Rajon Rondo says he deserves a max contract

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Rajon Rondo has made four All-Star teams. He’s an NBA champion. He has twice led the NBA in assists per game and once in steals per game.

And he’s just 28.

I don’t think all his good years are behind him. Entering free agency after this season, neither does he.

Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:

Scott Souza of the MetroWest Daily News:

Based on the projected salary cap of $66.3 million, Rondo’s max contract would start at $18,602,898. He could make up to $106,966,663 over five years by re-signing with the Celtics or up to $79,434,374 over four years elsewhere.

Is he worth it?

Definitely the smaller max and probably the larger Boston max – if healthy.

In the last four years, he’s missed 14, 13, 44 and 52 games.

A broken hand has again sidelined Rondo, but he could return sooner than expected. No matter when he gets back on the court, staying healthy from then on will net him a large contract offer as unrestricted free agent this summer.

One factor working against Rondo is the prevalence of quality point guards in the league, but nobody has a point guard quite like Rondo. And multiple teams projected to have cap space in 2015 need point guards or could at least use an upgrade at the position. The Knicks (who’ve previously been linked to Rondo), Lakers, Hawks, Mavericks and Pistons could all make major plays for Rondo.

There are concerns about paying Rondo so much through age 32 – or 33 for the Celtics – but a drastically rising salary cap with new national TV contracts will ease that burden. Essentially, Rondo is entering the market with two limitations – in the last year before he’s eligible for the larger max for players with 10 or more years of experience, in the last year before the cap is pegged to skyrocket – that make him more appealing to potential suitors.

Rondo has been playing on a Celtics-friendly (at least before injuries set in) five-year, $55 million contract. His current deal is theoretically independent of his next deal, but it could affect his thinking next summer.

Few players who can get a max contract pass on it. Even fewer do so when it would be their first max contract.

Danny Ainge is obviously aware of these factors – most notably Rondo’s self-assessment as a max player.

The Celtics say they want to keep Rondo, but the constant trade rumors exist for a reason. It doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding Boston to waste the early years of a Rondo max contract while the team is too young to contend and then overpay on the later years. It doesn’t make sense for a veteran Rondo to toil for a losing team if he can get max offers elsewhere.

That’s why I think a trade is more likely than not before the deadline.

Rondo sees himself as a max player. I think enough of the NBA does, too.

If the Celtics don’t, they have to trade him. If they do, they’ll likely face significant competition this summer.