Monday, March 12, 2012

The Silly Season - Part Two - Rajon Rondo by Brian Geltzeiler

The Silly Season- Part Two - by Brian Geltzeiler

Trade or not to trade Rajon Rondo

It’s that time of year again.  The trade deadline is right around the corner.  Rumors are flying.  GMs and personnel executives are lying through their teeth and asking far too much from their peers for players who are more times than not overpaid and not worth it.  Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon refers to Christmas as the Silly Season right here, .  In the NBA, this period of time is as silly as any.  Let’s just hope this group of NBA personnel executives don’t pull someone off a ledge with them like Mel does in Lethal Weapon.  

This column is devoted to the Silly Season.  We’re loaded with rumors of star players being available.  In this hectic compressed season, the schedule is the great equalizer, which makes the possibility of random outcomes at playoff time more likely.  Players could very well be flying around the league like bullets in the Wild West.  Here are some thoughts on some of the biggest names that could move as we head into The Silly Season.  

There have been rumors since the lockout was settled that Celtics GM Danny Ainge has been shopping Rajon Rondo like its Black Friday.  Although, I understand the rationale of marketing your most valuable player as you’re about to enter into a rebuilding effort, between Rondo’s age, ability, and contract, trading him is absolutely absurd.   He’s 26 years old, is signed for 3 more years after this one at $11 million a year, which is the same per annum as the Clippers are paying DeAndre Jordan to lend some perspective plus Rondo is one of the top 5 point guards in the league.  Any rebuilding effort should be centered around Rondo, but this is Danny Ainge who traded away his starting center last season, who was his rim protector, his best screener, and a crucial chemistry guy in the name of hoping that a 360 lb 39 year old Shaquille O’Neal would be healthy enough to man the middle.  Ainge didn’t keep a championship window open.  He closed it on his fans’ fingers.  As much as Ainge denies shopping Rondo, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  

So just like in the Perkins trade last year, someone is going to be the beneficiary of Ainge’s ongoing desperation to reinvent the wheel.  There’s been talk of the Lakers offering Gasol for Rondo, but if Danny truly wants to rebuild, then 31 year old Gasol is not for him.  There was also talk that Ainge offered Rondo to Golden State for a package led by Stephen Curry and was rejected.  I’m not sure who needs to have their head examined more, Ainge or Golden State GM Larry Riley.  Stephen Curry has spent the majority of this season sitting on the bench in street clothes.  He has an ankle that is made out of corrugated cardboard.  He has the antithesis of an NBA body at 6’3” 170 lbs.  He can’t guard anyone and he would probably get pushed around playing in the WNBA.  Nonetheless, Ainge would offer a stud like Rondo for him and Riley won’t trade him.  Like Forrest Gump’s mama always said, stupid is as stupid does.  

In my humble opinion, there are two teams who give themselves a chance at a title if they step up and make the right deal for Rondo.  The first team, (who I know is interested) is the Indiana Pacers.  The Pacers’ front office has done a tremendous job of building a young team with 7 starting quality players.  Being patient with Roy Hibbert has paid dividends.  Paul George was an excellent draft pick.  The trade for Darren Collison, for Troy Murphy, was a stroke of genius.  Since the trade, Murphy’s play on the court looks like he’s waiting to be embalmed.  I liked trading a first round draft pick for George Hill and I really liked the free agency signing of David West even though it hasn’t totally panned out yet.  If they could add a facilitator, defender, and competitor like Rondo to this group, they become downright scary.

 It’s very possible they could get a deal done with Boston for Collison, Tyler Hansbrough and two first round picks.  This puts Rondo in a prototypical starting lineup with George, West, Danny Granger, and Hibbert.  They can play fast and they can play a grind it out half court game.  They have three plus defenders in Rondo, George and Hibbert.  They can protect the rim and aggressively defend the perimeter.  They may be a tad short on outside shooting, but between Granger, West, and George, they have plenty of scoring.  If I’m the Miami Heat, the Pacers with Rondo are my worst playoff nightmare, even worse than the Bulls.  

The second team that should be taking a shot at Rondo is the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Now your first thought may be, don’t they already have an All Star point guard in Russell Westbrook?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Westbrook does play point guard for the Thunder.  He is an excellent basketball player and a freakishly phenomenal athlete, however, he’s not a natural point guard.  The fact that Westbrook is as effective as he is at the point is a testament to his incredible ability.  Putting the ball in his hands to initiate offense and asking him to make sure Kevin Durant gets enough quality looks is an unfair burden on a player with his ability to run the floor, attack the rim, and score off the dribble from a wing.  Heck, I’m ready to buy the domain name,  

The one fundamental problem with this plan is Westbrook.  He likes being a point guard and may be very unhappy if he’s moved from there.  However, considering that the Thunder just extended his contract for 5 years at $80 million, I’m figuring they have plenty of authority to dictate to Russ where he plays and who he plays with.  The other factor this helps with is possibly improving the on court relationship between Westbrook and Durant.  If someone else has the responsibility to involve Durant instead of Westbrook, kind of an on court buffer, you might see some of the tension ease between the two.  Rondo is the perfect person for that role.  He’ll keep them both flush with shots and won’t take one shred of garbage from either of them.  Plus, Rondo gets reunited with his bodyguard, caddie, and best friend, the aforementioned Kendrick Perkins.  

So, how do the Thunder get Rondo?  I think they would have a realistic chance by offering James Harden and Serge Ibaka.  It may seem like a high price up front, but there’s a method to my madness.  When Harden and Ibaka go to restricted free agency at the end of next year, they both will command big contracts with per annum numbers pushing 8 figures.  With Westbrook’s extension kicking it, the Thunder won’t have room for both.  Ultimately, they will have to say goodbye to one of them.  Putting them both in a trade for Rondo, with Nazr Mohammed’s expiring deal, maximizes their value.  As they run towards the end of their current rookie contracts, the fact that the Thunder can’t keep them both will reduce the value of the one they shop.  Rondo would be a nice haul for those two and would give the Thunder a better chance than they have now to bring home the hardware.  The odds of this are happening are quite slim considering that the Thunder were sure to plant a story with local media that they flatly rejected an offer of Harden and Ibaka for Dwight Howard.  Although with the difference in contract status in Howard and Rondo, stranger things have happened.


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