There was a report earlier from ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan, in which she noted that Rajon Rondo had informed the Celtics that he wanted out of Boston. This conflicted with previous reports that Rondo was content in Boston and that the Celtics were looking to hold onto their point guard at least up until next season’s trading deadline. But if the report from MacMullan is correct, then Celtics GM Danny Ainge may be forced to deal his still-recovering star player, or at the very least, much sooner than he would prefer to.
Rondo is set to make roughly $12.9MM next season, which will be difficult for teams to salary match and provide Boston with players they will agree to take on. Ainge will prioritize cap flexibility, draft picks, and younger players in any deal for Rondo. This means that any team pitching an offer will need to have expiring contracts, first-rounders, and younger players that fit in with the franchise’s new culture, in order to have a shot at nabbing Rondo.
If Rondo is traded, then where might he be headed? The Kings appeared to be the frontrunners to match up as a trade partner with Boston. Sacramento has previously expressed interest in acquiring the 28 year-old guard, who has career averages of 11.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 8.4 APG, and 1.9 SPG. The Kings have a number of intriguing pieces to offer in some combination of Ben McLemore, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, and draft picks. But the main hold-up would be that Rondo has already said that he would not re-sign with Sacramento when he hits free agency. The Kings were willing to trade for Kevin Love after he made a similar decree, so it’s possible they would make the same concession in dealing for Rondo.
The Rockets would be another possibility, MacMullan noted, though after dealing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, and losing Chandler Parsons to the Mavs in free agency, Houston has less flexibility or pieces that could have brought in a third team to provide Ainge with the draft picks that he desires to stockpile. There aren’t many players that Houston would be willing to deal that Boston would want, so Houston seems like a long shot here.
Another team that has previously expressed their desire to acquire Rondo is the Knicks. They had attempted to trade for him last season, but had the same issues then that they do today–no tradeable first-rounders in the immediate future, and a lack of younger talent to deal. The Knicks could potentially offer up some combination of Amar’e Stoudemire‘s expiring contract, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jose Calderon, and Shane Larkin, and try to involve another team to get Boston a first round pick. This package isn’t as enticing for Boston as some others they could receive, though if the Knicks could somehow acquire a 2015 first rounder from another team, that, Hardaway Jr, and another player or two isn’t too bad a fallback haul for Ainge.
In the video, MacMullan also mentioned the Lakers as a possibility for Rondo. Los Angeles could offer some combination of draft picks, Julius Randle, and one or both of Jeremy Lin‘s and Steve Nash‘s expiring deals, plus the Lakers probably could be talked into taking on Gerald Wallace‘s $20MM+ that he’s owed over the next two seasons as well. This wouldn’t be a bad return for Boston, especially if they could rid their books of Wallace’s deal in the process. One major hitch would be convincing Rondo to re-sign with the Lakers, which MacMullan said he wouldn’t be willing to do.
One team that I’ll throw into the mix here is the Pistons. They already have Josh Smith on board, who is close friends with Rondo and there was talk in the past that they would be interested in being teammates one day. This might give Detroit an edge in re-signing Rondo, plus it could also keep Smith happy in the short-term. For Detroit, it would give them a star presence at the point, and if Rondo was healthy it would probably guarantee the Pistons a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
Detroit also has a very intriguing piece that might get the deal done in Greg Monroe. Monroe hasn’t signed his qualifying offer yet, which would severely limit his trade possibilities, and this means that a sign-and-trade deal is still very much on the table. Monroe has demonstrated that he has no intention of re-signing with the Pistons after next season, which means Detroit risks letting him leave for nothing in return. Monroe is exactly the type of high-ceiling younger player that Ainge would be interested in, plus the Pistons have a few other pieces they could mix-and-match along with draft picks to get this deal done. As for whether or not Ainge sees Monroe worthy of a long-term, big money commitment, that is uncertain.
There’s no guarantee that Rondo gets dealt prior to the season beginning. The trade market would have been more robust prior to the NBA Draft, when more teams could have gotten involved. But if Rondo has issued an ultimatum to the Celtics, then they may have no other alternative but to find the best offer they can. Vote below for where you think Rondo will begin the season, and then feel free to expand on your choice in the comments section.