By Darreck Kirby
PSDC Dallas Mavericks Beat Writer
Late Thursday afternoon, the Dallas Mavericks pulled off one of the biggest trades in recent memory. Not only did the Dallas Mavericks acquire a premiere point guard in his prime, but one who has already made four All Star appearances and specializes in orchestrating offenses.
As for the cost of his acquisition, the Mavericks were most notably forced to send away fan favorite Brandan Wright, a spark plug backup center who leads the league in scoring efficiency. Other pieces of the trade included reserve forward Jae Crowder, starting point guard Jameer Nelson, and a pair of draft picks (a 1st and 2nd). Dallas also received Dwight Powell in the deal.
While losing Wright certainly hurts the Mavs’ second unit and drops one half of Dallas’ aire to the Lob City moniker, this deal was frankly a no-brainer. Just over a quarter of the way into this season it has already become apparent that the Mavs, while capable of playing with anybody, simply did not possess the necessary defensive ability to make a run. Blow out loses to Memphis, Phoenix and Golden State all spotlighted this issue, and games like San Antonio and Houston showed a lack of poise at the point guard position.
It’s worth noting that Rondo’s stock has been slowly falling over the past three-plus seasons as the guard’s personality borders between highly competitive and abrasive. He’s argued with veterans like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, butted heads with head coach Doc Rivers, and shown an utter lack of patience with Boston’s rebuilding efforts. Another cause for Rondo’s plummeting stock was a torn ACL which he returned from for the final mid-last season to average more than 11 points and 7 assists.
The biggest issue with Rondo is how he will fit into the Maverick offense. Presently, Rondo is shooting an abysmal 33 percent from the foul line on 36 attempts and a meager 25 percent from beyond the arc. That said, he’s averaging 8 points, almost 11 assists, and 7 rebounds per contest and is an instant and significant upgrade at the starting point guard position. It’s quite arguable, in fact, that Dallas may not have the best starting five in the league. Rondo brings championship experience and like Dirk has played in a pair of NBA Finals (coincidentally against the same team in both occasions as well).
While Rondo leads the league in assists, he’s typically a guard who dominates the ball – a roll Monta Ellis likewise excels at. The question, therefore, is whether or not the two players will be able to coexist with one another without taking away from the other’s strength. The worst case scenario would be that the addition of Rondo into the Mavs offense somehow acts as a wrench in what is otherwise a well-oiled machine. But if there’s one coach in the league who can figure things out, as well as deal with a somewhat zany personality, it’s Rick Carlisle.
Defensively Rondo brings a significant upgrade to the Mavs on the perimeter where Dallas has been gashed all season. The result of Dallas’ bad perimeter defense has resulted in teams shooting a league high 39 percent from beyond the arc on kick-outs. While Rondo, like Tyson, won’t be able to make up for all of Dallas’ flaws, he is an excellent defender who has made the NBA’s All Defensive team in the past. Few point guards possess his combination of length, athleticism and intelligence. As a result, he’s able to cover many shooting guards, which will allow Monta Ellis to switch onto opposing point guards and protect him against elite shooting guards.
Another perk is that Rondo is statistically the best rebounding point guard in the league, which should help Dallas’ struggling defensive rebounding woes despite Tyson Chandler’s solid numbers. He is unquestionably the second best rebounder they have. Further, according to ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon, Rondo is averaging more rebounds than the likes of Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea combined.
The fact is Rajon Rondo is still an elite point guard despite his recent drop in production. The main causes of this can be attributed to his knee injury and Boston’s fire sale on core players in recent years. If Rondo felt he had no help in a Celtics uniform, he won’t have the same problem in Dallas. Under Rick Carlisle, he’ll join four other players who are all either All Star deserving or All Star veterans. This is the Mavs’ new starting lineup:
PG – Rajon Rondo
SG – Monta Ellis
SF – Chandler Parsons
PF – Dirk Nowitzki
C – Tyson Chandler
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better collection of talent, and little reason to doubt Rondo’s stats will increase, though Dallas will have a couple more moves to make in the coming weeks. For one, they need to see about luring Jermaine O’Neal out of possible retirement to get him off of his Southlake, TX couch to fill the backup center position. And while he won’t be catching lobs like Brandan Wright at 36, he’ll still add a physical presence to bang bodies in the paint – a trait Wright lacks and was exploited by San Antonio in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
The Mavericks have the necessary cap space to sign one more max player this summer, and by trading for Rondo now, the Mavs have made it clear that they are in “win now” mode. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson wouldn’t have done this deal unless they had some kind of reassureance that Rondo would resign with Dallas when he becomes a free agent this summer. And at 28, Rondo gives the Mavericks yet another solid foundation piece to build around in the post-Nowitzki era.