As we begin our day looking at the Western Conference and the Southwest division specifically, the one question on everyone’s mind is “How does the Rajon Rondo trade impact the Houston Rockets?”
Details of the Trade:
Talk of Boston trading Rajon Rondo is nothing new. As three players comprising the “Big-4” Championship Team left Boston speculation would build to a crescendo surrounding Rondo’s impending exit. But, year after year the trade deadline would come and go with Rondo still sporting the Celtic green. This year felt different though since it was the final of Rondo’s contract, so Boston would either need to trade him by the deadline or risk losing the talented point guard with no return.
The tell-tale sign Boston intended to act upon a trade was further cemented when they selected Marcus Smart in this summer’s draft. Smart felt like a prototypical Celtic point guard before he even donned the jersey, so the speculation began again. This time the talk wasn’t would Boston trade Rondo, but when would they trade him and where would he land.
That answer came Thursday as news broke the Dallas Mavericks had completed a trade with Boston for Rondo and Canadian Dwight Powell in exchange for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson as well as the Mavericks first and second round draft picks. With these picks sweetening the pot, Ainge now owns a minimum of nine first-round picks and as many as 10 second-round picks over the next four years. Thinking back to the year Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce and Rondo in Boston it certainly positions them well to take those picks and receive immediate gratification in the form of a proven athlete(s) who could join their young talents and allow them to become instant Eastern Conference contenders.
Comparing Rondo versus Nelson:
Jameer Nelson was registering career lows in several categories this season:
- points: 7.3 per game
- 4.1 assists per game (lowest since rookie season)
- 0.3 free throw attempts
- 37.4% FG percent
- 25.4 minutes (lowest since rookie season)
- 7.1 field goal attempts and 2.7 field goal makes are both lowest of his career
- 8.3 points per game (lowest since rookie season)
- 1.6 free throw attempts and 0.5 free throw makes and 33.3% are all career lows
- The main areas Rondo brings improvements over Nelson are his 10.8 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
How Rondo fits with Dallas:
Though there are already those hypothesizing this move makes Dallas an immediate championship contender we need to consider how deep the Western Conference is and whether this move does in fact improve Dallas. In terms of the point guard position obviously certain areas of Rondo’s game are improvements over Nelson such as his passing (assists), rebounding and his defensive abilities.
The obvious players who benefit from Rondo’s addition to the line-up are Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler who Rondo no doubt will be able to feed the ball either via pick and roll sets or in Parsons and Nowitzki’s case for outside shots.
My question is does the addition of Rondo help or hinder Monta Ellis who isn’t a player who gets his points in spot up shooting, rather he tends to create off the dribble.
The other obvious failing of Rondo is his terrible free throw shooting and very poor 3-point shooting. While Dallas does have Nowitzki, Ellis and Parsons who can hit the three, perhaps the greater concern will be late game scenarios when teams will look to foul Rondo to send the 33.3% free throw shooting point guard to the line. I expect Rick Carlisle to counter this by having Rondo be the player who in bounds the ball in late game situations removing that possibility.
Loss of Wright and Crowder will dramatically effect Dallas bench production:
The obvious player targeted by Boston via the trade was Brandan Wright who has been instrumental to the success of Dallas garnering 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and leads the league in close to 75% field goal percentage in his 27 minutes per game. Though Jae Crowder’s stats don’t jump off the page his presence on the court provides more of an intangible in terms of energy and his defensive abilities. Losing them both will mean the Mavericks lose bench production without any returning in the deal.
More specifically Dallas immediately loses 12.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and close to 2 blocks per game with Wright and Crowder exiting. Both are capable defenders as well, so Carlisle will need to find existing bench players to not only replace their production, but their energy and defense.
- tenth in scoring – 36.5 points (losing 12.4 points)
- eighteenth in rebounds: 14.2 (losing 5.3 rebounds)
- second in blocks: 2.4 (losing 1.8 blocks)
- Full team bench stat comparison via hoopstats.com
The Crazy Southwest Division:
If you have any questions regarding which division is the best in the Association, look no further than the Southwest Division. Currently every team in it would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Memphis sits atop the division with Houston second and Dallas are third in the division just one game back of the Rockets having played two additional games.
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Was Houston a Rondo Suitor?
There were reports Houston was one of the main suitors for Rondo, but were they real? The fact Rondo said the two teams he would consider re-signing with at the end of the season were Dallas and Houston leads us to believe at least there were discussions occurring. But how serious were they? Given the cat and mouse game these two franchises have played with each other that began over Houston winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes the talk may simply have been that “TALK”.
Houston had dropped out of the talks in the past hour, clearing the way for Boston to complete deal with Dallas, sources told Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 18, 2014
In trade talks, remember: Rondo essentially had veto power. No one would trade for him as rental. He had to be committed to sign extension. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 19, 2014
The question remains even though Rondo says he’s open to resigning he’ll still enter the summer as a free agent unless he commits immediately upon arrival in Dallas. Looking back at players that said they’d resign with a team it’s hard not to recall the infamous hand shake deal between Carlos Boozer and Cleveland. Boozer asked to be released from the low end ($700,000) option year of his contract after a highly productive season, promising via handshake to recommit to Cleveland. As soon as GM Jim Paxson released him from the option Boozer took off to Utah who offered $27 million above Cleveland’s deal and a price the Cavaliers couldn’t match.
So, Dallas are taking a calculated risk that Rondo will in fact resign. If Rondo and Dallas for that matter are smart they’ll establish a short window of time to analyze how successfully the team and Rondo gel. If there are any problems then either side can choose to renege on the understanding. One has to think however that Dallas believes this will work otherwise it comes at a huge price given the loss of Wright and Crowder, not to mention two draft picks.
The other factor to consider is Rondo is getting older and is more susceptible to injury having come back from a torn ACL in January 2013 and a broken bone in his hand this season.
I look forward to building something special in Dallas.
— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 19, 2014
How trade impacts Houston:
Obviously this is all conjecture and supposition at this point as Rondo has yet to play a game, but it’s worth examining closely specifically because Dallas is a Southwest Division rival. Rondo definitely will make Dallas’ starting five better, however does it hurt the Mavericks on a whole with the bench production losing a third of their scoring, close to half their rebounds and almost all of their blocks? We can’t adequately compare the two teams benches since Houston has been playing short handed for the majority of the season.
Now that Howard, Isaiah Canaan and Kostas Papanikolaou are back with rumors Terrence Jones may be returning in the coming weeks we’ll finally have an idea of what the Rockets depth truly is. Kevin McHale will have a happy choice to make upon Jones return as to who starts at the power forward position, but prior to Jones injury his stats were 14 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists 1.8 blocks and a steal per his 29 minutes a game. Canaan and Papanikolaou prior to their injuries combined to bring 15.5-points, 6-rebounds, 4.7-assists, 1.8-steals and between the 3-players close to four additional 3-pointers per game.
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Moving forward we’ll see how long it takes for Rondo to gel with his new starting-5 and whether my prediction of Monta Ellis numbers being adversely affected rings true. Tell us what your thoughts are on the trade in the comments section. Do you think Dallas made the right move? Should Houston have been more active in pursuing him? We’d love to hear your take.