Toronto Raptors: The Rumor of Rondo

469px-Rajon_Rondo_Media_DayAs NBA trade deadline rumors are now picking up steam in full force like they normally do this time of year, Boston Celtics point guard and four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo coming over the border via trade makes sense from the outside looking in. The Toronto Raptors desire to acquire a star? Check. The Celtics are currently in a rebuilding phase? Check. If it were as simple as conducting trades from those two perspectives, which teams says no?

Just about every major media outlet has been buzzing providing circulation to the Rondo-to-Toronto rumors. From ESPN’s Chris Broussard confirming Toronto’s interest in Rondo, but also saying Rondo would not resign with Toronto long-term. To another ESPN-er in Marc Stein reporting on the internal confliction of what to do with current point guard Kyle Lowry and his career-year-in-a-final-year situation. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reaffirmed Toronto’s desire to enter the Rondomonium (*hyperbole alert*), as well.

Even the non-negotiable parameters for making a trade when acquiring a star like Rondo are in-place for the Raps. As I outlined last week, the team has intriguing young talent, four first round picks in the next three drafts, and salary to spare when matching up with Rondo’s nearly $12 million dollar salary this season. My concern is not so much Rondo’s unwillingness to stay in T-Dot, but more that I’m skeptical to give up as much as the Celtics are asking for in return.

Would Rajon Rondo be an upgrade over Kyle Lowry? Almost absolutely. I’ve spoken a few times now on Lowry’s play this season, but in case you’re unaware, he’s played like an All-Star. Rondo and Lowry’s Player Efficiency Rating for their careers are closer than you’d think at 17.2 and 16.7, respectively. Don’t take that too much into account, though. As Rondo’s biggest trademark assets – passing and defense, are where he trounces Lowry both by the numbers and in-game impact. The Raptors could stand to lose the scoring Lowry provides to add the facilitation Rondo would bring, and even at that, the scoring they’d lose without Lowry would be marginal.

Would the addition of Rondo make the Raptors more competitive in the playoffs? Surely. Rondo alone would make at least one playoff series victory a feasible lock if Toronto were to finish top four in the East. With Lowry, the team figures to be favored ever so slightly in a hypothetical playoff matchup against say Washington, Atlanta, or Brooklyn. Does Rondo give Toronto a shot at beating Indiana or Miami? The answer is still definitive — NO. But say Toronto were to come back in 2014 with Rondo and possible other additions (will touch on this more eventually)? Then, we could start the conversation of if the Raptors can contend with Miami and Indy (and by 2014, you have to assume Chicago, too).

Look, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of talking myself into liking this trade for the Raps. Yeah, Rondo may not want to stay, but the opportunity to land a star player comes-and-goes in oft-unpredictable patterns. But like I said, and am sticking to, Toronto would have to give up far too much of their future for a year and a half of Rajon Rondo. It’s so idealistic and is the hot-button philosophy in today’s NBA; but the Raptors can improve practically and exponentially quicker by hitting big scores through the draft OKC-style. The trade deadline is always a bundle of fun, but this rumor is best taken at face value – just a rumor.