Rajon Rondo was stuck in a rough situation the last couple years, pegged as the leader of a rebuilding team. Add in a few injuries, a big downgrade at the coaching position, and a carousel of veterans, and it becomes easy to understand why Rondo was no longer a fit in Boston. From a fantasy perspective, this trade has major implications.
Over the past two years, Rondo’s field-goal percentage dipped to 40 percent, a far cry from the 50 percent he averaged during the Celtics’ strongest title runs. The explanation for this lies not with his inherent ability to score, but with the team built around him. Rondo is not meant to be the go-to scorer of a lineup, and thrives when there are star players around him, allowing him to penetrate and dish at will.
With the right players around him, Rondo can become more than one of the best passers in the NBA because defenses cannot focus on him from a scoring standpoint. Rondo has never been a good shooter, but with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at his side he was an efficiently integral scorer. With the trade to the Mavericks, Rondo can actually be expected to improve his scoring output (just 8.3 ppg this season) to around 10-11 ppg with a field-goal percentage between 47-50 percent from here on out. His new teammates are going to open up these opportunities for him.
There is no reason for the Mavericks to do anything but put the offense in the hands of Rondo. He is an explosive play maker and a visionary passer, and will only enhance the effectiveness of Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. He eventually averaged 11 assists per game in three straight seasons, and is closing in on that number again this year (back to 10.8 apg) with a bad roster around him. The idea that Rondo’s assist numbers would go down with the Mavericks is ridiculous, as it’s going to be pretty easy to retain an 11-assist pace with all the offensive firepower and an alley-oop magnet at the rim in Chandler. Rondo can also be expected to continue to provide fantasy owners with around 2 steals per contest. His rebounding numbers should dip back down slightly, however (currently a career high 7.5 per game).
Simply put, Rondo can be the perfect complementary piece for a well built fantasy team now that he is with the Mavericks. He defines the term point guard, and the Mavs are a much better team with him. The trade also impacts several other players…
Marcus Smart will now be handed the keys to the Celtics, and must be owned in all leagues. Expectations for Smart should be kept in check, but as long as he is healthy the Celtics are likely to give him every chance to succeed. It’s been an up-and-down campaign for Smart, both in regard to his play on the court and his ability to stay on it. Jameer Nelson was struggling with the Mavs, and it’s likely he will slide in as Smart’s backup, providing no value moving forward unless an injury occurs. Evan Turner might handle the ball a little more as well, but it’s doubtful he ever becomes fantasy-relevant.
Brandan Wright, who heads to the Celtics in the deal, hasn’t been receiving many minutes, but he has been making the most of them. Per minute, he has been one of the most efficient players in the League. He is averaging 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 18 minutes per game. He’s worth an add in deep leagues especially, and while he is likely to receive a slight increase in minutes, the Celtics already have Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller in the frontcourt.
It’s possible the Celtics really like the 27-year-old’s potential, even though he has never received over 18 minutes per game before. If that’s the case, there could be a decrease in output from the rest of Boston’s big men. It’s best to keep an eye on the situation because it’s impossible to predict how it will play out. Jae Crowder also heads to Boston, but he will be handed nothing more than a backup role with Jeff Green ahead of him. Keep an eye on Dwight Powell moving forward, who while not worth an add in any league, heads to the Mavericks and might find himself in a Brandan Wright type of role if he proves his worth to coach Rick Carlisle.
On the Mavericks’ side of things, Devin Harris and JJ Barea are going to see even more of a reduced role, but they weren’t fantasy relevant anyway, except in deep and daily leagues. They can back up both guard positions however. Monta Ellis has been entrusted as the primary scorer in Dallas and his 4.7 assists per game is already the lowest Ellis has put up in 6 seasons, so the Rondo addition doesn’t impact him too much statistically, though he should receive better looks on offense. Rondo makes other players around him better, but the impact will be seen on the court more than in the box scores for those individuals. The Mavericks are already playing well across the board so it’s hard to expect much more from them statistically.
Dan Hanna is SLAM’s weekly fantasy basketball columnist and a life-long Bulls fan. Follow him on Twitter @i_am_danhan. For advice on your fantasy team, post questions in the comments section.