Friday, December 19, 2014

Emotioal Mark v. Rational Mark: Rondo Traded

In honor of Stephen Colbert's final show, I am going to try a new gimmick inspired by his "A formidable opponent" gimmick: Emotional Mark v. Rational Mark.

The first topic my duality will tackle is the trade of Celtics star Rajon Rondo. For those who don't know the details, Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell were traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a protected 2015 first round pick (likely to be received in 2016), a second round pick and a $12.9 million trade exception. I apologize in advance for Emotional Mark; he's got a dirty mouth.

Rational Mark: This is the best the Celtics could get for Rondo. Let's look at how the rest of the league views Rondo at this point. He is a free agent after this year and expects to be paid a max contract. He does a lot of things really well, but he also does a lot of things really poorly. These things include shooting from the foul line, shooting from the three point line, and this year (not in years past) shooting from mid-range. He's also not quite the defender he used to be (though he is better than he has gotten credit for this year). He definitely chases stats. There is nothing quite like realizing he is within a few points/assists/rebounds of a triple double and watching him literally chase rebounds or pass up open shots for a pass or take contested shots instead of pass. He also may or may not have a bad attitude. I tend to think that trait has been overblown, but it certainly could have driven down his market value. So adding all these factors up, it's not terribly surprising we couldn't get much back.

Emotional Mark: This is the best the Celtics could get for Rondo!?!?!?! What is the fucking point then? These are not real assets. The players we got back are role players and the first round pick is likely to be in the 20's two years from now. You know what types of players get picked in the 20's? Fab Melo and JaJuan Johnson. Great work Danny, can't wait to see the next Fab Melo walk through that door. Why wouldn't we just hang onto Rondo through the rest of the year, let him throw beautiful entry passes to Tyler Zeller, perform his around the back fakes, post his triple doubles and then sail off into the sunset next year. Ya we would lose him for nothing, but we basically got nothing back. There is even the possibility we could have got a better offer closer to the deadline. I know the "experts" are saying this is the best we were going to do even if we waited, but so fucking what? This return is shitty. When you can eat shit now or eat shit later, why not just eat shit later if you at least get to watch Rondo for 3 more months? It's not like this was a deal we couldn't refuse.

Rational Mark: The return isn't so bad. Wright is a super efficient post player. The all time record for field goal percentage in a single season is 72.7%, held by Wilt Chamberlain in 1972. Wright this year is shooting 74.8%. Not many people can claim to hold a statistic better than Wilt. He does a lot of his damage on pick and rolls, a play set that Brad Stevens clearly wants to run more. He is also the mythical rim protector the team has been desperate for since they traded Garnett. Crowder is a good wing defender and can shoot threes. The less said about Nelson the better, but maybe he'll be an even better mentor for Marcus Smart.

The first round pick and trade exception are the real keys to the deal. The trade exception means that the Celtics can take on any contract or combinations of contracts up to $12.9 million in a trade even if they are over the cap. A large trade exception from the Paul Pierce trade was the only reason the team was able to get Zeller, Marcus Thornton and a first round pick. In a league often driven by financial decisions, the team now stands poised to absorb an undesirable contract from a team with the caveat they sweeten the deal with a first round pick and/or a young player like Zeller.

The first round pick may end up in the 20's next year, but it could also end up in the lottery this year or next year as well. Rondo will probably make the Mavs better, but he also may not. As we discussed before, there was a reason he was able to be had so cheaply. He could screw up what the Mavs have going right now. He could also get hurt as could Tyson Chandler or Dirk, who are both deep into their 30's, and torpedo that team. The Western Conference is an unforgiving bitch and just one injury on any of those teams could drop them right out of the playoffs.

Emotional Mark: Brandan Wright shoots 75% because he gets open shots because the Mavs have shooters surrounding him to space the floor. Who is spacing the floor on the Celtics? And who is going to get the passes to him off the pick and roll any way? I honestly sometimes mistake Phil Pressey for the ball boy and Smart can't stay on the court. Speaking of staying on the court, Wright has never averaged more than 18 minutes per game in a season. And oh by the way, Wright is a free agent after this year! This is one of the things that pisses me off most about this trade. Rondo is a free agent after this year so I get why you trade him so you don't end up with nothing. But Wright and Crowder are also both free agents so that counts for nothing. Nelson isn't a free agent, but that's not a good thing since he is just going to clog up the Celtics' cap sheet next year. The only long term asset acquired is a likely shitty draft pick to add to our "treasure trove" of other shitty draft picks from the Clippers and Cavs. If these assets had any real value, the Timberwolves would have traded us Kevin Love before the season started and we wouldn't be having this talk right now.

Rational Mark: Regardless of what you think about the assets the team has acquired, it was time to accelerate the rebuild. The Celtics right now were mildly competitive. They have lost a lot of close games this year that could easily have been wins. They aren't far off from the number 8 seed in the Eastern Conference (ya, the league is that bad once again). Keeping Rondo around could have made the team good enough to make that 8 seed. And while playoff basketball is great, getting swept in the first round isn't really that fun. Typically teams that hover around that 8 seed have a hard time progressing much further than that. It is pretty clear that Danny Ainge and ownership aren't content with challenging for playoff spots. They want to win championships. In making the team worse this year, they can improve their draft position and hopefully land their future superstar in the draft to go along with the other quality young players on the team.

Emotional Mark: I'm sick of the fucking draft, I really am. I played this game last year and I'm done with it. So what if we lucked into the 8th seed this year? That would be a huge accomplishment for these young players and it would have been an indicator that Rondo is a good leader. This has been a crazy fun team this year. The close losses suck, but the thing about rebuilding is that you don't really care about the final results. The Celtics haven't had a team this entertaining since 2009. Rondo is a huge part of why they were so much fun to watch. He does stuff on the court that I have never seen before. Not everything is necessarily the right move and he may not help the team win as much as it seems, but he's fun! Wins are great and championships are great, but fun basketball is just as great. If you don't think it's fun to watch Rondo than you are probably an old white Boston sportswriter named Dan Shaugnessy or Mike Felger or Gary Tanguay.

I also want to address this chase for the Championship. Winning the title in 2008 was amazing. I was there. It was one of the best nights of my life and I would love to get back there. The reality is that it is nearly impossible to win a championship in the NBA. In my 30 years on this earth, there have been 8 different NBA teams to win a championship. That means 22 teams have not won in that time. Almost every team that wins is anchored by a top 10 player and one or two more top 20 players. Getting guys like that is really difficult. I don't think Rondo is a top 20 player right now and I don't think he would help us land one. I also don't know that these draft picks will yield those players either.

My point in bringing all this up, is that it is more likely that the Celtics will not win a title in the next 30 years no matter what moves they make unless we luck into a once in a generation talent in the draft. So if we aren't going to win a title any time soon, why not just watch fun, unique, awesome players and teams? Trading Rondo makes me enjoy basketball less.

Rational Mark: You know what EM? You are right and surprisingly rational. This trade blows. What's the frigging point of watching basketball if teams are just going to consider the players a bunch of line items on a balance sheet? Basketball is a multi-billion dollar industry, but it's also a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Happy fucking holidays Boston, enjoy Jameer Nelson. It's 10:36 AM as I am writing this. Is that too early for a drink?

Emotional Mark: Not at all, RM. I'm already on my third. Let's go to whatever bar will have us and watch Rondo Youtube highlights.

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