Does the Rondo rumour have legs?

Ryan Wolstat isn’t one to just put something out there for sake of making a name for himself, or build his profile, so when he says the Raptors have interest in Rondo, there’s probably more to the story than filling empty cycles while the all-star game runs its course and teams get back to their routine.

When it to comes to Rondo, Ainge, and the Celtics, very little makes sense to me. Rondo has seemingly been shopped for as long as I can remember, which doesn’t sit right with me. The guy is young, in his prime, madly productive, and on a reasonable contract that probably will be his rate on his next contract.

In an effort to figure out wtf is going on, I spent the day chatting with Tom Westerholm from CelticsHub about this situation:

Sam Holako: How is it that Rondo has been in trade rumours since forever, and Ainge hasn’t been attacked? It blows my mind that this chatter is allowed given his age, ability (injury notwithstanding), and salary.

Tom Westerholm: Part of the issue here is that Rondo rumors are rarely broached initially by Boston media. The usual guys will pick up on it from beat writers for opposing teams, but apart from the Chris Paul deal Danny Ainge tried to swing back when Paul was approaching free agency, it’s possible that the Rondo leaks are opposing GMs telling local media that a deal was close/possible when it really wasn’t.

Please note: I’m not saying this is definitely what happened. This is just what Celtics fans tell themselves has happened to make ourselves feel better about the situation. “He’ll totally re-sign in free agency. He totally hasn’t been turned off from the Celtics by being dangled around the NBA like a worm on a hook.”

Sam: Rondo squashed a deal that would have seen him exiled to Sacramento for Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick because he wouldn’t resign there; what had me scratching my head was that’s a lot of talent to give up IMHO. Yes Rondo is a top-5 PG in the league, but two young players and a pick that will probably be a lottery is a serious haul. Where am I going with this? There’s been talk about the Raptors interest in a Rondo deal, would a deal around Lowry be enough to get something done?

Tom: First of all, with that Sacramento deal, you can bet that the pick wouldn’t have been this year’s first rounder unprotected. And obviously, since it was Rondo who squashed the deal, you can also bet that Ainge was intrigued at the very least at the prospect of getting so much young talent plus a pick in exchange for a very-nearly-28-year old whose career timeline doesn’t necessarily fit with Boston’s future.

The Lowry question is a tough one. The pros: He’s an incredible point guard (sorry DeMar, Lowry totally deserved that slot), he’s extremely competitive (which makes me think he would fit with Jared Sullinger nicely), he won’t make the Celtics inconveniently better this season, and he’s probably not going to command a max contract. The cons: He’s a free agent this summer (so Boston would need some kind of assurance he would re-sign), he’s one month younger than Rondo, and frankly, he’s just not as good. The Celtics aren’t going to get equal value for Rondo if they trade him, but how much more than Lowry would Toronto be willing to give up?

What might be more intriguing for Danny Ainge is the idea that the Raptors could offer their own unprotected first rounder and the unprotected first rounder of another team (who would then receive Lowry) in exchange for Rondo. But I have a feeling we may be coming to that question soon.

Sam: We can’t give you our 2014 (unless we acquire another one) since we traded last years for Lowry #metta. What about something that looks like Terrence Ross, Greivis Vasquez and our 2015 1st rounder (maybe top-3 protected if Masai is a better negotiator than Danny)? That gets you a young scoring guard on a rookie contract, a solid backup point guard (also cheap), a draft pick, and it probably makes your team worse while you have players that work hard. What say you?

Tom: I’ll answer this in two parts:

The first is easy. If this deal doesn’t include Lowry, there really isn’t any way the Celtics do it. They are perfectly capable of tanking with Rondo, so getting bad isn’t the main concern here. And although they said they wanted two first round picks and a case could be made that a first rounder plus Terrence Ross equates two first round picks, what the Cs really want is two first rounders plus a young player with All-Star potential (see Sean Deveney’s report from earlier).

If Lowry is included, this becomes a bit more complicated. Ross is a nice young player with plenty of potential, and Lowry himself could be the point guard on a good playoff team. I still don’t think the Celtics do it, if only because they aren’t in any desperate hurry to give away Rondo. He helps the future more than he hurts the present at this point.

HOWEVER. If Boston and Toronto could work out a third team content to give the Cs a 2014 lottery pick (not likely, I fully realize) in exchange for receiving Lowry, and the Celtics get Ross plus Toronto’s 2015 first rounder, I think Ainge would have to give the possibility some serious consideration. This possibility is why I think Toronto is really the only honest contender for Rondo’s services at the deadline. Meanwhile, the sheer improbability of finding a lottery team willing to surrender their 2014 unprotected pick is why I think Rondo stays put.

Sam: Give me a ballpark on his next contract.

Tom: This is really hard. Paying a point guard not named Chris Paul max money is rarely a good idea, and Rondo now has a history of knee injuries. Let’s assume Rondo stays healthy for the next year and a half: If his recent 3-point shooting holds (he’s at 38 percent so far this season), he could be in the $15-16 million per year range. If it’s merely an aberration, he could see Tony Parker-esque money at $12.5 million.

If I were a betting man, I’d probably gamble on the latter. Given all the variables, however, I’m really glad I’m not.

Sam: If the Raptors were to put together a deal similar to the (alleged) Sacramento one, would Ainge pull the triggering knowing he’d have to face Rondo 4 times a year?

Tom: I don’t think Ainge would rule out a trade just because it’s within the division. If Sacramento and Toronto somehow offered identical packages, he might choose Sacramento just for practical purposes, but if Toronto blew him away, I’m fairly certain he would take it.

Again, I don’t think he’d trade Rondo period. But if he did, I’m pretty sure he would take the best deal for Boston, regardless of the division.

Sam: Considering the CBA, it will probably be closer to $12.5, but lets split the difference and say $14.5m, I have a few numbers kicking around: 27 years old; $14.5m/year; top-20 baller…this is exactly the kind of player I want to build a team around!

Thanks, Tom, I appreciate it.

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