Report: League GM’s Believe Celtics Will Deal Rajon Rondo

Point guard Rajon Rondo is back on the court for a Celtics team vastly different than the one he last suited up for in the last few days of January, 2013. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are gone, as is coach Doc Rivers, and GM Danny Ainge continues to transition the team into a rebuild this season by hiring a young coach and stockpiling draft picks. But Rondo might be the next, and the final key cog from their championship-winning team in 2008.

Mitch Lawrence at the New York Daily News reports that general managers around the league expect Rondo gone by the February 20 trade deadline. Baring a move so soon after he came back from ACL surgery, executives believe he’ll be traded prior to this June’s draft:

Rondo is the last blue chip from the 2008 championship team and 2010 Finals team that Celtics president Danny Ainge can convert into assets as he rebuilds the franchise. More than a few GMs around the league expect Rondo to be on the move, if not at the trading deadline next month, then maybe in June at draft time.

Lawrence goes on to opine that Rondo won’t accept a rebuilding role on Stevens’ team, so Ainge will look to accumulate even more draft picks for the rebuilding process. So far, following the three-team trade unloading Jordan Crawford and Marshoon Brooks, Ainge has netted the team 17 draft picks over the next five years while shedding the majority of their championship-winning roster.

But, it remains to be seen whether Rondo might buy into what Brad Stevens is preaching. While Ainge might jump at the chance to get another first round draft choice and a younger guard with three-point range in exchange for Rondo, Stevens is a huge Rajon fan. He visited with Rondo at his camp in Kentucky this summer after getting hired, and has extolled his intelligence at every turn.

Rondo is playing his second game in more than a year Sunday night. Before the Celtics deal him, and before he can fetch much in exchange, he has to play. So we’ll get to see first-hand how he meshes with all this new teammates. But one former C’s star, Paul Pierce, thinks Rondo can be the face of a franchise, which is how he’d be expected to perform with a group of young guys looking up to him in Boston during a rebuild.

Also of note in Lawrence’s piece, the Pelicans are looking to make moves before the February deadline as well. New point guard Jrue Holiday and second-year power forward Anthony Davis are considered safe, but that leaves new $44 million wing Tyreke Evans and shooting guard Eric Gordon likely vulnerable to a trade:

The Pelicans signed Tyreke Evans this past summer to a four-year, $44 million free-agent deal and then added veteran PG Jrue Holiday via a trade with the Sixers to join Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. But all the moves haven’t exactly clicked. In fact, they’ve backfired, with New Orleans losing 13 of its last 17 games after starting out 11-10. The front office’s take? Team execs are saying at least those are assets that can be moved. Davis and Holiday are the keepers.

Whether they can move Evans’ new $44 million deal, remains to be seen for GM Dell Demps, but owner Tom Benson wants to win now, which is why they did a sign-and-trade with Sacramento for Evans in the first place. So far this season, they’re currently No. 13 in the West, seven games back of No. 8 seeded Phoenix, so a change makes sense if they’re not within sniffing distance of a playoff berth by All-Star weekend. Still, a lot of people around the NBA thought $44 million was much too steep for a player like Evans, who has fallen off since winning the 2010 ROY.

[New York Daily News]

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