Rajon Rondo, you say?


Because I’m less and less connected to the NBA sports writing game, I have often used my recent columns to scold people rather than to make interesting points. People hate it, and me. And this is another opportunity!

I can’t believe the people who are objecting to the Rondo trade on talent grounds. I absolutely support people who are objecting to the trade on “I love Brandan Wright” grounds.  Sometimes we forget sports serve no real purpose, so wanting to watch Wright instead of Rondo is perfectly fine.

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But what I can’t stand is that there are people who are sure about how this trade is going to impact the Mavericks. Humanity, and my dog Pancake, often strike me as the two things completely unable to learn from experience. The point of the fact that the Monta Ellis trade was nearly universally derided and has turned out wonderfully isn’t that all high stakes trades turn out wonderfully.

It’s that, jesus, stop being so certain about stuff that’s impossible to guess about.

What seems to me to be the major fact of the Rajon Rondo trade is that we don’t know how good Rajon Rondo is any more.  He’s only 28 years old, but he hasn’t been the same since his ACL injury in early 2013.  But this actually could be because of reasons unrelated to the injury. On Jan 25, 2013, the day of his injury, Kevin Garnett went for 24-10, and Paul Pierce had 12-6-4. Rondo himself went for 16-10-11 on 8-18 shooting.

When he next played a game, the Cs starting 5 was Rondo-Bradley-Green-Sullinger-Humphries. Phil Pressey played 23 minutes, going 1-7. And it’s not really true that he “hasn’t been the same since,” exactly. He played sparingly throughout that season, but he had some very solid stretches. He’s had a REALLY bad 2014-2015, and in the last month reached some serious lows. But guys like Rondo don’t play their best for teams that aren’t really trying to win and even then in the last 9 games he’s had totals of 15, 19, 16, 11, 1, and 10 assists and 10, 13, and 12 rebounds. The skills, besides scoring are still there. But the scoring is a big, big concern.

The best case Rondo scenario is very, very good. Rondo is a guy who’s had 3+ defensive win shares 5 times in his career, most recently 2011-2012 and if he can find some of that ability again, between Chandler and Rondo the Mavs could suddenly have a league average defense. He can guard 2s, which allows Monta to switch. He can rebound. And though people have moaned about the difference between getting assists and distributing, this isn’t like Jose Calderon. Rondo is, or at least was, a passing genius. At the time of his injury in 2013, he was averaging 24.3 points per game from his assists, which was, at the time, 3 more than the 2nd best, Chris Paul.

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The worst case scenario is that Rondo really is as bad an offensive player as he’s seemed this year and that his defense is no longer elite or even all that good. And it’s more than that. Monta and Parsons have seemed to make huge strides these last couple of weeks. Is that because they’ve felt free to follow their instincts? Will a ball-dominating point guard take that away from them? Is Greg Smith the new back up C?

But, first, don’t let anybody tell you that they know which one is going to happen. No one knows. There is no way to know. And yes, that’s clear from the Monta Ellis story.

And second, if the Mavs didn’t agree to make this trade they would have been making a terrible mistake. I love Brandan Wright. The second unit is going to have a lot of trouble scoring now, and they actually got worse rather than better at outside shooting, one of their big issues this season. But without a better defense, and without a better point guard, this team wasn’t going anywhere.

They may still not go anywhere. But then again, they may have gotten exactly what they need.