It's been almost a month now since Rajon Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, and winning results have been noted. Dallas is 7-4 now (albeit, now with back-to-back losses to the surging Detroit Pistons and athletic Los Angeles Clippers) since getting Rondo.
One of the primary concerns among inner circles is that Rondo would hurt Dallas' already epic offensive production. So far, it's stayed about the same.
But then there is also Rondo's offensive production from his own game. He hasn't been consistent, as expected. His jump shot is not falling, which is expected. It might appear he's being asked to do too much in Dallas offensively, or he's got a really green light to shoot the ball.
1) We now have a good sample size to evaluate how Rondo is meshing with this offense. How would you evaluate how he's fit on this team and how this offense looks with him running the show?
Kirk: I think he's fit surprisingly well. I was skeptical of Rondo's fit, but certainly not his talent. That the offense hasn't slowed much is a testament to both Rono and Carlisle's conceptual understanding of NBA level basketball. There are obviously the spacing problems from time to time, but the offense occasionally went to hell before the trade. It's going to happen from time to time.
Bailey: I think he's a good, but not yet great fit. Rondo has quickly become the Mavs' leader in assists, and contributes a decent amount of points most nights as well. Yet the team still has a lot of adjusting to do to him. I feel like there are still several times a game when Rondo seems to catch a teammate completely off-guard, with either a baffling amazing pass or one that is simply too hot to handle. There's still a lot of adjusting to do, but I'm encouraged by how Carlisle is working to fuse Rondo into the existing offensive structure.
2) The offense isn't pretty all the time, especially when Rondo has the green light to shoot like he does. This was always the downside of bringing in Rondo, but do you have a problem with Carlisle allowing him to shoot as much as he has?
Kirk: No. I'd rather he get comfortable shooting 8 to 12 times a game. The thing is, he CAN shoot. He just hasn't in games with any consistency show I think his shooting numbers career-wise do not display his actual talent. At an All Star Weekend 3-4 years ago, Rondo went toe-to-toe in a game of HORSE with Kevin Durant on a long back and forth of three point shots. It was insane. So, do I want Rondo gunning? No. But you have to take what the defense gives you and if that makes 3-5 open 15 footers a game, Rondo has to take them.
Bailey: Eh. I don't know that Carlisle is necessarily greenlighting everything. Look, it's going to take some time. Rondo isn't the sort of guy to look for his own shot. He may force it at times with this team because it seems like he thinks that is expected, or maybe that is just what the defense is giving him at times. As Rondo and the Mavs grow more comfortable with each other, I fully trust that the additional comfort level will lead to fewer ill-advised shots. If Rondo could go an entire game without shooting at all, I'm pretty sure he would be fine with that. It's all about adapting and figuring out how to exploit the defense working against you.
3) Take the West as currently constructed. The Suns now get Brandan Wright and the Grizzlies are trading for Jeff Green. Where does Dallas rank with Rondo on this roster and the West as it is now?
Kirk: I still think Dallas is better than Phoenix, but I suspect they'll use Wright the same way Dallas did: mainly as a means to exploit a defenses which refuses to respect a rim runner. Wright's really functional in the modern NBA assuming he's the 4th or 5th best player on the floor for a team. With the Grizzlies... I'm just not sure. They're really good right now and Green serves mainly as insurance. The thought, I'm sure, is that if he's in a truly complimentary role, he'll thrive. Only... he had that in OKC and they got rid of him. In Boston he was a Jekyl and hyde type player. I think he's going to disappoint Memphis a lot, because that's what he's done his entire career. Dallas is still a 4-6 seed depending on how stuff shakes out the rest of the season
Bailey: I'm not really a fan of ranking rosters in a period of transition. As with Rondo, these other rosters will take time to accommodate their new pieces. I think that, unlike Dallas, Phoenix and Memphis just added a couple of really great bench pieces. That's a little different (and a little less drastic) a change than adding a starter, particularly at point guard. Those teams may suffer fewer transition issues than the Mavs have (and will continue to have). Ultimately, this is an arms race for the playoffs, so let's hold off a few months before trying to judge these moves.
4) Overall, are you convinced Rondo has made Dallas a better team, or do you need to see more from him/team?
Kirk: He's made the team better, but as Detroit exposed last week, the Mavericks are an incomplete team. Greg Smith really is a solid player, but he's almost a relic from a bygone era. He just has no explosiveness to his game and Dallas is geared around having an explosive center. I think Rondo's done what he's going to do, but the team has to find ways to keep improving. Lucky for us, Carlisle is the best coach in the league at adjustments and experiments, so I'm pretty hopeful.
Bailey: Overall, there isn't any doubt that Rondo has made Dallas a better team. The defensive improvement has been drastic, and the offense is still figuring itself out. Furthermore, Rick Carlisle has been forced to really analyze what sort of pieces he has on his bench, without the fantastic offensive crutch that was Brandan Wright. I do think we need to see more, both in terms of seeing how Rondo and the offense continue to adapt to each other, and from the various bench pieces and whether they can continue to produce at a good to great level.