Well, at least we know Rudy Gay won’t be donning the Celtics green. Despite short-lived banter that the ex-Grizzlie could land in Boston, and admission from Gay that Rondo had been bugging him to join the Big Three, Rudy is now a Raptor. Now when he decides to fade during stretches of games, like he’s known to do, he’ll be wearing camouflage to help his cause.
With Rudy Gay no longer a viable option, the Celtics have to a play a different hand. They’re far from being the kind of team Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett deserve as they play the final notes of their swan songs. At 22 wins and 23 headshakes, they’re in danger of falling into the abyss that leads to early fishing come summertime. Or worse, of a sub-par Philly team―or a backcourt-deficient Detroit squad―overtaking them in the playoff stands.
Now contending with a season-ending Rajon Rondo injury, Boston will be looking to rebuild and restart.
Do they trade an All-Star point guard in Rondo―who some would argue, given this year’s numbers, hurts the Green more than he helps― or do they part with one of the other two parts of the Big Three?
Numbers wise, those in the camp that argue Boston is better without Rondo might be onto something. When Rondo is on the floor, the Celtics play at a pace of 94.9, have an offensive rating of 99.2, stop teams for a defensive rating of 100.5, log a -1.3 point differential per 100 possessions, and sport a pathetic -57 in the +/- category. Without him, their pace slows (90.6), but their offense (100.4) and defense (100.0) improve, even if just slightly. In terms of point differentials per 100 possessions (NetRg), Boston does better without the feisty guard at +0.4. They also see a major boost, although not when compared to the laurels of other teams, in the +/- differential, with a -2 whenever he’s sipping Gatorade.
Over the last four seasons, Boston has a 60.4% winning record when Rondo plays, and 62.8% when he doesn’t.
No one is questioning Rondo’s value. I’ll repeat that again for all the bloodthirsty, Internet trolls out there: no one is questioning Rondo’s value. Sports Jerks is simply approaching Boston’s current situation as what it is: a tricky situation.
Rondo’s value remains so high around the league that parting with him might not be crossing management’s minds. Even if he does rank as Boston’s second-worst player in the +/- column at -56. With Garnett having a no-trade clause on his contract, $18 million guaranteed until the end of the 2014-2015 season, and a vocal want to remain in US-MA, he’s not a bargaining chip either.
Unfortunately―all C’s fans, please clutch your pearl necklaces―that leaves Paul Pierce as the “Chosen One.” The Truth’s legacy is intimately intertwined with that of Boston’s, but his talent and manageable contract almost undoubtedly guarantee he will have a different mailing address by February 21st (the trade deadline).
Paul still has the firepower, as evidenced by his triple-double in a win over the Heat, to sway checkbooks, especially since he is guaranteed only $4 million of his salary next season. If the Grizzlies hadn’t pulled the trigger so quickly on the Toronto trade, a Pierce-Gay swap would have benefited both clubs in some shape or form (if not instantaneously).
Zach Lowe, of Grantland, dangled likely suitors for Pierce, but no option appears to be instantly feasible. The Los Angeles Clippers scenario, where L.A. deals Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, and Chauncey Billups for Pierce, would work for both teams, but wouldn’t work out without a potential third team getting involved. It also wouldn’t address concerns that Boston has no inside offensive threat other than Sullinger.
Considering what Pierce means to the franchise, and his laurels there (2nd in points, 1st in steals, 1st in 3-pointers, 1st in free-throws and 3rd in games played), it all comes down to a move that will take a crafty surgeon to pull off.