affects Dallas:

We all know Mark Cuban – the arrogant, loud, and passionate owner of the Dallas Mavericks. After hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in Miami in 2011, Cuban made it clear that the goal was to remain a contender while maintaining cap space to acquire superstars or high-end free agents. At first, the Mavs struggled (by their standards) and the time to compete was dwindling as their German superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, continued to age. They missed out on superstar free agents, such as Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, and Carmelo Anthony, who all passed on joining Nowitzki in Dallas. However, with yesterday’s trade, the Mavericks appear to have finally returned to the level of championship contender. Rondo, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler form an extremely well-balanced, very experienced, and dynamic starting lineup.

This formidable starting five has the potential to be scary good, but it all depends on how quickly Rondo is able to adjust to the new offense. He hasn’t always been the most cooperative with his head coaches in Boston, but hopefully he adapts to Rick Carlisle’s offense rather quickly and smoothly. In addition, dramatic changes to the roster during the middle of the season aren’t always the most beneficial because new players have to adjust on the fly; they don’t have as much time to build chemistry with their teammates. This will be especially important to look out for with Rondo because of his style of play, in which he always seems to know where his teammates are and puts them in the best positions to score. Another concern I have with this Dallas team is Rondo’s inability to shoot well. The 2011 Mavericks, who won the championship, were able to spread the floor well with their point guard, Jason Kidd, who became an excellent three-point shooter towards the second half of his career. As it is well-documented, Rajon Rondo is a point guard with many elite skills, but shooting is not one of them.

Rondo’s superior playmaking will create open jumpshots and lanes for Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, and Dirk Nowitzki, who are all gifted scorers. Additionally, I am very excited to see how well Rondo and Tyson Chandler work together; they could challenge Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan/Blake Griffin for the best alley-oop pairing in the NBA.

Rajon Rondo will add to the versatility of the Mavericks team and provide all-star level play at the point guard position, which Dallas was certainly lacking before this trade. The most impressive aspect of the trade for the Mavs is the lack of talent given up. Two summers ago, the Boston Celtics acquired three first round picks from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who were well past their primes. In this deal, the Mavericks only have to give up one first round pick for 28-year-old Rajon Rondo. I repeat, one first round pick. The players given up, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, and Brandan Knight, are all end-of-the-rotation players who have had a minimal impact for Dallas. They played meaningful minutes, but they are definitely very replaceable players. The loss of Nelson at the point guard spot is a position directly improved with the addition of Rondo. The loss of Crowder will presumably lead to more minutes for backup forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson, who were already used more than Crowder. Brandan Wright will probably prove to be the biggest loss for the Mavs this season since he was a valuable backup center to Tyson Chandler, but if that that is the best player you give up in exchange for a top 10 point guard, then you have what is considered a steal. In terms of an immediate impact, the Mavericks lose three bench players with trivial impact in return for one of the best players in the NBA, Rajon Rondo.

How the Trade Affects Boston:

Well, after many months of Danny Ainge throwing Rondo’s name around on the trading block, the Celtics’ general manager finally pulled the trigger on a deal. It was clear that Ainge entered this past summer with the vision in mind that Rondo’s days in Boston were coming to an end. The fat extension handed out to combo guard Avery Bradley, as well as the draft selection of point guard Marcus Smart should have raised suspicion levels around the NBA more than they actually did. Ainge was clearly preparing for life after Rondo. Just like in the deal with Brooklyn in 2013, he is more concerned with draft picks than the players he is getting return. I highly doubt that the Celtics’ front office expects Nelson, Crowder, or Wright to be main contributors to their rebuilding process.

In the next 4 years, the Celtics have 11 first round draft picks. Yes, 11. While it is true that a few of them will be dropped due to protection agreements, this goes to show that Boston will be very active around draft day during the next few years. Some Celtics fans may argue that this is an unsubstantial return package for a very talented player, which is definitely true. However the Celtics probably couldn’t get much more in return. It’s not like Danny Ainge rushed this trade or anything; Rondo’s name has been in trade rumors for over a year, so I’m sure that he and his staff came to the conclusion that they would be unable to receive a more appealing set of assets in return for their star point guard.

How the Trade Affects the Rest of the League:

The Celtics weren’t in position to contend for a playoff spot before this trade, and they definitely won’t be able to make a playoff run after this trade. With 8 points and 11 assists per game, Rondo was able to create a lot of easy buckets for the Celtics. Without his presence, it will be much tougher for them to score, and there will be many times where the ball stops moving and they have offensive droughts. The bottom line is the Celtics went from bad to worse in the East; the only teams that should feel threatened by Boston are the ones with whom they will be competing for the number one overall pick in June.

As for the Mavericks, this trade should increase their chances of representing the West in the Finals, but I’m not ready to say they are the favorite. In my opinion, it is unfair to say any team other than the San Antonio Spurs should be labeled the favorite in the Western Conference because of their back-to-back Finals appearances and the fact that they’ve showed no signs of slowing down. After that, teams like the Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Grizzlies, Thunder, Blazers, and Mavericks are all very dangerous. It is nearly impossible to rank these teams because they are all so talented, but I am confident that the acquisition of Rondo will allow Dallas to leapfrog at least a few of these teams in terms of chances to win the West. The Mavericks have a fantastic coach, and three members of their new starting lineup have a championship ring to their resume, which could pay dividends as May and June roll around. The Mavericks are serious contenders in the West. Keep in mind, they forced the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs into a long and competitive seven game series last season.

Rajon Rondo’s nine year career in Beantown has come to an end, while his journey to success in Big D has just begun. When will Rondo fully adjust to his new Dallas teammates? How long will it take for Boston’s rebuilding plan to work? Can the Mavericks win the West? These are questions that can only be answered as time goes on, but all four are certainly riveting headlines to look out for in the NBA.


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