Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a contender. In less than a winter day’s time, the Dallas Mavericks went from being a “very nice team” to a “legitimate contender”, when they acquired point guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics.
Few would question the 19-8 Dallas Mavericks were destined for the playoffs before the trade even took place. What they would do once they made the playoffs was the real question. With a 0-5 record against the best of the West, one could reasonably conclude their destiny included a quick first round exit.
The rebuilt 2014-15 Mavericks started faster than many expected, but to expect them to get to the level of play the Grizzlies, Warriors, and Spurs are playing, may have been a little too optimistic for a rational Mavs fan to accept. The Mavericks had scoring and depth (the best in the NBA), but they lacked defense, and lacked a creator at the point. Rajon Rondo fixes that.
Rondo, 28, is a rare thing in these parts – a perimeter defender. Jameer Nelson, Monta Ellis, and J.J. Barea are all defensive liabilities at the 1 and 2 spots. Devin Harris was the only guard who could carry his own weight defensively, and his minutes are closely monitored based on his injury history and post-season importance.
Nov 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) and Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) battle Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) for the ball during the second half of the Chicago Bulls 109-102 win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The dearth of defense on the perimeter placed enormous pressure on centers Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright. That poor defense led to more penetrating guards, and consequently, more fouls for the Mavericks’ big men. With the addition of a strong perimeter defender like Rondo, less pressure will be felt down low, making Brandan Wright somewhat expendable.
The loss of Brandan Wright will be felt, but when given an opportunity to add an All-Star to the starting 5, while upgrading at a position of dire weakness, it had to happen.
Like all mid-season roster moves, acquiring Rajon Rondo comes with some risk. The cost to pick up the former All-Star included the aforementioned Brandan Wright, disappointing free agent signing PG Jameer Nelson, and rotational defender SF Jae Crowder…and throw in a couple draft picks while we’re at it…
Nelson just wasn’t working out as the starting PG for the Mavs and is clearly on the downslope of his career. His loss will make little-to-no impact. Jae Crowder has always been a personal favorite, but the reality is he has likely met his ceiling and his ceiling is no more than a nice rotational player who plays solid defense. The draft picks are inconsequential considering the Mavericks have a history of doing “jack” and “squat” with their draft picks anyway. Hell, they might as well have thrown in a washing machine.
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Brandan Wright is the foremost sacrifice the Mavs made in acquiring Rondo. Despite the big year leading the NBA in FG%, the 27 year old Wright is career back-up, averaging half of the minutes per game that Rondo offers. Wright’s also a free agent after this season and will likely command a hefty price on the market. The Mavericks are expected to re-invest in starting center, Tyson Chandler and will likely lose Wright anyway. Losing him in a trade affects the depth, but a greater impact is to be made at the PG position.
If something happens to Tyson Chandler the Mavericks may be “up a creek”, but that takes a backseat to adding a starting former All-Star at PG. Even if Jermaine O’Neal is lured to Dallas the loss of Brandan Wright will be felt, but the returns at PG should more than enough to cover the loss at back-up center
Whether Rondo stays or goes after this season remains to be seen. Regardless of what happens then, this gives another legitimate run at the title for elder statesmen Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. It takes a great shot at a closing window, and offers hope for the future as well.
Chemistry is the biggest concern, but the Mavericks boast one of the best locker rooms in professional sports and have two of the most dominant leaders in Rick Carlisle and Tyson Chandler to keep things in order.
Big win for the Mavs. Low Risk/High Reward. Gotta love it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Dallas Mavericks are officially contenders.