Wishful thinking: Why the Pistons should push to acquire Rajon Rondo
5:05 PM, Apr 19, 2013
(WXYZ) - Another summer watching the playoffs awaits the Pistons, and another offseason of "vital importance" is set to follow.
That sequence of events and notions is an annual ritual we've grown accustomed to in Detroit, with memories of success and the six straight Easten Conference Finals deep in the rear-view mirror.
Owner Tom Gores has already pulled the trigger on firing head coach Lawrence Frank, and he has boldly stated he has money, and is ready to spend.
Free agency is clearly the route most expect the Pistons to explore, but let's face it: Joe Dumars is out to prove he's the man for the job he's kept for 14 years. So, wouldn't now be the time for him to pull off a deal to catapult the Pistons back into relevancy? Wouldn't now be a fantastic opportunity for him to prove he can strike gold the way he did with Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Rip Hamilton?
Indeed -- and a trade partner may not be that hard to find.
Reloading, not rebuilding (again)
Rajon Rondo's name has been mentioned in trade rumors for years. The Boston Celtics point guard is recovering from a torn ACL, but he has undoubtedly been the glue that kept the aging Celtics together the past few seasons. Last year alone, the 27-year old's performances in the playoffs pushed Boston past its potential and into the Eastern Conference Finals.
In his seven-year career, Rondo has averaged 11.1 points and 8.3 assists per game, shooting 48% from the field. His defense is outstanding, and while his temper leads a list of shortcomings in his game, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
The celebrated Big Three in Boston is no more. Ray Allen ended that show when he fled for South Beach. Kevin Garnett is on his last legs (maybe too literally for anyone's liking), and thus, a new look will soon evolve in Boston. After all the success the team has experienced since 2009, rebuilding is hardly an option for Danny Ainge.
The Celtics can get the most bang for their buck with trading Rondo, even if you factor in the understanding he'll miss a part of the 2013-14 season recovering from his ACL injury. He's set to make $12 million next year, and just under $13 million in 2014-15.
Reports flew around the league at deadline time that Ainge was shopping him for names like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, but a deal was never struck. Say Ainge can't land a player of equal All-Star caliber in return for Rondo. In that case, the Pistons boast a wealth of options that could certainly entice the Celtics.
Satisfying both sides
Brandon Knight is only 20 years old, but Dumars appeared to pull the point guard's confidence from underneath of him this year with the acquisition of Jose Calderon. He has the talent to play in the NBA, but has struggled at times to hold his own at the point. Yet on a team that lacked any true consistency, perhaps the Celtics could fall in love with Knight's upside, and cheaper price tag, as he's still playing under the terms of his rookie deal. (Knight is owed $2.9 million next season, $3.7 million in 2014-15, and $5 million in 2015-16.)
Dumars could play the 'change in scenery' card with Knight, and add in either Charlie Villanueva's expiring $8.5 million salary or Rodney Stuckey's $8.5 million cap hit. The deal would give Boston a point guard who could play out the remaining three years of his contract as a starter, and the combination of Knight and an expiring deal would give the Celtics cap space to make moves in 2014.
That's still not going to be enough in return for an All-Star point guard. Fine. Swap picks in the 2013 Draft. The Pistons lottery pick is a much higher value piece in the basketball world, and thus, Dumars may be weary of parting with the pick. But with a class widely regarded as weaker than most, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the lottery that will give the Pistons more return than Rondo.
What adding Rondo would do for Detroit
The acquisition of Rondo wouldn't be easy, and even if Dumars and company could pull it off, it poses its fair share of risks. Rondo is young, but he is coming off a major injury. He's also under contract for only two more seasons.
Looking at those two years, what could follow might (might) [ might] turn the tide for the franchise.
Combining young, developing into legitimate big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe with Rondo puts the Pistons one piece away from becoming a playoff team. The fiery seven-year veteran would also bring an immediate outside awareness to a team quietly scraping the bottom of the NBA's attention span for the past five years. Free agents would (maybe) take a harder look at the Pistons, and his defense would (surely) immediately pay dividends by stirring others to perform.
The fit seems to be just right -- besides forcing Rondo to leave a contender for a team on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
Mo' money, no problem
We've seen the Pistons approach of throwing money at the biggest names left out there before.
2009, the Pistons filled their cap space with big contracts for Villanueva and Ben Gordon. They were supposed to be the pieces to ensure a reloading phase in Auburn Hills, not a rebuidling one.
We saw how that worked out.
Spending just to spend hasn't worked out for the Pistons in the Dumars era. He became the League's Executive of the Year ten years ago by wheeling and dealing to find the perfect pieces. The talk of Rondo to Detroit is pure speculation, but it certainly would be a grand return to what got Dumars and the Pistons to the top of the heap.
Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli .