When Adam Silver read aloud the name of “Marcus Smart” at the NBA Draft last week, many immediately predicted that Rajon Rondo would be on the next Amtrak out of South Station. While Rondo could still absolutely be traded between now and July 1, 2015 – the day his current contract is scheduled to expire with the Celtics – it shouldn’t be ruled out that the Celtics will at least experiment with the bruising Smart and the quirky Rondo on the floor at the same time in 2014-15.
Danny Ainge, Wyc Grousbeck and Brad Stevens have all, of course, already said that Smart and Rondo could play together. Do they all truly believe that? Who knows for sure, but Ainge is certainly one who isn’t afraid to think outside the box.
When Ainge was head coach of the Phoenix Suns in the late 1990s, he had a team that thrived with three and sometimes four guards on the floor at the same time. Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash and Rex Chapman (three of four described as traditional “point guards”) would often drive opposing teams nuts with their frenzied, unorthodox style of play and it resulted in 56 victories that season for Ainge’s Suns (see above video for a grainy glance at their early-season victory over Michael Jordan’s Bulls).
Smart is considered a relatively poor shooter, and when you add in the fact that the Celtics already have dreadful numbers from the outside (tied for 27th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage at .333 in 2013-14), it makes one wonder if the C’s can keep pace in a league where the top teams are great from deep (the champion Spurs were first in the league at .397 in 3-point field goal percentage in 2013-14).
The drafting of Kentucky swingman James Young should help shooting matters and Avery Bradley has shown that he is at least capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers and corner 3-pointers. But when Smart and Rondo are on the floor at the same time, one can bet that defenses will sag to the basket.
The big picture question regarding the Celtics and a potentially guard-heavy lineup next season is, “Does Ainge even want it to succeed?” Unless a Kevin Love trade to Boston is in the works, in which case Smart would likely be dealt Chauncey Billups-style, odds say that the Celtics aren’t going to be title contenders next season. What would the re-building Celtics have to lose next season – besides more games – by putting Smart and Rondo on the floor at the same time? There’s probably a better chance of this being an experiment in November and December than seeing Rondo pack his bags in the next few weeks.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS