How does Rajon Rondo fit with the Dallas Mavericks?

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Nov 23, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) controls the ball during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Nov 23, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) controls the ball during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

The first big NBA trade of the season is upon us. As reported by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Dallas Mavericks have obtained point guard Rajon Rondo and rookie forward Dwight Powell from the Boston Celtics in exchange for big man Brandan Wright, forward Jae Crowder, point guard Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick, and a future second-round pick. It's a deal with many repercussions — for the West's playoff picture, the futures of several players who have thrived in Dallas, the growing gap between the two conferences, and a player who can be one of the best point guards in the NBA when in the right situation.

Let's get the Celtics' portion of the deal out of the way first, because it's the easiest to analyze. A quick glance at the deal might indicate that the Celtics didn't receive value for their ostensible franchise player, but he's a four-time All-Star in reputation more than effect, at least on a rebuilding team several years away from contention. After a torn ACL, a broken hand, and middling performances in recoveries from both, Rondo doesn't have the value he did in the immediate aftermath of the Celtics' playoff runs. He's also an unrestricted free agent after this season, which means his team-friendly deal is essentially a non-factor. Boston is also a team that doesn't have to assess the impact of every asset in every trade — they are trying to maximize options, not assemble a winner from spare parts.

While that analysis might paint Rondo as past his prime, the Mavs should feel extremely happy to have added a player of his quality. At his best, Rondo is a tremendous defender at the point of attack, a mad-genius facilitator, and a triple-double machine. He also happens to join the best offense in the NBA (top in points per possession, points per game, and shooting percentage), a squad with plenty of scorers who should minimize the impact of his bizarre status as a point guard who can't shoot at all. It's easy to imagine Rondo picking up a 12-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in a big playoff game for this unit, perhaps with an assist on a Dirk Nowitzki game-winner to boot.

Yet there's reason to worry about Rondo's fit, because even a sizable improvement on his performance so far this season wouldn't push him up to his past levels. Rondo has never been a good outside shooter, but his career shooting percentages are impressive, with five seasons at 47 percent from the field or better. But the last two seasons have been downright horrendous — both at 40 percent — with a true-shooting percentage of 42.2 percent, the worst of his career by a wide margin. Rondo has always been a weird player who doesn't abide by common positional standards, but he has to serve as some kind of scoring threat, however atypical, for his passing ability to reach its peak.

Plus, it's not as if Rondo is entering a situation in desperate need of his facilitating talents. The Mavericks have thrived with Monta Ellis serving as a ball-dominating guard (particularly late in games) with versatile players like Chandler Parsons, screeners like Tyson Chandler (and the departed Wright), and the sui generis Dirk Nowitzki forming a fantastic offensive unit with many options. Unfortunately, Rondo is another player that needs the ball to thrive, which calls into question exactly how he and Ellis will work together. The Mavericks were not quite in need of even more offensive options. Anyone who watched last spring's first-round series against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs saw a team that could not be stopped in any one way.

On the other hand, finding reasons that this deal will go wrong would seem to give the Mavericks too little credit. The most obvious factor in their favor is that Rick Carlisle, his staff, and these players built this wonderful offensive machine in the first place, which bodes well for their ability to work other players into the mix and reform the attack to fit everyone's strengths. Stressing about Ellis's ability to play with another ball-dominating guard is also questionable — he thrived in his first years with the Golden State Warriors next to a fully-bearded Baron Davis and did just fine on offense as Stephen Curry came into his own several years ago. If Dallas already had plenty of options, then they now have the potential to become an offensive juggernaut, the sort of team that causes lovers of aesthetics and numbers alike to join hands and sing tributes in a state of euphoria.

It's also true that Rondo gives the Mavericks something they didn't have before — a potential elite defender on the perimeter. In fact, this is where the pairing with Ellis becomes a clear improvement. Monta has always struggled to defend superior offensive players, but Rondo can guard the West's top guards — James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, et al. — better than most while allowing his backcourt mate to focus on his offense. Even if the Mavs' offense gets worse, they will still have a top outfit in that area while vastly improving their defense. Their biggest worry in this deal might be finding someone who can replace the production of Wright, a very effective reserve who helps considerably when Chandler needs rest.

Rondo is not a normal player by any means, so it can be difficult to project his role with a new team with especially high confidence. Yet he always injects his team with new possibilities, whether via his inversion of the court on offense, his versatility as a defender, or whichever extraterrestrial properties he imparts to his teammates by continued exposure to his existence. He is forever an enigma, but always a potential difference maker. The Mavericks clearly weren't content with being a fringe contender in the loaded West — they want to be a favorite. Rondo provides the best value of any player they could have added to get them to that level.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!