Currently the Boston Celtics are on a 4 game losing streak. It’s not just the losing, it’s how we’re losing.
There are so many different opinions on why we are struggling. Here are some of the excuses I have heard so far: Jason Collins starting, Doc River’s rotations, lack of rebounding, lack of a defensive back-up behind KG, decline in our older players, players not knowing their roles, and the list goes on. I agree that it is a mixture of the pre-mentioned issues, but there is something deeper happening.
Back in the summer of 2007, Danny Ainge pulled off the impossible, he managed to avoid trading Paul Pierce, he turned Jeff Green into Ray Allen, and he flipped a plethora of young talent for Kevin Garnett. He assembled this team with the intention of competing for the NBA title for the next 2-3 years. That was to be our window of opportunity, a chance to have Paul Pierce’s name ascend to the lofty heights of other Celtics legends. After all, all of our Celtics legends are champions as well. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins were the young holdovers from the 2006/07 team, and Danny Ainge even went as far as to keep Rondo off limits in trades, instead he offered up Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair. The keys to the ignition had been turned over to a 21 year old rookie.
Over time, athleticism diminishes, injuries occur, and relationships end. Sadly, we have seen Paul Pierce decline due to age, Kevin Garnett has never been the same after his knee injury, and Ray Allen has departed. All of a sudden we were left wondering where the next Celtics superstar would come from. We all knew we had something special in Rajon Rondo, who was an Energizer bunny on our championship team, and he became the conductor of our smooth offense. We all anointed Rondo as the next Celtics great, and the new leader of the team, all seemed great.
Rondo’s leadership, and his ascent to super-stardom has failed to materialize. Danny Ainge went as far to build this year’s team around Rondo, a small-ball, run & gun type of team, but all we have seen is ill-fitting pieces. We dearly need wholesale changes. We lack rebounding (we are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league), and we have poor floor-spacing. Kevin Garnett cannot be traded, he has a no trade clause. The general consensus is that he would retire before being traded. Paul Pierce is a Celtic for life, and he deserves to retire as a Celtic. Trading Pierce wouldn’t help fill our holes, because he just isn’t worth much at this stage of his career. That leaves us with young players as trade assets, or Rajon Rondo…..
Rondo is no stranger to trade rumors. Every. Single. Season. Rondo is mentioned as a trade candidate. This season is no different. He is one of the game’s truly polarizing players. Some general managers would say he is the best point guard in the league, while others would be quick to point out all the flaws to his game. One thing we should all be able to agree on is that Rondo excels when the tempo picks up.
When the Celtics score over 100 points, our record is 8-3. Rondo’s averages in those games: 15.82 ppg, 14.36 apg, 5.18 rpg, 2.09 spg, 3.91 topg, 54% FG%, 12% 3PT%, 67% FT%. When the Celtics fail to reach 100 points, we are 5-10. Rondo’s averages in those games: 11.13 ppg, 9.60 apg, 5.00 rpg, 1.87 spg, 3.47 topg, 46% FG%, 43% 3PT%, 60% FT%. We just don’t have the personnel to play this type of fast break game. We are an older team that needs to run half court sets, and to run half court sets well, a basketball team needs balanced floor spacing.
There are some teams that would provide interesting fits for Rondo’s game, namely Atlanta and Toronto. Atlanta doesn’t have the necessary pieces to entice Boston, but Toronto has some interesting players that would fit right in. Kyle Lowry is not the play-maker that Rondo is, but he is a significant defensive upgrade, and is a above average threat from the perimeter. Lowry would solve our problem with floor spacing, while also acting as the head of the snake defensively. Lowry and Rondo’s salaries do not match up, and there is a gap in talent (Rondo is the greater talent). For this reason, I can see the Raptors willingly including Amir Johnson and a draft pick. Johnson provides defense, rebounding, toughness, and a strong presence behind Garnett. Have a look at the trade here: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=alw8mfh
To the naysayers:
- Lowry has had a higher per the last two seasons
- Lowry was playing ELITE level defense just two seasons ago, Avery Bradley like defense.
- Lowry is Rondo’s equal as a rebounder
- TS% is the greatest indicator of a players ability to shoot, and to add to a team offensively. Rondo’s best season is only slightly better than Lowry’s worst season. Lowry’s career average is .546% to Rondo’s .515% That’s quite a disparity when you include Lowry’s improved 3 point shooting from the last 3 seasons.
- Pierce drives, meets two defenders in the lane, he spots his point guard open for 3 to win the game. Rondo shoots 25.1% from 3 (127 attempts) over the last 3 seasons. Lowry has shot 37.1% on 636 attempts over the last 3 seasons. Who would you rather take that shot?
- Lowry is 32 days younger than Rondo, and has shown more improvement in his overall game since being drafted. That’s why you see Lowry’s PER climb from the 14-15 range to it’s current lofty heights. Rondo has regressed from a few seasons ago when he was a two-way terror. I’d be more comfortable with Lowry long-term as I see him aging nicely like Billups, while Rondo may make a sharp decline should his athleticism begin to wane.
No, I don’t see this trade happening. Danny Ainge is too stubborn to deal Rondo mid-season. However, Lowry would provide the defense, shooting and toughness we need at point guard, while Amir Johnson would help protect the paint, and give the Celtics more second chance opportunities on offense. It would be sad to say goodbye to Rondo, but the time is right.
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