This is Daryl Morey’s seventh season as Rockets general manager. In his first six, he has made at least one trade on or in the week leading up to the NBA’s trade deadline. With that deadline less than four weeks away, it is safe to assume he will make it 7-for-7. I don’t know what he’ll do, but I do know one thing: he shouldn’t trade for Rajon Rondo.
Rondo is a great player. He was the point guard of a championship team, as well as a team that lost in game 7 of the finals, and was the best player on the 2012 Celtics team that took Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The guy has 10 playoff triple-doubles in 92 games (Only Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, and LeBron James have more), but it doesn’t mean he’s a great fit for the Rockets.
The Rockets offense is based on being able to space the floor, get to the rim/free throw line, and knock down threes. Rondo can get to the rim, per NBA.com before getting hurt last season, 575 of his last 1,037 regular season shots were within eight feet of the basket (55%), but he only makes a league average percentage of those shots (52.9%). That would be acceptable if he could knock down his free throws, unfortunately, he’s bad from the line. During his rookie season, Rondo shot 64.7 percent from the stripe, which is a career-high. He is shooting below 62 percent for his career. You could live with this if it was his only offensive flaw, but it isn’t.
Floor spacing is important for the Rockets offense to work because it stretches the defense and gives Dwight Howard room to operate in the paint and opens up driving lanes for the Rockets perimeter players. They’d lose that with Rondo on the floor.
The above photo is from the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. You have Rondo with the ball at the top of the three-point arc, and Dwyane Wade playing him at the free throw line. Wade can do this because Rondo is a 24 percent three-point shooter, and rarely looks for his shot. Wade is in prime position to help on other Celtics. He could care less how open Rondo is. If this were against the Rockets, it would be tougher to get the ball inside to Howard, and if you did get it to him, the double would come immediately. You couldn’t really run a pick and roll with Howard because Rondo’s man would just go under the screen. This piece from Mike Prada of SB Nation illustrates how to stop a Rondo pick and roll. Oh, and now the lane is clogged, which would help cut off any James Harden drive. Remember, those Celtics teams were primarily a methodical, jump shooting team, the opposite of the Rockets, which were fueled by Rondo’s elite offensive skill.
In Boston, the Celtics needed Rondo’s ability as a distributor because so much of their offense was based around Ray Allen, a guy who needs help to get shots. A lot of what they did was have Allen come off screens which would free him from his man, and Rondo would get him the ball in position to take an open shot. The Rockets don’t need this. Harden can get his own shot whenever he wants, and though he isn’t a pure point guard, he is excellent at getting other guys open looks. The Rockets have had a top four offense in the NBA the last two seasons, adding Rajon Rondo won’t make it better, but this isn’t even the biggest reason to stay away from him.
It has been a year since Rondo tore his ACL in a game against the Heat, and he has played in only three games this season. Should a team that thinks it can win a title right now take a gamble on a guy isn’t 100 percent healthy yet? Rondo is also a free agent after next season, so the Rockets would have to decide if they want to make a huge financial commitment to a player that may never be what he was. That is a dangerous gamble.
He’s missed a lot of games this season, but when Patrick Beverly’s been on the floor, the Rockets have been great. If I’m Morey, I stick with him and use the trade assets I have to improve this team in other areas. Rondo is great, but that doesn’t mean he’s great for the Rockets.Follow @AdamSpolane
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