Apr 5, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) looks on during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Celtics 115-111. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey has already once played vulture and reeled in James Harden in a trade that shocked the NBA world. Doing the same with the Boston Celtics and Rajon Rondo would elevate Morey to the status of king predator within the world of GMs.
With so much coming out of Boston regarding Rondo and whether he’ll accept being part of the C’s rebuild, this could be yet another chance for the Rockets to pounce on a player who is likely to depart after the season.
There would of course be the chance that Rondo wouldn’t re-sign in Houston. GMs often seek reassurance from players before dealing for them in these circumstances, and that’s reasonable to expect. But if the Rockets went all-in on Rondo and formed a James Harden/Dwight Howard/Rondo trio, the Western Conference would immediately have another contending team.
For all Rondo’s deficiencies as a player, he does one thing indisputably: makes his teammates better. Rondo is one of the best pure distributors in the game, and his jump shot is nowhere near as horrendous as portrayed by some NBA know-it-alls. Moreover, with supremely talented athletes, a great jumper isn’t needed.
It just has to be good enough to keep defenses honest, and Rondo’s is. In 2011-12, he elevated his percentages from 10 to 16 feet to 45.5 percent in the postseason. He was 50.8 percent in his 37 games in 2012-13. That same season, he shot 50.8 percent from 16 feet and further within the arc. While he is not good from three-point range (25 percent), the Rockets have enough other guys to pull the trigger on triples.
Mar 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) calls a play against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Celtics 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Rondo is unlikely to ever shoot the mark needed for having a green light on threes (typically 34 percent qualifies), but his ability to break it open in transition would result in enough open looks both around the basket and on the perimeter to help the Rockets become an even more lethal team offensively.
Defensively, Rondo would be the pest he always has been. For all that has been made of Patrick Beverley’s defensive abilities, Rondo is one of the best at playing passing lanes in the Association. He led the league in thefts in 2009-10 and has averaged nearly two steals per game over his career.
His ability to command an offense has never been in question. He’s led the NBA in assists per game twice (2011-12 and 2012-13), and he’s a great rebounding point guard too. Rondo averaged over five rebounds per game three times in his career, and his knack for getting the long offensive rebounds is unparalleled. Rondo chases down a lot of loose balls to create extra possessions, too, which is another team-enhancing ability of his not found on a stat sheet.
There is one major concern with Rondo, however. He’s horrible from the line, and with Dwight Howard already taking a major stink cake in that area, the Rockets would be critically wounded when teams start fouling late in games with both on the court. As to which, if not both, Kevin McHale would choose to exclude from late game lineups is anyone’s guess.
Both are such game changers on the defensive end and so capable of making clutch plays, that it would be a big blow to have to bench either. But with Rondo having shot just 62 percent from the stripe in his career, the Rox would have a lot of trouble overcoming that issue.
Even so, take away the injuries and the free throw issues, Rondo is a great play for the Rockets. Celtics GM Danny Ainge feels as though he could keep Rondo around for a rebuild, but if frustrations build during another tough season in Beantown, Rondo could demand a trade before February.
At the very least, this is a guy that can be heavily pursued in 2015 free agency. The idea of a Rondo/Howard tandem is very appealing on both ends of the court, and he’s a great fit given Houston’s offensive schematics in the McHale era.