A Failed Celtics Trade In 2009 Almost Changed The NBA Forever

rajon rondo boston celticsRajon Rondo, Phoenix Sun?

Photo: YouTube

Former Boston Celtics player Ray Allen spoke with the Miami Herald today, and revealed the details of a failed trade in 2009 that would have changed everything.According to Allen, Celtics GM Danny Ainge proposed a trade in 2009 that would have sent Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Amar’e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, and the 14th-overall pick.

At first glance, it looks like the Celtics dodged a bullet on this one.

But think about how this would have affected the rest of the league.

After the 2010 season, the landscape of the NBA changed dramatically when LeBron James joined Wade and Bosh in Miami, Amar’e went to the Knicks, Carlos Boozer went to the Bulls, and Joe Johnson stayed with the Hawks.

Things would have been very different if that Celtics-Suns trade went through.

First of all, LeBron’s exit from Cleveland came in the wake of an ugly and inexplicable meltdown against the Celtics in the 2010 playoffs. The Cavs were the best team in the NBA that year, but they were steamrolled by a veteran Celtics team that had an unparalleled level of on-court chemistry. If Boston shipped off Rondo and Allen the season before and replaced them with Amar’e, would they have even had a chance against Cleveland?

Maybe LeBron was always going to leave for Miami. But that loss to the Celtics erased all the positivity the Cavs built up throughout the year, and cultivated the sense that LeBron couldn’t do it all by himself in Cleveland, he needed help if he was going to truly compete with the NBA’s elite.

The rest of the league would have felt ripple effects as well.

The Celtics would have probably pushed to re-sign Amar’e, meaning the Knicks would have never gotten him in that crazy summer of 2010. Given Amar’e’s steady decline since 2010, that might have been a blessing in disguise for NY.

Rondo eventually signed a below-market-value contract extension with the Celtics the season after the Suns trade fell through. But if he ended up on Phoenix, they would have had to choose between him and Steve Nash after the 2010 season. In all likelihood, they would have re-signed Rondo, and traded Nash (the Knicks were hot for him at the time).

Rondo has since bloomed into one of the NBA’s most idiosyncratic stars, nearly beating the Big 3 Heat all by himself in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Does that happen in Phoenix?

As for Boston, they would have had an overcrowded front court of Kendrick Perkins, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kevin Garnett. They eventually traded Perkins to OKC in exchange for Jeff Green in 2011. But if you remember that trade, Boston originally wanted James Harden instead of Green. If Boston already had Amar’e, there is no way they would have agreed to take Green in that trade. So either, A) that trade would have never gone through, and OKC’s now-familiar hierarchy of Durant-Westbrook-Harden would still be corrupted by the awkward presence of Green, or B) OKC would have agreed to include Harden in the deal. 

If option B happened, the Thunder probably never become the juggernaut they are now.

The NBA is filled with these sorts of “what if’s.” But given the players and teams involved, and the fact that the NBA was on the brink of an unprecedented reshuffling of stars at the time, the Celtics-Suns trade is one of the most interesting ones.

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