(Along with our man Thunderstolt, we sent out an APB for The King after it was announced Sunday that Rajon Rondo was done for the season with a torn ACL. To dispute some rumblings in the New England, our man sent us a couple bullet points regarding his beloved Celtics)
The Celtics are not a better team without Rondo
The King: Incredibly, some Celtics fans have suggested that the Celtics may be better off without Rondo, citing statistics such as his +/- this year. There are a million ways to prove such thinking is ludicrous, but I’ll do it simply by providing one link:
KOBEsh: I have nothing further to add. People are stupid.
The Celtics can still make the playoffs and be a force
The King: This year’s Celtics have more individual talent than last year’s squad which made it to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The issue for the Celtics this year has been chemistry, particularly on the defensive end. Their defense has already improved significantly since Avery Bradley has returned and Courtney Lee replacing a large share of Rondo’s minutes will further improve this (Rondo is an average defender despite his reputation). If the Celtics can improve their team D, something that is not far-fetched when you take into account all of the new rotation players this year, they have the ability to turn into a top-notch defense. They weren’t an elite offensive team even with Rondo, so they certainly aren’t going to be one now. With that said, Pierce can handle the playmaking duties for the Celtics and better minutes from the underperforming Jeff Green, Jason Terry and to a lesser extent, Avery Bradley, could help mitigate some of the defensive drop off.
KOBEsh: I think you’re underrating how awful the Celtics are going to be offensively–out of the 1,613 field goals the Celtics have scored this season, Rajon Rondo is responsible for either scoring or assisting on 39% of them. Just for contrast, Chris Paul has scored or assisted on just 34% of his team’s field goals. Of course neither metric accounts for each individual’s foul shooting nor if their passes were turned into trips to the line. However, my crude metric shows just how integral Rondo is to the Celtics’ scoring “prowess”, if you even want to call it that. They currently rank 28th in offensive efficiency, and it’s hard to see that getting any better with their starting point guard off the floor. Yes, Avery Bradley, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee can pick up some of the slack, but neither man is the creative playmaker or passer that Rondo is.
The Celtics should not break up the band
(Note: Paul Pierce has two years, $32 million left on his deal, while Kevin Garnett has three years, $36 million)
The King: When you take into account performance and contracts, the Celtics have only two tradeable veterans on the team: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. However, KG has a no-trade clause and, if the Celtics decide to trade him, he will control the process. Consequently, the return in any package for him is likely to be limited.
Regarding Paul Pierce, there’s two options:
Option A – Trade Pierce for young players to build for future and give up on the next two years.
Option B – Keep Pierce, a fan favorite who will keep up interest in the team, and compete for the next two years. Use cap space to sign young players in two years (who probably won’t be as good as any of the young players they could trade for, but they shouldn’t be significantly worse).
I prefer option B over option A. My opinion might change if we could get a very good young player in return (e.g. Derrick Favors), but I just don’t see that happening. The only very good young player they might be able to get in return is Eric Bledsoe, but then they would have to flip him or Rondo in the future. More specifically, all of the trade rumors I’ve seen involving Rudy Gay (who is really just a rich man’s Jeff Green, both in skills and in terms of being overpaid) make absolutely no sense.
KOBEsh: Rajon Rondo is obviously the future of the Celtics, regardless of whether you like the man or you don’t. When he comes back from this injury, Pierce, KG, JET, et al will be another year older into their late-thirties.
Those two facts being what they are, I don’t see any reason why the Celtics should keep this core in tact. It’s become glaringly clear over the past several seasons that Rondo is a difficult player not just to play with, but to simply be around. If he’s one of or the franchise cornerstone, Boston must build around him with players that are going to best complement his personality (not an easy task) and skill set–i.e. willing spot up shooters and bigs who can box out and stay close to the rack for easy flushes. Pierce and Garnett have proven to fit those criteria, but both are going to be out of the league in three to four years. This injury is the perfect excuse for Danny Ainge to start the rebuilding effort right now. The Celtics are poor enough where a top-10 seed could still be in play, not to mention next year as well, seeing as Rondo could miss the first two months of 2013-2014. True, the return on Pierce and especially Garnett isn’t going to be great (a couple picks, a middling young player and a big expiring deal?), but Boston was going to have to rebuild two seasons from now anyway. With Rondo this was a borderline playoff team who, as Bill Simmons noted in his podcast on Monday, was playing their asses off.
Finding complementary teammates for Rondo and the way he wants to play has been an extremely difficult task. Best to start now, if indeed those pieces are available.