As late as Monday of this week we were all asking ourselves if the Mavericks were truly contenders in the West. MMB's own Hal Brown had a strong opinion that they weren't, and it was an opinion that I agreed with. Notice how I used the past tense right there. The addition of Rajon Rondo changes things.
If this team was missing one thing, it was an elite level point guard that could play defense.
Elite point guards litter the NBA's stacked Western Conference. You've got Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, and Damian Lillard. That's not even mentioning above average guys like Mike Conley and Jrue Holiday.
Meanwhile Dallas was rolling with an overwhelmed and under-performing Jameer Nelson, who just wasn't getting it done. And as much as we all love Devin Harris and J.J. Barea, Harris is best when he's running with the twos, and J.J. is too small to handle the majority of the minutes. They had no one that could defend all those guys listed above, and it showed early, with Dallas going 1-5 against teams currently in the top 8 in the conference.
Rondo is well known as one of the league's best defenders at his position, and even if his defense has declined a bit since his ACL injury, there's no doubt he's better than anything Dallas had going before his arrival.
But the question looms large, is the Rondo move enough? Will adding him, but depleting the bench, be enough to push Dallas into that top tier of teams in the league?
I think so. Put it this way.
Dallas' biggest deficiencies were defending the perimeter and rebounding. Rondo, despite the knee, is still a very good defender. He's also probably the best rebounding guard in the league, pulling down 7.5 boards per game this season.That's good enough for second on this Mavs team, behind Tyson Chandler (11.5) and ahead of Dirk (5.9).
As for the offensive side of things, he'll probably need time to adjust, just as Chandler Parsons did, but if Parsons is any indication, Rondo should be fun to watch once he gets his legs in this new system. He's already leading the league in assists, with 10.8 per game, and it should be expected that that number should at the very least remain the same, if not increase, now that he'll be playing with more talent than he was in Boston.
Now, is his shooting down this season? Yes. That's an undeniable fact. But I wonder what a change of scenery will do for his touch. Sometimes even the best players need a change to get their groove back.
However, arguably the biggest thing he brings to the team is experience. Yes, Dirk, Tyson, and J.J. all have rings, but it never hurts when the guy with the ball in his hands the most knows what it takes to get a ring. He was arguably the most clutch player on some of those Boston squads.
Ultimately, Rondo is the piece Dallas was missing. His defensive talent, rebounding prowess, and ability to be a supreme facilitator give Dallas the boost needed to be able to truly compete with the top teams in the West.
But, that's just my opinion. What's yours? Vote below.