Rajon Rondo has been a good, but not a great, fit with the Dallas Mavericks since his arrival. Mac Engel Star-Telegram
Rajon Rondo has been a good, but not a great, fit with the Dallas Mavericks since his arrival. Mac Engel Star-Telegram

The Big Mac Blog

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The Big Mac Blog

Defending the Rajon Rondo trade

By Mac Engel

tengel@star-telegram.com

January 26, 2015 8:07 PM

DALLAS, Texas

This can’t be right but the Dallas Mavericks are worse with Rajon Rondo than without.

On Dec. 19, 2014 - the day the Mavs acquired Rondo in a deal with the Boston Celtics - they were 19-8. Since then, they are 11-7. By my math, that stinks. By my math, the trade looks awful.

Since coming to the Mavs, Rondo has been what just about every “expert” said he was - a stat stuffer who can’t shoot, and a point guard who needs the ball at all times to be effective. He has made the Mavs a better defensive team, but the oomph and the pop this team was expecting when they shipped Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder to Boston has not arrived.

Because of the absurd depth and talent in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Mavs could well flop out in the first round and this deal will labeled Awful. The initial signs are not fantastic, but don’t give up on this trade yet. He is not a loser, and considering the fact he is a free agent do not expect him to pout and turn into a brat. But he has to be better, and the Mavs have to figure out a way to capitalize on his considerable talents for this to work the way all parties involved envisioned.

I asked Mavs coach Rick Carlisle if the team is better with Rondo.

“I believe that we are,” he said.

He would have ended this Q&A until I prodded with, “In what ways specifically?”

“Our defensive numbers are better. And we are still in the top 10 or 11 in offense,” Carlisle said. “That’s neither here nor there.”

Yeah, well ... no, it’s not.

Rondo is averaging just over 10 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists per game with the Mavs. That’s not awful. The only way this trade works big is if he can make defenders honor his shot. He must become Jason Kidd, and demonstrate he is a threat other than off penetration or defenders will cheat off of him and double team the Mavs’ best shooter on the floor.

Rondo is shooting .417 percent from the floor since coming to the Mavs, including a decent 43 percent from 3-point range. But ... he is 5-of-19 from free throws. That latter figure is incredible for a starting NBA point guard.

Know this - unless Rondo can prove he can hit a shot, Carlisle’s decision to sit Rondo in the final five-plus minutes of a recent close loss against the Chicago Bulls is not an aberration, even though the coach insists that’s what it was. It’s going to happen again and again if Rondo is an offensive liability, which he will be against good teams if his jumper is not falling.

Guard Monta Ellis can create, and no defender will dare cheat off of him.

“I really like Rondo for our team,” Carlisle said. “We are still a low turnover team. Look, some of the dynamics have changed. Our guys are learning if Rondo has the ball and he’s attacking, they need to get to an open spot, or cut, and he can find them. I just think that’s little adjusting things that have happened along the way. We are still a top 10 offensive team, and now we are a top 10 defensive team, which is something we needed to be to have a chance to do some good things this year. In some ways we are on track making progress...”

In some ways, they are not. But this trade needs time before we can call it Awful.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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