I’ve taken my time responding to Rajon Rondo’s season-ending ACL tear. I’ve digested the same stories that all of you have. They fall into two camps:
1 – Should the Celtics blow it all up, trade off the old standbys Garnett and Pierce, and build young around Rondo for the future?
2 – Should the Celtics make a playoff push with what they’ve got? Can they?
The answer to the first question isn’t easy. The trouble with breaking up the Celtics is that it requires a commitment to trading for youth, and getting up-and-comers and / or draft picks for players making Pierce and Garnett money is going to take a lot of moving pieces. Also the teams that will be interested in KG and Pierce are contenders looking for a veteran to put them over the top, not the type of team looking to move young talent or overflowing with high draft picks. Would a Garnett for Amare or Pau switch improve the Knicks or Lakers? Sure. But it doesn’t help Boston start a new team around Rajon.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s any team out there that couldn’t use Paul or Kevin. Pierce still has the one-on-one game, is a heck of a playmaking three, and defends at a high level. Garnett is still a defensive player of the year candidate who can space the floor, set great illegal screens, and make plays on the move. BUT they are both OLD, so they should be playing good ball in short minutes, and only teams already in contention would want them. So… three or four team deals seem to be necessary.
The second question is stupid. If they don’t blow the team up, of course they should compete as hard as they can. Is falling into the bottom of the draft really helpful enough to throw away a season? No. No, it isn’t. And you never should have asked in the first place. Can the Celtics make the playoffs? Sure. They currently have a lead on the Sixers for the 8th seed and Phili’s not exactly lighting the world on fire.
Here’s the weird thing: Rondo’s not helping the C’s win. He’s one of 25 players in the league with over 1300 minutes so far this season with a negative Plus / Minus. Both Pierce and Garnett have better Win Share / Minute stats for the season. His efficiency is overblown. While he shoots a good FG%, when you factor three pointers and free throws, his True Shooting percentage is below league average (only by 1% but still, you’d think a guy scoring 14 a game could do it efficiently), and he averaged almost 4 turnovers per game. Now I’m not saying Rondo isn’t great. He is. All the tremendous things he does outweight his weaknesses by a lot. I’m just saying this is not like Magic Johnson missing a season, and that’s what the pundits are making out.
The problem the Celtics have is not that they are losing the only star on the team or their savior or the guy who organizes the offense and makes the game easier for everyone. The problem is that they are losing the only All-Star on the team under 35 year of age. Asking KG and Pierce to consistently play big minutes and carry the team will either lead to a lot of schedule losses or an injury. So they need Green, Terry, Sullinger, Lee, Bass, and Bradley to step up and play ball, exactly like they needed them to step up while Rondo was around. Nothing has really changed. Players will have to take responsibility like the Bulls have. I think they can do it, and I hope they try.