The Rondo trade: A fatal mistake

Since their sole championship in 2011 the Mavericks have been desperate in their efforts to assemble a roster around their superstar Dirk Nowitzki to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy one final time in his career. Success has been scarce in Dallas. Two years ago they traded for Celtics Point Guard Rajon Rondo who was meant to give the Mavs the decisive edge in the rough Western Playoffs. The bold move turned out to be a colossal disaster, the team never built up chemistry and their Playoff-run was ended by the Rockets in the first round. The best thing about the trade for the Mavericks was Rondo’s expiring contract. While Dallas has moved on from the failed experiment, it is still worthy of being looked at today. Not only does it point out the Mavericks’ short sighted approach, but it also laid the foundation for the rebirth of the Celtics organization.

A sizeable prize

When the Celtics gave away Rondo on December 18th 2014 they ended what had begun in the summer of 2013: The breakup of their ’08 championship team around Pierce, Garnett and Allen. There were a number of reasons that made GM Aigne pull the strings on the deal. His team was already in rebuild mode and floated around the league’s mid table, they were at danger to lose Rondo without compensation as a free agent in the summer- similar to what the Hawks are now facing with Paul Milsap. In return for the Point Guard they received Jae Crowder, Brendan Wright, Jameer Nelson and both of Dallas’ 2016 draft picks. They directly dealt Wright to Phoenix for a first-round pick which by now is two selections in the second round. Nelson had to go too, when they swapped him for the Nugget’s Nate Robinson, whom they waived. So to sum this up, the Celtics got out of the Rondo trade: Jae Crowder, one first-round pick, three second-round picks.

On diverging paths

Dwight Powell, who came with Rondo, still plays in Dallas as the last relic of this disastrous trade. But what did the Rondo swap mean for both teams in the long run? For the Mavericks the deal equaled to a glaring talent and depth deficit. They gave away three rotation players and, even worse, all their selection in the 2016 draft. The product of this drainage is more than visible this season, as we see an ill-built Dallas team in close reach of the West’s last place. The Celtics, on the other hand, have really made the most out of their star’s departure. They have found a solid starter and two-way player in Jae Crowder and have stoked up on talent using their arsenal of picks from this and other trades. With a trimmed wage bill after the trade they have been able to lift their roster onto the next level adding All-Star Center Al Horford this summer. They are already a clear-cut playoff team and still have lots of assets left if they chose to add another star. Rondo himself has really left the echelon of top floor generals by now and hit rock bottom after being benched by Bull’s coach Fred Hoiberg last week.

Only part of the picture

While Dallas’ short-sighted move to add Rajon Rondo is a spectacularly poor move when looked at in isolation, it is also part of their errant approach to team building. Every summer they have tried to sign a star to somehow prolong Dirk’s championship window. The players they actually managed to sign, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons, left after unsuccessful stints. They have not been able to gain any significant players through the draft in the last years, often because they didn’t even have a pick. Now, with a totally depleted roster and Nowitzki’s retirement looming they will likely be forced to rebuild organically. The Mavericks are of the same out-dated approach that has made the Nets what they are today. The Celtics, however, are a great example of how patient and reasonable use of assets has led to the resurrection of a struggling franchise. For them the best is yet to come- this is how team building should be done in today’s NBA. It is ironic to see how a trade that was thought to make Dallas a contender has only contributed to throw them off course and to speed up Boston’ rebuild.


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