Rajon Rondo unlocking keys to Mavs’ offense

Postgame: Rajon Raondo

Mavs G Rajon Rondo talks about getting the keys to the offense from head coach Rick Carlisle and says the Mavs "made a stand and stuck with it for 48 minutes" Friday against the Clippers.

While it’s easy to get carried away with a lopsided result in the Mavs’ favor, Rajon Rondo does appear to be growing more comfortable in his new system on his new team.

The strides he’s made have in many ways become more apparent since Chandler Parsons returned from injury. That’s an interesting coincidence, too, because it took Parsons a bit to get comfortable when the season started, but once things finally clicked for him, he’s been an extremely dynamic player. The hope is for that to be the case with Rondo as well, and we might be seeing that come to fruition.

It would be easy to think that, for a player like Rondo, less would be more in terms of the amount of playmakers desired around him in an offense. The Mavs have four players you can run offense through in the starting lineup alone, including Rondo, Parsons, Monta Ellis, and of course Dirk Nowitzki. That hasn’t really been the case for Rondo throughout his entire career; he spent his best seasons playing with catch-and-shoot guys like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and only next to one true ball-handler, Paul Pierce, but even he scored a fair share of points off of Rondo passes. But his average time of possession per game has dropped from 6.5 minutes in Boston this season to 5.2 per game in Dallas and his passes from a league-leading 76.1 per game to 57.8 in Dallas, per SportVU, indicating that he’s spending much less time on the ball here.

I think this is the best I’ve been since I’ve been here.

– Mavs guard Rajon Rondo

Rondo is at his best when he’s making plays for other players, but in this case, those “other players” are guys who also like to make plays for other players. That was the struggle early in Rondo’s tenure with this team: It seemed like everyone wanted to pass the ball instead of shoot it, which is a unique problem to have. That mentality springs from most of all from unselfish tendencies, but also perhaps from playcalling, confidence, familiarity, and so on.

That goes a long way in explaining why the transition period once acquired by the Mavs took several games. Rondo missing games in February due to facial fractures and other starters dealing with their own injuries didn’t make matters any easier, either. But now the starting five is finally completely intact, and the rest of the team is almost completely healthy, as well, though reserve Al-Farouq Aminu did not play Friday night against the Clippers.

Now that his team is healthy, the challenge for Rondo and head coach Rick Carlisle is getting on the same page when it comes to gameplanning, and putting their heads together to devise the best playcalling strategy possible for a given opponent. Rondo, for one, liked the results against the Clippers.

“The trust is becoming more and more better between coach and I,” he said. “It’s tough to give a guy keys to the cars when he first gets there. Tonight, we were on the same page a lot. We talked before the game as far as the playcalling he wanted to stick with. We were very locked in this morning during shootaround and it continued over tonight into the game.”

Added Carlisle: “I thought our guard play was tremendous, really fantastic on the ball. Rondo had a fantastic presence in the game at both ends. He’s really developed a good handle on this team. With 15 (games) left, I love the way he played tonight.”

Rondo also hinted that diversifying the offense has helped him grow more comfortable, as well, which typically isn’t the case. Normally you hear guys preach simplicity when they’re in a new or challenging environment, but that isn’t the case for the Mavs’ cerebral point guard.

Rondo’s Wizardry

Rajon Rondo nabs the pass and goes behind-the-back to Monta Ellis who sticks the jumper.

“I think this is the best I’ve been since I’ve been here (calling plays),” he said. “Charlie (Villanueva) got hot, CP got hot. I knew the right plays to call to get those guys shots, not necessarily the same playcalling every time down the floor because teams obviously load up on the same plays that you run. I was able to give different playcalling signals and give guys those looks.”

There’s the key to this team moving forward: Rondo must find a way to share the ball with everyone who needs it and spread the ball around in a way that will keep the defense guessing. He’s certainly got a very deep menu of options to choose from, as the Mavs have rolled out more and more new plays as the season has worn on, and his teammates are capable of running the offense themselves, too. In many ways, Rondo has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, but it’s up to him and Carlisle to figure out where to invest.

One problem that fans, observers, and analysts have run into when trying to figure this team out is determining the quality of offensive looks the Mavs have been able to generate. While those conversations are only academic, as all that matters is what the team thinks about its offense, it’s still been an interesting discussion to follow as Rondo has been in Dallas. The Mavericks have been able to generate more and more open shots as the season has unfolded, but some nights the team just hasn’t been able to knock those shots down. Against the Clippers, though, everything clicked. Shots were open, they came at a comfortable time in the shot clock, and the shots were knocked down. The Mavs shot 27-of-42 on uncontested shots, per SportVU, good for 64.3 percent. If they do that every night, this team is going to be ridiculously good.

Quality of looks is not just limited to how open they are, though. Rondo hinted at that himself. The best point guards are able to keep feeding the hottest players, no matter who they are. That was Jason Kidd’s hallmark in Dallas. If Dirk was hot, Kidd would get him the ball. If Jason Terry had it going, the JET would get the ball. Rondo made it a point to mention that Villanueva and Parsons were on fire, and those guys got the ball. Rondo led the team in touches in that game with 57, but tied for second were Parsons and Villanueva with 42 apiece. That’s some quality game management.

Obviously who’s hot will change from game to game. It could be Parsons one night, then Ellis the next, then Dirk, then Rondo, even. The NBA season is 82 games long and different guys go through hot stretches at different times. The point guard’s job is to take the pulse of the team and deliver the ball to the guys who are playing the best.

Rondo has grown more familiar with his teammates, his teammates are finally healthy, and now it’s a matter of diversifying the offense and keeping things rolling. The Mavericks played some of their best basketball of the season in a very important game against a very good team, which is hopefully a sign of things to come. We’ll see if they can keep it up against Oklahoma City on Monday night in what is another difficult contest. Perhaps it’s time, though, to trust Rondo with the keys to this thing. This team will go where he takes it.

Chandler Parsons’ return keys blueprint win for Mavs

It didn’t take long for Chandler Parsons to make an impact in his return after a seven-game absence.

The small forward finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and two assists against the Lakers in his first action since a Feb. 20 win against the Houston Rockets. He provided two pretty good examples of what the Mavs missed while he was out. In his first offensive possession of the game, Parsons drove through the Lakers defense and finished at the rim. Then, he connected with Tyson Chandler for a sweet alley-oop.

Parsons to Chandler

Tyson Chandler throws down the alley-oop lob from Chandler Parsons.

As the third playmaker in the Mavs starting five, Parsons has the ability to work on the weakside of the floor, either one-on-one with his defender or in a pick-and-roll with a big, usually Chandler. There aren’t many forwards in the NBA capable of driving and finishing like Parsons can, and there certainly aren’t more than a handful who can run the pick-and-roll with the type of proficiency he does.

He also did this, which was pretty cool.

Parsons’ Puts Kelly on Skates

Chandler Parsons gets Ryan Kelly with a nice cross-over then finishes in the lane scooping hook shot.

Parsons was a sight for sore eyes for Mavs fans, but not because Richard Jefferson didn’t perform well as his replacement in the starting lineup. Jefferson shot the ball extremely well and provided some spacing relief for the club while Parsons was out. However, Parsons adds a dynamic to this team which cannot be duplicated by anyone else. He can break down a defense and take big guys off the dribble, even in tight spaces, and he runs the floor well in transition. Both of those things matter to this Mavs team, as it’s best when moving quickly from defense to offense and fighting against defenses that hope to pack the paint.

More importantly, Parsons is a solid defender and good rebounder for his position, which is especially important as the team looks to close out games. Parsons’ on-floor net rating of 17.8 was second-best on the team (behind only Jefferson’s 23.4), and Dallas allowed just 88.0 points per 100 possessions with Parsons on the floor, which was the best mark of any player on the team.

THE FOURTH QUARTER RUN

Much of Parsons’ defensive rating had to do with the fact that Parsons was on the floor for the game-defining run which turned a difficult situation into a strong win.

Trailing 90-84 with 6:35 left in the game, the unit consisting of Rajon Rondo/Monta Ellis/Parsons/Al-Farouq Aminu/Chandler launched 16-1 run over the next 5:27. Disregarding a meaningless layup the Lakers scored at the buzzer, that unit limited LA’s offense to 0-of-6 shooting and six turnovers for the rest of the game once the Lakers went up 90-84. Most importantly, the Lakers didn’t grab an offensive rebound during that stretch after securing 15 throughout the game. That’s just a remarkable stretch of defensive execution, and it’s one that turned an iffy situation into a victory.

Taking the lead on the Mavs’ defensive effort was Aminu, who recorded six steals and three blocks against the Lakers. He’s the first Maverick to put up those numbers in one game since Derek Harper did the same in 1990 — 25 years ago. All told, seven of the 10 Mavs who played recorded at least one block or steal. Aminu has been terrific as of late and he continued that trend against LA, scoring 13 points (second on the team) and adding five boards in just 20 minutes.

TOO MUCH MONTA

Ellis’ 31 Points

Monta Ellis records 31 points to lead the Mavericks over the Lakers.

Ellis was simply spectacular against the Lakers, particularly in the second half. At one point in the third quarter, he drained three consecutive three-pointers to shave a seven-point deficit to just two heading into the fourth quarter. Ellis scored 26 points in the second half alone, including 18 of the Mavs’ 31 in the third quarter. He was outstanding. This performance was reminiscent of some of the masterpieces he put together earlier in the season, particularly one stretch in which he hit two straight game-winners against the Bulls and Bucks and led a comeback against the Pelicans. After shooting below 50 percent in 10 of his last 12 appearances, the obvious hope is that Ellis busted out of his mini-slump.

THE BLUEPRINT

Dallas was without backup guard Devin Harris against the Lakers, but this was the first time all season that the starting five and Amar’e Stoudemire all played in the same game. It’s important to keep in mind that most of these guys are still new to the team (Stoudemire and Rondo especially) so the only way for them to get comfortable with one another is to actually play together.

Familiarity, reliability, and confidence can only be built through spending time together in actual games, so hopefully Harris can return to action by Tuesday against Cleveland. It’s very challenging to win in the playoffs no matter how long you’ve played together, but the best teams have formulas in place to win meaningful games. In many ways, this game could very well serve as a sort of blueprint for the club moving forward.

The Mavs made their big fourth-quarter push with a combination of defense and rebounding, plus drawing charges and forcing turnovers. Then, they turned those opportunities into points the other way. Dallas is most dangerous when the opposing defense isn’t set, as that opens up all sorts of driving lanes for Parsons, Ellis, Rajon Rondo, and so on. Plus, it allows Dirk to get his trailing three looks, and we know how good he is on those shots.

In the first half, Dallas played through Parsons and Nowitzki more than anyone else. Both players took eight shots. But in the second half, Ellis took over the offense, facilitating the team for the bulk of the third quarter, which is how he scored all of those points. On nights when Parsons or Dirk have it going, they might be the ones to get all of those looks. The good thing about having so many different players who can control a game like that is you can just play through whichever one is the hottest at that moment. Some nights it will be Dirk, others Ellis, others Parsons, and it could even be Rondo, as was the case when he scored 19 points in a win last week against the Pelicans.

Most importantly, the Mavs found a defensive unit that really clicked. That Rondo/Ellis/Parsons/Aminu/Chandler five-man group is versatile, quick, and athletic on the defensive end, all while remaining dangerous offensively, especially in the open floor. That’s a unit we might see more of if Dallas plays against teams which like to go small, although Nowitzki is obviously going to continue getting his minutes. Dallas has been one of the best defensive teams in the league since the beginning of February, but this group took it to another level on Sunday night.

The win might have been a bit ugly, but several things came out of it that we might see over and over again moving forward from here on out. This is the healthiest the team has been all season (Harris’ injury notwithstanding) and hopefully the club can remain healthy the rest of the way so we can really see what this team is capable of.

Player of the Week: Rajon Rondo

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle comments on Rajon Rondo's defense against Oklahoma City, how the team will need the same effort against the Wizards Tuesday and more.

It didn’t take long for Rajon Rondo to prove his worth.

The Mavericks have certainly experienced some growing pains during the early stages of Rondo’s tenure with the team, but we’ve already seen significant signs of progress. After just five games with the Mavs, Rondo already looks like he has a connection with Dirk Nowitzki, and his command of the offense makes it seem like he’s been on the team all season and then some. The best part is there’s still room for improvement.

Rondo’s Week in Numbers
15.5 PPG 8.3 APG (led team) 50.0 3PT% (tied for team lead) 1.8 SPG 2.36 AST/TO Ratio 100.1 Defensive Rating 6.7 Net Rating (led team)

Dallas has faced all sorts of unorthodox defensive approaches since the acquisition of the new point guard. San Antonio played a 2-3 zone for the entire game last weekend. Atlanta and even the Lakers showed some brief 2-3 looks as well, and generally speaking every team has packed the paint in an effort to limit the drive-happy Mavericks’ attempts at the rim.

When news broke that Tyson Chandler would miss Sunday’s Dallas/OKC tilt, there was plenty of reason to be uneasy. After all, he’s the team’s defensive backbone and his rim rolls open up opportunities for other players on the floor, most importantly Dirk. Due to Chandler’s absence, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle turned to a three-guard lineup to start the game with Chandler Parsons and Dirk at the 4 and 5, respectively. That’s also the type of unit Dallas finished the game with, though Devin Harris replaced Barea.

That turned out to be brilliant move, as Rondo and the starters launched an early offensive blitzkrieg and that same three-guard group was able to close the game strong. Nowitzki at center opened up the lane for cutters and kept driving lanes open all around the perimeter. Rondo, specifically, was able to take advantage of that late in the game, when his slow, heady cut toward the basket while Russell Westbrook turned his head toward Nowitzki led to an easy bucket.

Just a reminder: These guys have only been playing together for a week and have had limited practice time together. Sure, Westbrook turned his attention away from Rondo and toward Nowitzki, but Rondo still showed a great deal of court awareness to continue moving all the way toward the rim without drawing too much attention to himself. Dirk saw him, delivered the pass, and Rondo converted the layup to put Dallas up five. The Mavericks scored 121.0 points per 100 possessions with Rondo on the floor against Oklahoma City, an absolutely blistering rate.

Equally as important is his defensive prowess. Just this past week, Rondo did battle against Westbrook, perhaps the league’s best player over the last couple weeks, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe, and tomorrow night he’ll have another tough matchup against budding superstar John Wall. However, Rondo played excellent defense against Westbrook, especially, all game long, limiting the All-Star to 6-of-23 shooting.

Some of his best defense came late in the game, like on the play above. Playing without his usual pick-and-roll partner Chandler, there was even more pressure on Rondo to fight through ball screens and contest Westbrook’s shots. Fortunately, he’s quick enough to recover from going over a screen and long enough to contest shots if he goes underneath them, which makes him one of the more defensively imposing point guards in the league. In the play above, he went over the screen and recovered just in time to cut off Westbrook’s driving lane. Instead, OKC’s star was forced into a difficult, contested 15-footer.

Perhaps his most significant defensive play of the week also came in the Thunder game. With just over three minutes left and the Mavs up two points, Steven Adams was trying to deliver the ball to Westbrook on the left side of the floor, high above the three-point line. But Rondo, the pesky prowler that he is, was aggressively denying the pass, and it ultimately led to an OKC turnover. Nowitzki would score on the other end to put Dallas up four.

Defending like that takes a crazy amount of both physical and mental energy, not to mention cornerback-like instincts. Rondo effectively removed Westbrook from the play and it led to a bad pass. No matter how good NBA superstars are, they won’t hurt you if they can’t touch the ball. That style of defense is not something Rondo can play for 35 minutes every night, but it’s nice to see that he has the commitment and tenacity on that end of the floor to rev it up when the game calls for it.

He’s already given us about a million different reasons to be grateful for that trade. Give this thing another month or so and we’ll have even more.

STAT OF THE WEEK10+

The Mavs hit double-digit three-pointers in two games this week — against Atlanta and OKC. Dallas has now reached that plateau 14 times this season and is 12-2 in such contests, per Basketball-Reference. That means when the Mavs fail to hit at least 10 treys, they’re just 10-8. There’s no secret to their success: If their outside shot is falling, it’s gonna be tough to beat them.

Dallas is 15th in three-point percentage this season at 35.2 percent. That number figures to increase as the team grows used to playing with both Rondo and Ellis on the floor together. Carlisle’s three-guard, five-out lineup was able to generate plenty of good looks from beyond the arc, and Charlie Villanueva has brought another dimension to the offense when he’s on the floor.

The three is a huge part of the Mavs’ offense, as only Houston and Phoenix attempt more of them per game. If the past is any indication, once those shots start falling with more regularity, this offense could be unstoppable.

Rajon Rondo: In The Zone

Postgame: Rajon Rondo

Mavs PG Rajon Rondo weighs in on his first game with the team, the crowd's reception, disrupting the Spurs' zone defense, playing alongside Monta and more.

The first half of Rajon Rondo’s Mavericks debut didn’t go the way we’d hoped.

Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs sat in a 2-3 zone for virtually the entire game on Saturday night, and in the first two quarters the Mavs seemed flummoxed. Aside from Dallas, very, very few NBA teams regularly play a zone defense. But the knock on Rondo and his impact on the Mavs offense is that because he’s not a great three-point shooter, it would be easy for defenses to keep him out of the paint. After all, if you put five defenders in the lane, there’s not exactly tons of space.

At its best, a 2-3 zone can not only seal off the rim, but it can often lead offenses to over-pass and settle for three-pointers, whether they’re open or contested. Dallas attempted 16 three-pointers in the first half, hitting just five. The Spurs’ strategy was working, and the Dallas offense was not.

“I think we were too stagnant,” Rondo told reporters after the 99-93 win. “We shot too many jump shots in the first half. They slowed us down, and that’s what they wanted.”

During the break, Rick Carlisle decided to use Rondo in the middle of the zone — behind the guards and in front of the forwards — to generate offense from the inside out. It’s something you really never see before, and I’m not sure the Mavericks have ever run an offense like it. But, boy, did it work: Dallas took just 10 three-pointers in the second half, making four, shot 47.7 percent from the field, and scored 28 points in the paint.

Before we get into how Rondo was effective in the middle of the floor, here’s an example of a more traditional means of attacking a 2-3 zone.

2014-12-21 00_11_40-Greenshot

The sequence above (sometimes referred to as an “overload” play) begins as most plays do, with one or both bigs at either elbow, occupying the guards. Meanwhile, in this instance, Al-Farouq Aminu sits on the wing at the free throw line extended, pulling out with him Boris Diaw, the man responsible for the right baseline. As he moves out to defend Aminu, Devin Harris comes across the floor and slides underneath Diaw and into the corner, where he’d ideally get a corner three-pointer or a good angle for a drive. Harris did eventually get to the basket for a layup in this play, but one problem with overload offenses is that the set can take more than half the shot clock just to set up, meaning if a good look isn’t there right away, odds are the offense isn’t going to come away with a good shot.

However, it’s one of the only traditional sets to run against a zone where a ball-handler can initiate offense from below the three-point line. Typically, a point guard will sit at the top of the arc and teams will try to force the ball into the middle of the zone with frantic cross-court passing to create driving or interior passing angles. It works against less-disciplined teams, but the Spurs are collectively smart enough to stop most of those plays.

In response to the Mavs struggling to initiate offense near the basket, Carlisle slotted Rondo more toward the basket, just behind where Corey Joseph and Marco Belinelli are in the photo above.

2014-12-21 00_17_25-Greenshot

By moving Rondo into the elbow area as opposed to Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks have killed two birds with one stone in an attempt to thwart the zone defense. First, Rondo is a better passer than just about anyone in the NBA, so putting him in a position from which he can distribute automatically puts Dallas at an advantage. The Mavs are essentially running a variation on a “hi-lo” offense, where one player hangs out around the free throw line while another, usually a center, sits at the rim. Doing so either stretches the defensive center out from the rim and further out toward the charity stripe or compresses the guards at the top of the defense, and therefore opening passing lanes to the wings.

The difference, though, in what the Mavericks are doing is typically a hi-lo offense is run between two big men. The Lakers, for example, ran a ton of it during their recent glory years with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Teams rarely, if ever at all, put a point guard in that spot. But Rondo is absolutely lethal from that area, as he’s just 15 feet from the basket and is able to see every square inch of the floor. By giving him the ball in that spot, the Mavericks are immediately starting their offense beneath the three-point line, which is the very thing 2-3 zones are designed to stop.

The Spurs are in a tough spot here, too, because no one can move over to guard Rondo. Joseph is checking Ellis and Belinelli is worried about the spotted-up Chandler Parsons. Diaw is stuck guarding Richard Jefferson in the corner, and if Aron Baynes steps up to guard Rondo, he’s eliminated from the play should Ellis drive past Joseph, which is something that happened a ton in the fourth quarter (and wasn’t a fluke). So, what happens is this:

2014-12-21 00_17_27-Greenshot

Rondo catches the Ellis pass and is immediately swarmed by two Spurs defenders. Meanwhile, Parsons is aaaaall alone, and as a terrific cutter, he immediately knows what to do. He makes the catch and lays it in at the rim.

2014-12-21 00_19_25-Greenshot

The Mavericks became even craftier with this set with Dirk Nowitzki on the floor. In the above example, the Mavericks actually got the ball to Rondo by working through Harris, standing in the corner. Joseph can’t commit to Rondo because he still needs to keep an eye on Parsons. Meanwhile, both Austin Daye and Matt Bonner got sucked into guarding Harris in that corner. Diaw, on the opposite side, can’t slide over to help on Chandler because he’s guarding a guy with 27,000 career points. That leaves just Jeff Ayres at the rim, playing 1-on-2 against Rondo and Chandler. That’s a mismatch. Rondo anticipates all of that movement as the play is developing and delivers a nice bounce pass to Chandler, who stuffs it home. It’s textbook offense, but it’s something we’ve never really seen before.

Finally, the Mavs were able to use the Spurs’ aggressive double-teaming strategy against Dirk down the stretch to their advantage. As the double-team arrived, Rondo would swoop into the middle of the floor. In the example below, he finds a wide-open Ellis in the corner for three and the tie.

If teams are going to double Dirk even when playing a 2-3, that leaves the rest of his teammates playing 4-on-3 against an unbalanced defensive unit. In the above example, the Mavs had two shooters spotted up, a finisher at the rim, and the league-leader in assists in the middle of it all moving with the ball 15 feet from the rim. That’s pretty impossible to stop.

Court spacing was considered the team’s biggest weakness after the Rondo trade. Obviously this is just one game, so sample size remains small. On top of that, the Mavericks played against a Spurs team missing its entire starting lineup. However, San Antonio’s reserves are more disciplined and sound than most teams’ starting fives, which is really saying something. The Spurs can execute strategies to a tee, and this one was designed to force the Mavs into taking the very shots that they aren’t supposed to be able to make.

But because Rondo is such a dynamic playmaker, and because Carlisle is genius enough to figure out unorthodox ways to get him in position to make plays for others, Dallas played its way to a win in spite of its alleged weakness. The blueprint is now in place: Even if teams are going to force the Mavs to take jumpers, Dallas will find a way to the lane anyway, and Rondo will have a lot to do with it.

Live Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell introductory press conference

Rajon Rondo, the newest Mav, just what the team needs

Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki dishes on the impact Rajon Rondo will have on the team, how much the trade reminds him of the Jason Kidd deal and more.

In a league where going all-in is required to make any type of deep run, we know where every last Mavs chip is: squarely in the middle of the table.

Dallas has acquired All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics in a move about as bold as they come. The message sent? The Mavericks are looking to win in the playoffs. We learned in 2011 that this league is all about what happens in June, and by trading for Rondo Dallas has put itself in position to make it farther in the postseason than the club has gone since that title run.

Rondo is an absolutely dynamic player. Much like former Maverick Jason Kidd, Rondo is seemingly always on the verge of a triple-double. The four-time All-Star has career averages of 11.0 points, 8.5 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also averages a shade under two steals per game and boasts a career defensive rating of 101, an elite mark for a player at his position. He’s also a four-time All-Defensive Team selection.

He will immediately become the best point guard on the team, and that’s saying something playing next to Devin Harris and JJ Barea, both of whom have had terrific seasons so far. Rondo has played just 68 games since the end of the 2011-12 season due to injury, but he’s back at full strength this year, leading the league with 10.8 assists per contest. He’s the pure point guard we’ve always wanted to be paired with Dirk Nowitzki. Rondo’s floor awareness and passing ability are such rare commodities, and that Dallas was able to add him without parting with a starter is cause for celebration.

Rondo is the very definition of a facilitator on the offensive end. He’s always looking to make the right pass to the right player at the right moment, occasionally possessing the ball for several seconds at a time to do so. However, a hallmark of this Mavs offense is that the ball rarely ever sticks, so it will be extremely interesting to see how Rondo is assimilated into the offense. Playing alongside elite catch-and-finish roll men like Dirk and Tyson Chandler, though, will definitely make that transition much easier. He’s also never played with so many other players who can generate offense. Even when Rondo was winning a title in Boston, he was paired with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, two players who weren’t able to create the same level of action off the bounce as guys like Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons. That alone should also influence the way he plays. He won’t handle the ball as often as he typically does because he won’t need to.

The newest Maverick rounds out what, on paper, looks like the best starting five in the NBA. The Dallas starting lineup will now look like this:

PG – Rajon Rondo
SG – Monta Ellis
SF – Chandler Parsons
PF – Dirk Nowitzki
C – Tyson Chandler

In that group are three All-Stars and two players who have a shot at making the team one day. In that group are two elite defenders at their position. In that group are two elite pick-and-roll big men. In that group are three excellent playmakers. Seriously, what’s not to like about that lineup?

Of course, you’ve got to give to get anytime a big-time trade is made. In exchange for Rondo the Mavs sent backup big man Brandan Wright, starting point guard Jameer Nelson, reserve wing Jae Crowder, and draft picks. Wright is the team’s all-time leader in numerous offensive efficiency categories and is the second longest-tenured Maverick. Crowder had been on the team longer than anyone else save for Wright and Nowitzki. He always brought a tenacious edge off the bench that could change the feeling of a game. Nelson, meanwhile, was second on the team in three-point shooting and started 23 games for the Mavs, fifth-most on the team. We should certainly wish them the best of luck in Boston, as each player provided such an impact this season. Wright, in particular, was good for two highlight reel plays per game. But such is the business of the NBA, and Boston got a heck of a package in return for Rondo.

Practice Report: Tyson Chandler

Mavs C Tyson Chandler comments on the trade for Rajon Rondo, what it will be like playing with a pass-first point guard and more.

The Mavs bench has been a strong point of the team for years now, and the depth did take a slight hit in this deal. Wright and Crowder were primary backup options, which means more responsibility will be handed over to fellow backups Greg Smith, Richard Jefferson, and Al-Farouq Aminu. The Mavs also acquired forward Dwight Powell in the deal with Boston, giving them another big body off the bench. However, the Mavericks now have an empty roster slot, meaning another move could be soon to follow, whether it’s the addition of another center or some other type of move.

Dallas will now have a day or so to prepare for a pretty big test against the San Antonio Spurs, who come to town on Saturday. That’s going to be a heck of a challenge, especially given the turnaround time between making this deal and trying to initiate Rondo with the team. There’s no word yet on whether or not he’ll even be in uniform for that contest, and ultimately that call rests with Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle.

Once the point guard does suit up, though, we’re going to see one of the best defenders in the NBA. He’s such a long player for a guy his height, and he has the speed and quickness to stay in front of most point guards. That had been an issue for the Mavericks to this point in the season. A Rondo/Chandler pick-and-roll defense is simply a terrifying thing for an opponent to worry about. Within the last six months, the Mavs have shored up their two biggest defensive weaknesses and added a budding star at the small forward spot. That’s just an incredible run of roster-building.

Be excited. This is a heck of a move, and it’s one that clearly shows us how far the Mavericks plan on going this season. Dallas is in it for a title, and Rondo is the type of player who can help the team climb that mountain for the first time since 2011.

Mavs acquire four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have acquired four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo and center Dwight Powell from the Boston Celtics in exchange for center Brandan Wright, forward Jae Crowder, guard Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick.

Rondo (6-1, 186) is an eight-year guard who has spent his entire professional career with the Celtics. In addition to being a four-time NBA All-Star (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), Rondo has been named All-NBA Defensive Team four times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), All-NBA Third Team (2012) and was the starting point guard on Boston’s 2008 NBA Championship team. He has played in 527 career games (474 starts) and holds averages of 11.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 32.9 minutes per game.

The veteran point guard also has extensive postseason experience having competed in two NBA Finals and starting each of his 92 career Playoff games. Rondo holds postseason career averages of 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 38.5 minutes per game.

Rondo currently leads the NBA in assists with 10.8 assists per game. He led the league in that category in both 2011-12 (11.7 apg) and 2012-13 (11.1 apg). He also holds several Celtics’ franchise assists records including single-season total with 794 assists (2009-10), assists per game with 11.7 apg (2011-12) and assists in an NBA Playoff game with 20 (2011).

The Louisville, Ky., native was originally the 21st pick of the 2006 NBA Draft after declaring as an early-entry candidate out the University of Kentucky. In just his freshman season as a Wildcat, Rondo set Kentucky’s all-time single-season steals mark with 87 steals in 34 games.

Powell (6-11, 240) is a rookie center who hails from Toronto, Canada and has seen action in five games this season with averages of 1.8 points, 0.2 rebounds and 1.8 minutes per game.

A former Stanford University standout, Powell was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was originally traded from Charlotte to Cleveland before being acquired by the Celtics in a late-September trade that landed him in Boston, along with John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy, while Keith Bogans was sent to the Cavaliers.

As a senior at Stanford, Powell was named All-Pac-12 First Team while averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was also named Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year.