Rajon Rondo has long been the apple of New York Knicks’ fans collective eye. He is a pass first point guard who (usually) defends well and is believed to be a great fit for a player like Carmelo Anthony, the main focal point of the offense.
Rondo and Pau Gasol have led the league in rumored trades since around 2010 and since tearing his ACL two seasons ago, the race has only grown stronger.
The good news for the Knicks is the Celtics clearly are rebuilding, drafted a young highly rated point guard who also isn’t a great shooter in Marcus Smart, and are willing to deal in division (see Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade).
The Knicks problem though is they don’t really have enough to give up for Rondo without bringing in a third team. The Knicks best offer would likely be Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and/or Cleanthony Early, draft picks, and Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract. The Knicks would then take back Rondo and either Jeff Green or Gerald Wallace’s contracts, either would heavily cut into the Knicks cap space in 2015.
While the trade, whether in a three team deal or not, may be unlikely and would require a ton of movement, getting the Knicks All-Star point guard when they haven’t had one in decades very enticing.
The Knicks last year according to NBA.com’s player tracking data, ranked 25th in points created by assists per 48 minutes, 26th in assist opportunities per game, and 23rd in passes per game, among other putrid passing stats for the team in 2013-14. Rondo on the other hand, ranked third, first, and second in those same categories last year. Clearly, he fills a need on this team.
The one caveat is, the Knicks may want to think of revamping their offense a bit if they were to land Rondo. The triangle offense doesn’t completely neutralize point guards but it features a lot of off the ball play for them.
For a point guard like Jose Calderon who is one of the best shooters of all time, that isn’t a huge issue. He is a big threat standing in the corner or on the wing open from three. Rondo however is clearly a more ball dominant guard whose effectiveness is seriously hampered when he doesn’t have the ball. Rondo is decent as making some sneaky back door cuts but that’s not why you trade for a guy like him and also, he is a terrible shooter.
With the acquisition of Calderon though, the Knicks are in a great position to run an offense that caters a little bit towards Rondo’s style of play where he creates a tremendous amount of points for the team via assists. J.R. Smith (46.2%), Jose Calderon (45.9%), and Carmelo Anthony (43.8%) are all exceptional catch and shoot three point shooters.
Spreading the floor with Rondo at the point and those three shooters around the three point line would be very scary for opposing defense. Anthony can also double as the pick and roll hammer depending on who is on the floor.
The offense doesn’t have to be just that either, you don’t sign Anthony to just about a max contract to have him sit in the corner all game. Boston ran a lot of plays for Pierce that gave him plenty of freedom to do his thing while still allowing Rondo to be an effective player. As stated before he is somewhat limited off the ball but it’s not like he turns into Kendrick Perkins.
The other added bonus of having Rondo is it means less J.R. Smith dribbling. If they Knicks can turn JR into a spot shooter and cutter without his 15 seconds of dribbling and mid-range shooting he can be a far more effective player than he ever was before.
Despite the fact that Rondo and Anthony are both somewhat ball dominant they are both skilled enough to make things work while playing together. Yes, trading for Rondo would eliminate another big free agent splash next offseason but if the team can surround Anthony and Rondo with a defensive center and shooters on the wings the Knicks could be a much improved version of that 54 win team in 2012-13.
And in the East, why can’t that be enough to contend for the Easter Conference crown?