Rondo Rumors: Despite Mavs' Interest, A No-Go

Back on June 29, as we reported exclusively at the time, Dallas and Boston engaged in trade conversations regarding Rajon Rondo. Fast-forward to today and a throwaway line in an NBA article that grabs your attention: the Kings are taking a big swing at Rondo. Are there Mav possibilities here? We take a look at his situation and what it all means to Dallas:

Last summer it was widely rumored that the Boston Celtics were starting over and maybe willing to part with the talented-but-injured Rondo. Their thinking was that, with his ability after injury so uncertain and with a major rebuild ahead that might have him unwilling to re-sign when his contract expires, it might be better to cash in now and move on in another direction. He only had two remaining years on his contract, and having him around during a Celtic rebuild seemed pointless.

Given all that iffiness, the thought at that time was that the Celtics would sell at some sort of discount, and maybe a big part of the asking price would be to find someone to take his salary off their hands. In that context, learned then that the Dallas Mavericks were clear that if the price was right, they were fully willing to take the risk on his health.
(See our June 29 exclusive here.) Other teams kicked the tires as well, but he stayed a Celtic.

Now he's back from injury (he's played 10 games, with fewer minutes per game but stats at a similar per-minute level as before the injury) and playing on a going-nowhere Boston team. Again, the rumors are swirling. Meanwhile, the Mavs clearly need to upgrade their perimeter defense, and he's considered one of the best at that.

Is the Mavs' interest going to pay off?

The name is the same – but the situation is not.

The Mavs' involvement last summer was predicated on the thought that they might be able to get Rondo at 50 cents on the dollar, given his injury status and the relatively few years of contractual control that remained on his contract. Now, with Rondo having returned to action, the price has skyrocketed and the offers being discussed (see below) are, relatively speaking, for $1.50 or $2 for that dollar of value. That's not the same type of deal at all that interested the Mavs the last summer.

But even if the price is sky high, he's definitely available. That's a start.

What's the current price?

Let's start with the Kings' reported offer. It's a great guideline, because we were told the offer fell short because Rondo expressed an unwillingness to re-sign with the Kings once his contract runs out in a little over a year. The fact that they got to the point of bringing Rondo into the discussion indicates that offer otherwise satisfied Boston.

That offer was huge. The Kings reportedly were offering two starting guards on team-friendly rookie contracts (Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore, the latter being the 7th pick in the 2013 draft), plus two future draft picks.

If we look elsewhere, that story fits with what we're hearing in other places around the league. The Celtics' price for Rondo has been said to be (a) two unprotected (!) first-rounders, per one source, or (b) one lottery pick plus a talented young player [we interpret that as a highly-drafted kid with upside playing on a rookie contract, such as McLemore], according to another.

What could the Mavs offer to interest Boston?

If so inclined, they might cobble together something like this ...

Larkin is the closest they have to "young player on rookie deal" like Boston wants, and he also plays the position that Rondo would vacate. (Larkin's name did indeed pop up in the teams' June talks.) To trade-match, as well as free up minutes to play Rondo, they'd have to include either Ellis or Calderon. To satisfy the demand for a pick, they only would have one option, a single first-rounder in 2020 (due to the pick owed to OKC and Stepien Rule limits). So, at least in theory, a package of Larkin, Calderon (or Ellis), and an unprotected No. 1 in 2020 kinda fits, and satisfies trade-matching rules. And working in the Mavs' favor is the fact that the Mavs are likely to be a destination where he would be open to staying, if traded.

Would the Mavs make that call?

If only due to the frequency with which Donnie, in particular, visits with Ainge, you can assume they have done so already. But in light of what the Kings were offering, it's clear Boston prefers substantially more – if they can just get it from a team that Rondo might like.

What to look for this week

One thing is certain: interest in Rondo is heavy, and despite Ainge's denials, he may get moved this week. With multiple teams chasing, Boston probably has more to gain by selling him now rather than letting his contract erode away in Boston while they try to rebuild. So just as was the case way back on June 29, we're keeping an eye on Rondo and Boston as we head towards the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.

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