When the Minnesota Timberwolves traded away Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2007, it has been said their main goal was to acquire both forward Al Jefferson and second-year point guard Rajon Rondo. After the Celtics refused to give up Rondo, the Wolves settled for Sebastian Telfair, a statistically comparable point guard with the potential to become a dynamic starter in the league.
Five years later, Rondo has Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, seeking his second NBA Championship, while Telfair is a reserve for the Phoenix Suns, a lottery team in 2011-12.
Rondo, a three-time all star, is averaging over 10 points, eight assists, and almost two steals a game over the span of his six-year career. Telfair has substantially-lower numbers in all of those categories and has never stuck with a team long enough to become an impact player in the league.
But enough about Telfair. He only played for Minnesota for three seasons (not consecutively I may add). This is about Rajon Rondo and what could have been had Kevin McHale and the Wolves' front office been able to retrieve the guard out of Kentucky.
Granted, Rondo's numbers, despite having 22 career triple doubles (including nine in the postseason, good for fourth best all-time), do not blow you away. 10 points per contest does not scream game changer. Rondo's success has often been attributed to playing alongside three-future Hall of Famers. Last season, former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni ironically stated, "I would like to see him play on Minnesota and see how well he does."
Well D'antoni, we here in the state of MInnesota would also have loved to have seen that.
Clearly Rondo, a pass-first point guard, has benefited from playing with prolific scorers such as Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Who wouldn't have? Would Rondo have had all of this success if he actually had been traded to Minnesota back in '07? Probably not right away, but the end result also could have been special.
Rondo's game has never one that can truly be measured by statistics. Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post, "You can make the case that about 60 percent of his impact is out of miscellaneous random situations that you can't actually scheme for." Spoelstra hit the nail on the head. When you watch Rondo, it is obvious that he is the best player on the floor for Boston. He affects the game in so many different ways with his dazzling passes, hounding defense, and as he showed in game seven against the 76ers, clutch scoring to put teams away. His toughness and overall winning aura are things that the Wolves have been lacking over the past five years.
So the question is, how good would our Wolves have been had they gotten Rondo so many years ago...
Undoubtedly, Minnesota still would have struggled in the first year or two, Rondo and Jefferson, at extremely young ages, would have been the Wolves' best two players (as Jefferson was when he came into town). However, the combo would have been a formidable one, as a playmaking point guard would have benefitted Big Al on the interior by getting him some easy baskets. After maybe two years the Timberwolves likely would have been a pure shooter and maybe one more perimeter scorer away from a playoff push, something you would hope maybe their front office could address (sounds familiar to this offseason, fingers crossed). Rondo's offensive game would probably also have developed into something much greater than it is today in Boston, for the increase in the sheer number of shots and scoring opportunities he would have been bared as one of the focal points of the team. As we have seen with Rondo now on multiple occasions, he can answer the call offensively when called upon, something Minnesota would have done for him often.
Had they received Rondo in the Kevin Garnett trade as originally hoped, the Wolves would have been on the fringe of a playoff berth three years ago, backed by a talented-young point guard and an offensively-gifted power forward. If Rondo and Jefferson were with Wolves today, and playing at the very least at the level they are at for their current teams, Minnesota would likely be in the middle of the playoff action in the West, with a chance to contend with some of the upper powers.
Alas, that is not the case. Rondo is still with Boston, looking more and more like a Hall of Famer everyday as the Celtics take on Miami looking for another berth in the NBA Finals, which would be their third appearance with the star point guard. Jefferson led a rising Utah team into the playoffs with his fantastic-interior scoring we saw at the Target Center for years. And in Minnesota, well there has not been a playoff appearance here now since 2003. Yes, we do have perennial all-star Kevin Love, a rising star at point guard in Ricky Rubio, and are on the brink of getting back into the playoffs, finally.
So hey Minnesota, it looks like not getting Rondo only set us back by 2-3 years. That's no big deal, we are used to waiting for our professional sports teams to break through and finally become something. They always reach their full promise eventually, right?
I am sure we will get Boston back by swindling them out of a future Hall of Famer someday too..