Even though the Boston Celtics are not expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, all eyes will be on Danny Ainge and what he decides to do with Rajon Rondo in the final season before he hits free agency next summer. There has been talk that Ainge would trade the four-time All-Star point guard by the deadline rather than attempt to re-sign him for the max-level contract he’s said to want.
Boston-based Sporting News NBA reporter Sean Deveney tells a different story, however. Appearing on a recent episode of the Celtics Beat podcast, Deveney suggested that not only do the Celtics plan to keep Rondo, but that they want to pair him with another star free agent, potentially Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
(Skip to the 27-minute mark here for the discussion, which started with the question of whether the Celtics would be willing to offer Rondo a max contract):
I think a lot of that is going to depend on how he plays, and a lot of that depends on whether they can get another max guy in here to play with Rondo. I think that’s really how it’s going to play out, the Celtics are going to try to use all the assets they have over the course of this year to add another big-time piece. That’s obviously something they would have liked to have done this year with Kevin Love, but that just never really got close. It never got beyond the talking stage with the Timberwolves and the Celtics just didn’t have anything that the Timberwolves really wanted. But that’s the kind of deal that they would like to make in the next few months, where you have a star who’s unhappy and a team looking to unload a big-time player in return for some long-term assets. That’s the kind of thing that the Celtics are looking for.
Now, if that doesn’t happen, they’re going to have to rely on free agency, and that can be much trickier. But if keeping Rondo and paying him a max deal is going to help them get somebody like a Marc Gasol or somebody of that caliber, then that’s what they have to do. If that means overpaying Rondo somewhat in the short term here, if that’s what it takes to get that other star player, then that’s what they’re going to do.
It’s highly unlikely that the Celtics will be able to trade for a star during this season. Love was the only superstar coming up on free agency who was known to be unhappy, but he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in August and there’s almost no chance he’ll leave (unless things fall apart there at a Dwight Howard/Lakers level). LaMarcus Aldridge appears happy in Portland. The Grizzlies have no intention of dealing Gasol.
If the Celtics want to add another star, they will have to do so in free agency, and the choices are awfully slim now that Love is essentially off the market. Boston will have plenty of cap space, but so will a lot of teams who are closer to competing. Boston may be better served dealing Rondo and devoting the next few seasons to developing Marcus Smart before going after another star.