Trade Rajon Rondo? Evaluating the Boston Celtics "Blow It Up" Debate

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIJune 1, 2013

Blow it up.

That is the sentiment of some Celtics fans for what should be done to the team now that Boston’s championship window with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is apparently closed.

The Big Three era is over. It’s time to tank and begin anew.

Buy out Pierce. Trade Garnett or let him retire.

And detonation isn’t complete until Rajon Rondo is traded.

Trading the team’s best player arguably would be the toughest decision for president of basketball operation Danny Ainge to make.  But it would be in the best interest of the franchise to eventually return the Celtics back to a championship-caliber team. Right?

Looking back on recent blockbuster trades that exchanged star players for draft picks and young talent are yet to fully develop. But the direction these franchises are heading in is coming into focus.

During the 2010-11 season, the Utah Jazz traded point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets. For the then two-time All Star the Jazz received New Jersey’s 2011 first round pick and Golden State’s  partially protected first round pick beginning in 2012.

With the New Jersey first round pick, the Jazz selected center Enes Kanter third overall. The 2012 Warriors selection was top-seven protected in 2012 and 2013. Golden State kept the 2012 pick and selected Harrison Barnes seventh overall. The 2013 selection is 21st overall, so the pick belongs to Utah.

Along with the draft picks Utah received point guard Devin Harris and forward Derrick Favors.

Favors has been stuck behind forward Paul Milsap and started just 21 games for the Jazz. Favor’s averages aren’t impressive, but Favors’ statistics adjusted per 36 minutes indicate he would average a double-double (14.7 points, 10.5 rebounds with Utah) with starter’s minutes.

Kanter shows similar promise based on his adjusted per 36 minutes average – 14.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in two years. Harris played for Atlanta in 2012-13.

Add the 2013 21st pick overall and the Jazz have two promising young players to build around and possibly a young role player to support Favors and Kanter.

Utah hopes the potential quickly becomes production as the Jazz missed the playoffs two of the last three years, with the 2012 playoff appearance resulting in a first round exit. Keep in mind with Williams the Jazz reached the playoffs four straight years with a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2007 and twice advanced to the second round.

This is a very critical offseason for Utah as their top two scorers and rebounders, center Al Jefferson and Milsap, are free agents and just eight players are under contract (Utah has a 2013-14 early termination option for forward Marvin Williams’ contract). The Jazz must decide which veterans to re-sign or if Kanter and Favors are ready to start. If Utah goes with the latter, how far can Kanter and Favors carry the Jazz?

Another headline-making point guard trade was when New Orleans sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers. For Paul and two future second round picks, New Orleans received Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick guard Eric Gordon center Chris Kaman and forward Al-Farouq Aminu. With the draft pick the Hornets selected Austin Rivers 10th overall.

Gordon’s season was reduced to 42 games (40 starts) due to injuries, though he averaged 17 points for the Hornets. But it is rumored that Gordon is unhappy in New Orleans and wants out. His name is associated with trade rumors this offseason.

 The other players involved in the trade haven’t fared as well for the erstwhile Hornets. Aminu is scuffling along in his second season. He’s a solid rebounder, but he’s shooting poorly. Rivers struggled throughout his rookie year, and his season was cut short after he broke his hand in March. Rivers should be healthy for training camp. Kaman played for Dallas last year.

There are slight reasons for optimism in New Orleans. They won six more games in 2012-13 than they did last year. 2012 first pick overall forward Anthony Davis showed encouraging signs in his rookie season and is expected to take a leap forward in his development in his sophomore season.

But New Orleans still looks to be a long way from being a playoff regular like they were with Paul, who guided the Hornets to three appearances in four years between 2007-08 and 2010-11.


The most optimistic comparison would be the Carmelo Anthony trade. In that deal the Denver Nuggets received from the New York Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari point guard Raymond Felton forward  Wilson Chandler the Knicks’ 2014 first round pick two second round picks acquired from Golden State and $3 million.

One second round pick was used in 2012 to select Quincy Miller 38th overall. The other second round pick is the 51st selection in the 2013 draft. It was traded to the Orlando Magic as part of the Dwight Howard trade.

Gallinari and Chandler were valuable contributors the moment they arrived in the Mile High City. Gallinari started for the Nuggets basically since day one and averaged 15.2 points for Denver. Chandler suffered through injuries the past two seasons but contributed 11.6 points, mostly from off the bench. Felton never started for the Nuggets in 21 games and was traded to the Portland Trailblazers in 2011.

Some argue that the Nuggets are better without Anthony. They reached the playoffs last year and finished third in the Western Conference in 2012-13. Unfortunately Gallinari tore his ACL in April. The loss likely contributed to Denver being upset by Golden State in the first round of the 2013 Western Conference playoffs.

The Nuggets never won 57 games with Anthony on the team. And against the best in the West, Denver was 2-2 versus San Antonio and 3-1 against Oklahoma City during the regular season.

But it will take more than two first round exits to validate the better without Anthony claim since Denver reached the playoffs every year with Anthony, including an appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2009.

These above situations are obviously very different from Boston’s. Williams was unhappy in Utah just before the trade. Paul and Anthony wanted out of their situations. For Rondo, there has been zero indication that he is unhappy or wants out of Boston. Also Rondo’s stock is down as the rest of the league waits to see if he will be the same player after surgery to repair a partially torn ACL.

A healthy Rondo might not draw as much in a trade as the other stars. Rondo is worth less now with his return to his former self uncertain.

Three teams. One is at a crossroads. Another is still striving for relevancy. The third is possibly at the threshold of being one of the league’s best teams.

Blow up the Celtics by trading Rondo?

You have the finger on the button. What would you do?

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