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To Deal or Not to Deal - That is the Celtics’ Biggest Question: Fan’s Take
As the Boston Celtics prepare for an accelerated and abbreviated 2011-12 season, team president Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers must compile and prepare the team for the rigors of the up-coming schedule. With several roster spots to fill, Ainge will be challenged to find the right mix of players to compliment his "core four" of Paul Pierce(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes), Ray Allen(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes).
Complicating matters, the team is considering shaking up the team's chemistry in an effort to not only contend this season, but to transition the current era's big three to a new generation of Celtics basketball.
The NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets are entertaining offers for all-star point guard Chris Paul(notes). Among the teams vying for Paul's services is the aforementioned Celtics who are open to including their own all-star point guard (Rondo) in exchange.
There are many ways to look at a potential trade; with many benefits and consequences. Those that are opposed to trading Rondo will certainly cite Rondo's floor generalship and his defensive prowess; the later of which cannot be said for Paul. In addition, the torn miniscus that was operated on during the 2009-10 season, limiting him to just 45 games. While Rondo had his own injury issue to deal with last season (dislocated elbow), a knee injury is something that should give the team reason to think more carefully about the desicion; and Paul's long-term viability
Proponents of a deal can look to improving the Celtic's offensive potency and their ability to present an attractive option for pending free-agent Dwight Howard(notes) to consider when he looks for his destination next summer.
I will officially go on the record to state that, for the right price the Celtics would be wise to pull the trigger on a Rondo-for-Paul deal. When I look back to last season's late season struggles and eventual playoff failing, it was the ineffective Celtic offense that contributed to their demise.
After the trade of close friend Kendrick Perkins(notes), Rondo went into an inexplicable slump; where his scoring and assist totals fell off precipitously. While he was able to return to form in the playoffs, his absence in February and March highlighted how limited the Celtics offense can be. With the primary scoring responsibility falling on the shoulders of the mid-30s trio of Pierce, Garnett and Allen, there were many nights that saw the team's offensive flow grind to a halt.
Lack of shooting accuracy is Rondo's primary deficiency; which resulted in opposing team defenses dropping back, daring him to shoot. With a passer's mentality, the young point guard tried to force his offensive game; resulting in an increase in turnovers.
Chris Paul is an elite offensive point guard who can dominate a game with the ball in his hands; while also possessing a knack for getting open in motion for perimeter shots. His career averages of 18.7 points and 85 percent free throws percentage are strong advantages, while also dishing out close to ten assists per game. To Paul's detriment is his primary scorer responsibilities have resulted in a slightly higher assist-to-turnover ratio (3.9) than Rondo (3.3).
The team must look to lengthen their run of contention. Keeping the team as it's currently constituted is short-sighted and will result in the team gradually declining; and thusly less attractive as a free-agent destination. The challenge in pulling off a blockbuster trade as the one under discussion is the quantity and quality of talent that the team must surrender. In order to make the trade work under the current NBA salary cap rules, the Celtics will either have to add more players into the equation or find a third team to add matching salaries.
The Celtics are currently weighing the option of adding restricted free-agent forward Jeff Green(notes) (who was acquired in the Kendrick Perkins trade last season). The inclusion of Green will eliminate another young talented player for the Celtics who has some familiarity with the Boston offensive and defensive systems. While the trade would result in a elite point guard for the present and the future, making a trade at the expense of two key rotation players; one of whom is responsible for anchoring the reserves could put additional burden on Pierce and Garnett to log more minutes than desirable.
Danny Ainge was on hand as a player in the 1980s and witnessed the end of the former big three era; as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were vanquished by father time and taking the team into a lengthy playoff drought. Now responsible with directing the franchise, Ainge is again witness to the eventual end of the current Celtics big three era. Unlike his previous experience, Ainge has the opportunity to dictate the constitution of this season's team and that of subsequent seasons.
The Celtics would be wise to try to make this deal happen; so long as it does not completely decimate the available talent and future draft picks at their disposal. As a fan of the Celtics my entire life, I would definitely not want to relive the experiences in the 15 years prior to Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett's arrival. Extending the competitive window for this franchise with an eye on rebuilding a championship team gives me great optimism for the franchise's future.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
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