Should The Knicks Target Rajon Rondo In 2015?

In 2010, Brian Kamenetzky wrote a hypothetical for ESPN LA exploring what Phil Jackson’s triangle offense would look like if Steve Nash was the point guard. To do this, he interviewed then LA assistant Brian Shaw about how a “true” point guard like Nash would fit in the offense.

Q: Some people will say there’s such a thing as too much point guard in the offense. Would you agree? 

Shaw: “In respect that we don’t even use the term. We call it a lead guard, because when you think of point guard, it’s at the point. This offense is run with a two guard front. It gives you the luxury of not having to draft or go after that kind of guard, that’s going to dominate the ball. Because in this offense, 80 percent of the time you’re playing without the ball. So some players, it may frustrate them. I don’t know how Chris Paul would work, for instance, because he likes to have the ball and direct all the time, and that’s not something that this offense really [allows].”

Q: But Nash dominates the ball in that offense, as well.

Shaw: “For sure. It could work. But you don’t have to feel like you have to get a player like that in order to get the offense to move.”

Q: “In the end, a more prototypical point guard would have to adjust his game? 

Shaw: “Yes.”

Historically, Phil Jackson’s triangle offenses – largely the same offense the Knicks will be running from here on out – haven’t relied on high usage point guards. It has been run through elite wing players at the elbows and dominant big-men down low. The role of the point guards in the system have been to make smart decisions initiating the offense early in the shot clock, before running to a spot on the floor predicated on how the defense aligns itself. They’ve been used as managers of the offense, rather than the focal point of it.

That isn’t to say the offense can’t mold itself around higher usage point guard play – one of the selling points of the triangle is that it’s flexible to incorporate all different types of skill sets – but there isn’t a historical precedent of Jackson’s teams ever doing so. Other teams, like the Spurs, use triangle elements in their offenses which work just fine with a point guard who primarily handles the ball. But one of the positives of installing the triangle as Jackson has run it in the past is that the offense can operate at a high level without needing a point guard who can create shots for others.

***

With the Knicks having just given Carmelo Anthony a big juicy contract, they’ll be looking to add pieces in the summer of 2015, when they could have more than $13 million in cap room. One of the names that’s been floated as a potential addition is Rajon Rondo, whose contract expires after the season. The Knicks have been linked to Rondo in the past, but he made a lot more sense for them when they weren’t running the triangle. Under D’Antoni or Woodson, Rondo would’ve been a more natural fit as a high usage guard who would run an abundance of pick and rolls in smaller lineups with Carmelo Anthony spreading the floor at power forward. But with the Knicks already paying Jose Calderon more than $7 million for each of the next three seasons, investing heavily in a high usage point guard is an unwise allocation of New York’s financial resources.

With Anthony likely to exclusively play small forward, the Knicks have major holes at both power forward and center. This is not ideal when installing an offense that’s also been referred to as “the triple-post offense.” Teams are always in the market for big-men and they don’t come cheaply.

As of right now, Quincy Acy and Cole Aldrich are the only bigs on the roster with any sort of potential moving forward. Amar’e Stoudemire is just playing out his contract, as is Andrea Bargnani. Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith may provide useful minutes as role players, but they’re far from long term solutions in the frontcourt. The Knicks will likely go into the 2015 offseason in need of quality starters at both power-forward and center, and potentially depth at both positions as well. With Iman Shumpert being the only above-average perimeter defender currently on the roster, acquiring new bigs will be essential to re-shaping one of the league’s worst defenses.

And if the Knicks decide that point guard is a position they want to improve, Rondo will hardly be the only available option. The current NBA climate is bountiful with talent at the point guard position. Given what the Knicks are likely to ask of their point guards, mainly to throw entry passes, shoot spot-up jump shots, and play defense, they should be more than able to find guys capable of fitting the bill. They already have two that can in Calderon and Pablo Prigioni. Shane Larkin is a young, and more importantly cheap, talent they can mold. Maybe the Knicks go looking elsewhere beyond this group, but with the Chandler trade they’ve already shown how easy it is to find guys who can play in the system.

Fixing the front court should be first and foremost on Jackson’s to-do list. Adding Rondo would make a lot more sense if the Knicks were further along in the re-building process. Phoenix could afford to add Isaiah Thomas to their already strong backcourt combination of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic not only because they had the cap room to do so, but also because they were strong on young talent throughout the roster. Building on a strength is a strategy that has merit, but only if the rest of your roster makes that viable. The Knicks aren’t even close to being there yet, and they don’t have the assets moving forward to expedite the process.

Chasing Rondo feels like something the old regime (*cough* Isiah *cough*) would do. For years, the Knicks modus operandi has been to add big names first and figure out how to make it work later. Of course, they were never able to do that second part. With the Chandler trade, which added long-term money in Calderon, it seems likely that Jackson and co. aren’t about to go about star chasing in free agency. Calderon is a good fit in the triangle as a smart, pass-first point guard, who also happens to be a deadly three point shooter. Jackson is working to build a team and Jose fits in nicely into that strategy.

When it comes to free agency 2015, the big names like Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge are off the market, but there are useful players still potentially available. Were big-men like Brook Lopez, Amir Johnson, Robin Lopez, Paul Millsap, Thaddeus Young, David West, Omer Asik and Roy Hibbert to hit the open market, any one of them would make more sense for the Knicks than Rondo. Brendan Wright and Kosta Koufos are current backups that would come cheaper than the first group, but would still be improvements on what the Knicks currently have. Point is, there will be available options that make more sense than Rondo, or any other high volume point guard.

This isn’t similar to 2011 where the Knicks, post-free agency, were able to turn a package of picks and young players into a star player via trade. Here, they’d be exhausting essentially every remaining asset they do have were they to acquire Rondo in a deal this season. And regardless whether they sign him in 2015 free agency or re-sign him after a trade, he’s likely to get more than $10 million annually in his new contract. Were they to do this, they’d have to have some sort of plan in place to either acquire or develop impact bigs who could help them win sooner, rather than later.

Jackson would have to work wonders to acquire both Rondo and a stable of big men good enough to mold an above-average defense around. In simpler words, it’d be much easier and more logical to bypass getting Rondo altogether and invest in other positions. But we know that under James Dolan, the Knicks don’t always exercise logic in their decision making. I trust Jackson and I doubt he’s got Rondo high on his list of potential targets. But I don’t trust Dolan. Rondo is a much flashier and more marketable name than someone like Robin Lopez or David West. Is it unlikely that the latter would overrule his exponentially more qualified employee and make a dumb move? Probably, but it’s happened before so you can’t totally rule it out. That would be the nightmare scenario, or for Knicks fans, business as usual.

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39 thoughts to “Should The Knicks Target Rajon Rondo In 2015?”

  1. It pains me to say this but…even if Fish doesn’t run the triangle, I would say no. He’s still young, but he’s had too many injuries. Well..enough to the point that i’m worried about his durability. “Injury” and “mercurial star player” does not go too well. And given Rondo’s personality, I can’t see him accepting suggestions to change his game to adjust to physical limitations. I certainly can’t see him in the triangle. He can play without the ball and be an excellent guard..but he doesn’t shoot well enough to compensate for not having the ball as much in the triangle. Sucks tho because I really like Rondo.

  2. Good piece. I’d just add that it sort of glosses over the issue of whether Rondo is even a good idea in a more neutral context at this point. Last 4 seasons he has played 68, 53 (of 66), 38 and 30 games. Now admittedly he never had any injury issues before that, but for a guy whose game is so dependent on his athleticism that has to be a major concern. He also shot the ball really poorly last year, although certainly a lot of that could be rust and a horrible team. To me that’s a lot of questions for a guy who I’m guessing is going to be expecting to be compensated like a star, and all of that is without even addressing whether he’s a good fit here (and the piece does a good job of laying out why he’s clearly not), or how dreadful it would be to have to root for that guy (seems like a first-class asshole).

    Honestly, the only way I’d really be interested in Rondo is if he has a particularly bad year and would be interested in a 5-6M per year type of deal where we could afford to make him a complimentary piece. Otherwise pass.

  3. When it comes to free agency 2015, the big names like Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge are off the market, but there are useful players still potentially available. Were big-men like Brook Lopez, Amir Johnson, Robin Lopez, Paul Millsap, Thaddeus Young, David West, Omer Asik and Roy Hibbert to hit the open market, any one of them would make more sense for the Knicks than Rondo.

    You have to include Marc Gasol here, who is likely both the best fit and our primary target in 2015.

  4. Injuries are a concern, as well as his true shooting percentages. Once a 54%, he’s been pulling a McGrady and his % is south of 50%. If you look at his steals, those are down as well. That could well indicate a decline in physical ability and defense as well.

    I agree he would be better as a reclamation project (McDyess comes to mind).

  5. Very true, and he’s 28, an age where productivity often starts to decline, especially in players who depend on their quickness and speed. I think anyone who gets him will be paying a lot of money for past performance, rather than potential. Of course he could rebound, but that’s a gamble I would take with a cheap player, not an expensive one and especially not an expensive one who’s not a good fit for our offensive system.

  6. “Injuries are a concern, as well as his true shooting percentages. Once a 54%, he’s been pulling a McGrady and his % is south of 50%.”
    He has always been a brutally bad shooter from anywhere but at the rim– including from the foul line. (And that’s not likely to improve because his mechanics are awful — which is stunning for an elite athlete.) He is something like 25% for his career from 3 and 36% for his career from between 3 and 16 feet. He has put up decent FG% and TS% only because he doesn’t take many shots from anywhere else but at the rim. If his athleticism has slipped even a little, he won’t get nearly as many layups and he’s going to turn into Ricky Rubio (who also would not be worth anything near a max contract).

  7. I always liked Rondo, but I would not go near him for the max right now. He’s actually not a very high usage PG, but he doesn’t shoot well, and his injury history is a big worry right now. Rondo seems to have lost his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls, which is not great for a guy who can’t shoot. Maybe it was because he hadn’t recovered from his injury, but trading for him without seeing what he can do this coming season would be really dumb.

  8. If his athleticism has slipped even a little, he won’t get nearly as many layups and he’s going to turn into Ricky Rubio (who also would not be worth anything near a max contract).

    Ricky Rubio is the anti-Rondo:

    Ricky shoots 80% of his free throws. There is some hope for him to turn it around and be a decent 3pt shooter (which he is not that bad now, at 33%). OTOH, he is not gonna be good at getting to the rim ever.

  9. Please no more injury-riddled, aging point guards who are several years removed from their best seasons. Rondo is a weird dude. He’d probably end up eating Vaseline on YouTube if the Knicks sign him.

  10. I’d rather we go after Goran Dragic than Rondo — as far as PG prospects go. Suns may have locked him up though by pulling a Knicks move and signing his brother

  11. Good article with valid and solid points, but I am sure the feeling is mutual on his side as well. It works better for him to get paid by the Celtics (which is what he wants, a 5 year deal and a no trade clause, also he and his family love Boston) plus the Celtics are gonna have cap space next year too, so they can get a quality impact player with having him still on the roster.

  12. “Ricky Rubio is the anti-Rondo:”
    Not really. They are both good defenders and great passers who are awful shooters from the field. Rondo is slightly less awful from mid-range and Rubio is slightly less awful from 3. (You are right about one thing — Rubio is a much better foul shooter.)
    ” he is not gonna be good at getting to the rim ever.”
    That’s kind of my point — if Rondo has lost a step, he won’t be nearly as effective at getting to the rim and becomes Rubio. By the way, for what it’s worth, over the last two years, Rondo has taken 34% of his shots at the rim (about 4 a game). Last year, Rubio took 41% of his shots at the rim (about 4 a game). So, either Rubio is not terrible at getting to the rim, or Rondo has already gotten worse at getting to the rim. (Rondo did shoot a little better last year than Rubio on rim shots, but not by much — 54% to 49%.)

  13. @10 – Come on now, you need to provide a link to the YouTube video of our Vaseline-eating point guard if you bring it up! As a public service: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eUtSV519vU

    On to the main topic at hand, the next point guard we invest in should be one we can hold on to and build with. Rondo doesn’t fit that bill for me. He’s already breaking down and he relies a lot on quickness to be effective and that’s the attribute which will decline first. His shooting is erratic at best. I would rather nab a PG in the draft and develop him. Cheaper. Smarter.

  14. trading for him without seeing what he can do this coming season would be really dumb.

    Isn’t it great, though, that for the first time since the year 2000, we’re all reasonably certain that we wouldn’t do anything that dumb?

    I mean, if it was business as usual (i.e. without Phil), Boston would be trading us an injured Rondo & Gerald Wallace’s contract for Barngani’s expiring plus Shump, Hardaway, Larkin, and first round picks in 2018 & 2020.

  15. Speaking of PGs we can hold onto and build with I’m intrigued by the idea of giving Shump a look at some backup PG minutes this year. I know the experience didn’t go very well his rookie year, but D’Antoni ball is basically the opposite of the triangle in terms of demand on the PG position and I think Shump has a lot of what you might look for in a triangle PG – size, decent shooter, good on ball defender. Plus, we potentially have a bit of a logjam on the wings if Melo really isn’t going to play the 4 much. He’s going to get 35+ a night, THJ should take a step forward to 25+ a night, you’d figure JR for 25+ a night as well – doesn’t leave many minutes on the wing.

  16. While we’re talking point guards, I’m interested in seeing if we can develop Larkin into a useful NBA player. He’s always going to be small, but his numbers in college made him look like a good bet to at least become a high caliber backup. And it’s not like our bigger PGs can guard anyone either.

  17. Can’t get too excited about Rondo. Maybe if we were getting him after this year at a reasonable price, having proven himself healthy and productive. Lot of risk….

    I loved Rondo in his first couple of years but don’t trust the defense…..

  18. Rondo is a smart, gritty and talented player, but also a flawed player even when healthy. Sure I’d like to have him at $8-10 mill per for 3-4 years, but that’s not gonna happen. He was beautiful on the Celts primarily due to his small salary and limited offensive role. I’d much rather have a lesser known but solid 2-way player like Teague or Conley.

    Certainly his ability (when healthy) to defend, rebound and pass would be very valuable. But he’s not a near-max player, and maybe not even worth the $8-10 million.

  19. If Rondo sucks again this year I would think teams wouldn’t want to offer him real money.

  20. Reggie Jackson/Brandon Knight in ’15 or ’16 would be pretty interesting. Along with one or two of Oladipo, Leonard, Butler seems like a pretty good back-up plan.

  21. Reggie Jackson/Brandon Knight in ’15 or ’16 would be pretty interesting. Along with one or two of Oladipo, Leonard, Butler seems like a pretty good back-up plan.

    Reggie Jackson and Brandon Knight are overrated volume scorers and not worth more than the MLE. Knight is worth far less. Leonard and Butler are not. Unfortunately, the Spurs will get Leonard for the max, which will be a steal for his prime years.

  22. The whole West Point thing eerily reminds me of Pat Riley’s first season in New York. He did some similar bonding things to change the culture, although if I recall, they went to Charleston or something. I actually like what Fisher and Phil are doing even more.

    As a kid, I absolutely revered Willis the Captain and am thrilled that Jax invited him up. Most of you guys are too young to remember when the Garden was actually Eden, but I can tell you, it was the best sports time of my life. The ’69-70 team was the consummate team in terms of rootability. None of the immortals on that team ever led the league in anything. None of them had any character blemishes. None of them cared who was the star on any particular night. And I pity the fool who crossed Willis with selfish play. Only Phil could bring that to life for this team. It’s pretty cool after all these post-Riley years to see us going in that direction again.

  23. “I know, personally, I’m there. It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “These (analysts) are all people that maybe never accomplish anything. That just sit back and write articles all day long about what they see. ”

    Articles? We talking about articles? Some of us just write snarky comments.

  24. Tony Parker TS first four years: .497, .542, .516, .528

    Steve Nash first three years: .539, .556, .471

    Chauncey Billups first 4 years: .516, .547, .465, .538

    Chris Paul first two years: .546, .537

    Deron Williams first two seasons: .500, .535

    Goran Dragic: .487, .566, .524

    Mark Price rookie year: .489 TS

    John Stockton: .548, .566 (career .608)

    Gary Payton: .476, .478

    Kevin Johnson: .531 (.585 CAREER).

    Jackson and Knight could both turn out to be high-usage busts, but they’re dynamic athletes that can shoot. I don’t think it’s unfair to say either one of them could improve dramatically statistically.

  25. “These (analysts) are all people that maybe never accomplish anything. That just sit back and write articles all day long about what they see. ”

    i dont have enough context for how the line of questioning went, but what an awful quote.

  26. On the one hand, no one should ever pay attention to what Melo says. Public speaking is just not his forte.

    On the other hand, his quote seemed like a pretty standard quote for a lot of athletes, so it did not even stand out for me. It’s still dumb, of course.

  27. Speaking of PGs we can hold onto and build with I’m intrigued by the idea of giving Shump a look at some backup PG minutes this year. I know the experience didn’t go very well his rookie year, but D’Antoni ball is basically the opposite of the triangle in terms of demand on the PG position and I think Shump has a lot of what you might look for in a triangle PG – size, decent shooter, good on ball defender. Plus, we potentially have a bit of a logjam on the wings if Melo really isn’t going to play the 4 much. He’s going to get 35+ a night, THJ should take a step forward to 25+ a night, you’d figure JR for 25+ a night as well – doesn’t leave many minutes on the wing.

    If he can shoot like he did in his sophomore year, I can see Shump filling the role Ron Harper filled on the Bulls and Lakers. No one ever considered him a PG, but he did play it in the triangle.

  28. Zero chance we’d go after Rondo.
    First – isn’t he known as a bad locker room guy? Phil/Fish are trying to change the culture. Just because JR’s on the team doesn’t mean that we would go after JR in free agency. Plus, JR is just a goofball, not a locker room cancer that doesn’t get along with other players/coaches.

    Second – he can’t shoot. Has there ever been a triangle PG under Phil that can’t shoot? Cleamons had Jason Kidd before he learned to shoot –> horrible offense. Rambis had Ricky Rubio –> horrible offense. They weren’t the only problems on those teams (Toni Braxton was a big problem in dallas) but that didn’t help.

    Third – he’s a ball-dominating PG, which is specifically what Phil/Fish are trying to get away from

    Fourth – he’s hurt all the time

    Fifth – he’s old both in terms of age and production (ie. unlike Melo who is still clearly in his prime)

  29. “If he can shoot like he did in his sophomore year, I can see Shump filling the role Ron Harper filled on the Bulls and Lakers. No one ever considered him a PG, but he did play it in the triangle.”

    Right, Harper is a good comp. He wouldn’t be a classic PG in any sense, but you could run out a Shump-JR backcourt sometimes, let them split ball handling duties with Shump guarding the PG on the other end, and you’d have what should be a en effective defensive backcourt with a lot of length without losing much on the offensive end relative to playing a backup PG in Shump’s place.

  30. Harper is an interesting comp for Shumpert. He never was a particularly good offensive player, but he was valuable by being good/very-good at everything else while not being terrible on offense. Which is probably the best case scenario for our Shump at this point, and one I’d be very happy with.

  31. Old news by now but did anyone here read this article about Tyson “firing back” at Phil?

    http://nypost.com/2014/09/20/infuriated-tyson-chandler-has-a-message-for-phil-jackson/

    I liked Tyson a lot while he was here but dude — you were the one throwing your coach under the bus on multiple occasions when things started to go bad. That’s not the mark of a leader. And when one of the “leaders” of the team starts pointing fingers without adequately pointing them at himself, the whole thing falls apart.

    And honestly, he wasn’t the leader on Dallas – it’s always been Dirk and Carlisle running the show there. And he wasn’t the leader on the Knicks in 2012-13 — it was Jason Kidd, Sheed, Kurt, etc.

  32. Harper is an interesting comp for Shumpert. He never was a particularly good offensive player, but he was valuable

    Put Shumpert on the court with Shaq and Kobe and, sure, he’d look pretty good.

    Put Ron Harper next to Cole Aldrich and JR Smith and you’d still have the 2014 New York Knicks.

  33. Put Shumpert on the court with Shaq and Kobe and, sure, he’d look pretty good.

    Put Ron Harper next to Cole Aldrich and JR Smith and you’d still have the 2014 New York Knicks.

    Defense is a valuable skill regardless of who you play with.

    Zero chance we’d go after Rondo.

    I agree completely with this and all the points you made. Rondo would be an awful addition to this team considering the system we are implementing offensively.

  34. First – isn’t he known as a bad locker room guy?

    This is not true. He is the captain of the Celtics. They wouldnt have him doing that, if he was a so called bad locker room guy. All his teammates that played with had no problems, except the diva Ray Allen, who was mad because he was on the decline and Avery Bradley took his spot upon Rondo’s and Doc’s request.

    Fourth – he’s hurt all the time

    One major injury that takes time to rehab and a year. Everything else has been minor. Unless I am missing something.

    *Fifth – he’s old both in terms of age and production

    Is this a joke? he not even in his 30s and if you look at his last season which was his worst (because he played less than half the season and was rehabbing] The final month he played he was shooting 50% from the field averaging almost 10 assists.

    Again I doubt he would consider the Knicks in FA anyway. He is smart he knows his fit. He doesnt even want to play on the Lakers so why play for a Knicks team that probably wont even be better than the Celtics next year (they have cap space too you know).

  35. From what I’ve read, it seems like Rondo isn’t a bad locker room guy so much that he’s an a-hole. Which probably worked better when he’s around KG rather than a bunch of kids who are just giddy about playing in the NBA and becoming millionaires.

    The fit is horrible though. Dragic makes much more sense if he is willing to leave Phoenix.

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