December 15th has come and gone, which means that players signed over the summer can now be dealt. This has become the beginning of the NBA's mid-season wheeling and dealing extravaganza, which lasts until the trade deadline. There have already been a couple deals for us to analyze and more speculative deals are looming, so let's get right to it.
The Rondo Deal
Dallas is making a big gamble by trading for Rajon Rondo. They are betting that Rondo can recover the form that made him a deserving All-Star several years ago. Despite gaudy assist numbers, his efficiency and on/off numbers have tumbled over the past few years, and there is not a whole lot of available evidence that the current version of Rondo is a player who will significantly move the needle on a good team.
It's tempting to blame his recent decline, league leading assists per game notwithstanding, on the combination of an ACL injury and apathy, and remain confident that he'll return to peak form while healthy and playing meaningful games, but it's possible that the physical tools that made him such a fearsome defender are not coming back. Lou Williams tore his ACL the same month as Rondo and has only returned to his pre-injury level of performance this year. I am not sure whether to tout that as an example of the importance of patience or to be concerned that it's taking Rondo longer to (apparently) recover from his injury.
The best case for the Mavs is that Rondo recovers his 2008-10 defensive prowess and adds a dash of creativity that puts Dirk, Chandler, Parsons, Ellis, and the rest of his team in better positions to succeed, like Jason Kidd on their last championship team. The worst case is that Rondo is now an average defender, stops the ball on offense, and cramps the Mavs spacing. After all, the Mavs offense that is already leading the league in points per possession. It is much easier to imagine Rondo disrupting their chemistry and sets than it is to imagine him making a historically great offense even better. Rondo hasn't been a 4th or 5th option in several years and it will be interesting to see if he can excel in that role after dominating the ball so much for Boston over the past few years.
Dallas is giving up useful players to bring in Rondo. Nelson is much maligned, but knows his role and can shoot enough to keep defenders honest, Crowder can be a useful 3&D player, and Wright may be the best reserve center in the league. Dallas will try to replace him with Greg Smith, who can score efficiently but isn't in Wright's category as a rim protector or finisher.
Meanwhile, Boston gets a pick in the twenties, takes a flier on a young wing with some potential, and picks up a useful big who can help them make an improbable playoff push or be flipped at the deadline for an additional asset. All in all, it's a good haul for a good player who was on track to be either gone after the season or overpaid and over the hill by the time the rest of the roster is in their prime.
The Brewer Deal
There's not nearly as much to say about this deal, which has been better covered by the more responsible members of this site. The Rockets are giving up a couple of second round picks to acquire warm bodies that will hopefully allow them to keep their starters fresher and healthier for the playoffs. Brewer is veteran-y and championship-y enough for McHale to trust in small doses, Minnesota dumps salary, and Philadelphia picks up yet another second round pick. Everybody gets what they want, but it's unlikely to significantly impact anything unless the pick Minnesota re-routed to Philly to dump Turiaf's salary is used to select the next Manu Ginobili. But the odds on that can't be good. Right? Right?
Deron Williams' name has been floated for a salary dump to the Kings, which makes about as much sense as anything else the Kings have done recently. His 2014-15 numbers are surprisingly similar to Darren Collison's and his defense has been abysmal for years, but I suppose he would raise the ceiling on their offensive potential. I just don't understand why the Kings, Pelicans, Suns, or Nuggets would go all in to win now, when it is almost impossible to even sniff the playoffs in the West without multiple All-Stars. Those franchises, in my opinion, would be better off shopping for future assets and flexibility. Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez also may be available, but it is difficult to find franchises with dreams of contention that can send back equivalent salaries.
The Celtics may be looking to clear house. Jeff Green, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass, and Brandan Wright will all be free agents this summer and could bolster the benches of most playoff bound teams. Wilson Chandler, Arron Afflalo, Timofey Mozgov, Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye, and Nate Robinson could do the same if the Nuggets decide to tear down. Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried could also be made available, but it is more difficult to find teams that could put together attractive enough offers to tempt Denver, particularly now that Dallas has already traded for a point guard. Houston could build an offer around Terrence Jones and Clint Capela, The Bulls could offer Sacramento's pick and Nikola Mirotic for Lawson if Rose cannot return to full strength by February.
Which trades do you see happening in the near future? Leave 'em in the comments.