The Celtics were not just a Big Three in their heyday of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. They had an emerging star in Rajon Rondo who quickly was no longer emerging. He was arguably a top point guard in the NBA.
In fact, when Rondo said he was the best point guard in the league back in 2012, it was a far cry from Dee Milliner calling himself the NFL’s best cornerback. Unlike Milliner, who was not only the best, but kind of the worst, Rondo had an actual case. Depending on who you asked, it was either him or Chris Paul.
In 2011, the Celtics reportedly tried to trade Rondo for Paul, but were unsuccessful. The Hornets projected correctly.
Roughly the same age (the 32-year-old Paul is less than a year older than Rondo), the two are no longer peers. Case in point: One of them was traded this week in a move that legitimizes the Rockets. The other was waived after playing for his fourth team in three seasons.
This doesn’t say anything about Paul other than that he’s had a very consistent carer. At 31, Paul averaged 18.1 points and 9.2 assists per game last season, which is nearly identical to what he’d averaged through his age 27 season (18.6 points, 9.8 assists). He’s still got it.
Rather, it highlights Rondo’s fall from stardom. Though he gave the Celtics a run for their money through two playoff games before he was hurt, his lone season with the Bulls was the worst of his career. He started just 42 of the 69 games he played, averaging just 7.8 posts and 6.7 assists per game.
Rondo was a four-time All-Star in Boston. From 2008-09 to 2013-14, he averaged 11.9 points and 9.2 assists a night. Though he posted numbers better than that two seasons ago in Sacramento (11.9 points, 11.7 assists), he’s been hardly steady. Between Dallas in 2014-15 and Chicago last season, he had just 8.38 points and 6.62 assists per game. If Rondo does still have it, he certainly doesn’t always bring it.
The Clippers got Patrick Beverley and a protected first-round pick as part of the trade package for Paul last week. The Bulls were unable to find a trade partner for Rondo before waiving him.
While Rondo has not been able to last more than one season with a team since leaving Boston, the Celtics eventually moved on quite well. Jae Crowder has been a serviceable starter and Boston used the 2016 first-rounder it acquired in the trade on Guerschon Yabusele. Just two months after trading Rondo, the C’s secured what’s proven to be an upgrade at point guard in Isaiah Thomas.
Rondo can still take over games, but his star has fallen. Depending on where he lands next, he might again find himself in and out as a starter. Thus far, he’s been linked to the Knicks and Lakers.
Yet wherever he ends up, his addition won’t leave many thinking their team bolstered its roster. Paul still has that kind of effect.