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Unless Rondo Returns To His Old Self, Dallas' Big Trade Was A Waste

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Rajon Rondo has been in Dallas for three months now. He’s played in 37 games and has been a part of 22 wins and 15 losses.

He’s played an average of 28 minutes, scored 9.4 points per game and dished out 6.6 assists. He has also had his face smashed in by a teammate’s knee and been suspended for getting in a fight with coach Rick Carlisle.

That’s a busy three months for the free-agent-to-be-point-guard.

The Dallas Mavericks have struggled to incorporate the dribble happy, assist-seeking point guard into their offensive scheme, and their offense was absolutely killing it before acquiring Rondo on December 17.

The Washington Post broke down the Mavs’ historic offensive start. They were literally scoring at a better clip than the 1986-87 “Showtime Lakers.” The Mavs were scoring 10 percent better than the league average.

The Mavs' offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) was 116.7 when that article was written on November 21. Since the Rondo trade, the Mavs offense has dipped to 106.7, although still fifth in the league.

That means there is nearly a month gap between that Washington Post article and the Rondo trade. How did the Mavs offense fair during that chunk of time?

Well, it was trending down. Their offensive rating was 112.6 from November 21 to December 17, putting them third behind the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers per NBA.com.

One thing Rondo has going against him is the small sample size that preceded his arrival in Dallas. The Mavs have played 40 games since the Rondo trade; whereas, their juggernaut offense only had 27 games without him to start the season.

Who is to say the offense would have continued to play at the same clip? No one can truly tell.

However, the marks against Rondo are tied to his individual performance and his behavior. The Mavs offense has cooled since its hot start, but Rondo’s play has been unremarkable, also.

As a player in his eighth season, there are plenty of things Rondo has not improved, and that's a big problem. His field goal percentage is hovering around 41 percent; his free throw shooting is an atrocity (33 percent), and his assists are down.

Since the trade, Rondo is near the bottom of the league in scoring among guards who play 27-plus minutes per game. He’s averaging 9.4 points in 29 minutes.

Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Courtney Lee and Jose Calderon all average about the same amount of points as Rondo since December 17. He is also averaging fewer assists than the likes of Mo Williams, Tyreke Evans and Michael Carter-Williams.

During the last few possessions of the Mavericks-Phoenix Suns game on Sunday night, Rajon Rondo was relegated to “stand in the corner and watch” status. He didn’t touch the ball.

He’s too much of a liability because he’s not willing to get into the lane to finish at the rim, get fouled or dish it to an open shooter.

So, why would he be on the floor if that’s the case? It's simple: He’s one of the better perimeter defenders on the court. With the offensive dip in team production, the team has improved on defense since Rondo’s arrival.

They were 18th in the league in defensive rating with 104.6 points allowed, and their defensive rating since the trade is 101.8.

So, there is some improvement; however, some highlights from last night’s Suns loss show Rondo is still not the defender the Mavs need in crunch time with the plethora of quick, talented guards in the Western Conference he'll be facing in the playoffs.

When Danny Ainge drafted Marcus Smart last summer, the writing was on the wall for Rajon Rondo.

He didn’t respond in the way a leader should, and he was shipped out of town for nearly nothing. Since then, Smart has filled in capably for Rondo by defending better, shooting better and playing with energy.

When the Mavs traded for Rondo, they knew they were getting a mercurial point guard, and their biggest hope has to be that Cyborg Rondo shows up in the playoffs.

They need the guy who averaged 14.5 points, 9.2 assists and six rebounds per game with the Celtics, winning a championship and going to the game 7 in another NBA Finals.

They need the guy who outplayed LeBron James in the 2012 playoffs, and who stepped up in game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers when the chips were down, not the guy who is the last one down the court on a fast break.