As more teams are eliminated from the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the number of suitors hoping to trade for Celtics' point guard Rajon Rondo this offseason will likely grow.
You can add the Houston Rockets to that list after they were eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night by a 4-2 series margin. According to ESPN's Marc Stein the Rockets will be looking to upgrade their roster this summer, and the Celtics' point guard could be a target yet again.
It's inevitable that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will likewise check in with his old boss Danny Ainge in Boston -- as he did before the trade deadline in February -– just to make sure Rajon Rondo isn’t suddenly available.
Stein, among others, reported back in February that the Rockets made a run at the point guard before the trade deadline and were rebuffed. Danny Ainge has stated on several occasions that he hopes to keep Rondo during the Celtics' rebuild, but there's little doubt that he will at least listen to trade proposals during the summer months before Rondo enters the final year of his contract.
So the question here is whether the Rockets could conceivably match Ainge's high asking price for Boston's prized captain. Rondo is set to earn $12.9 million during the 2014-15 season, so any deal would have to start with a high-priced Rockets player under contract like Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin. Both players will earn $8.3 million under the salary cap next year in the final year of their contracts.
Lin is overpaid, so it's likely he would be of little interest to the Celtics for that kind of money. The Celtics were rumored to have interest in Asik earlier this year, when the Rockets center asked for a trade, but his presence won't be enough for Ainge to pull the trigger on any kind of deal for Rondo.
The Rockets also have a number of younger pieces under contract that Rockets GM Daryl Morey could include in any deal. Chandler Parsons would be at the top of Boston's wish list, as he is signed for under a million dollars next year, making him one of the best bargains in the game. Parsons is a good friend of Dwight Howard though and was an integral part of recruiting the big man to Houston last year. Trading Parsons away would likely upset Howard, making the inclusion of Parsons in any deal unlikely.
Houston also has other young intriguing pieces such as Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas under cheap contracts, but none of them contain the kind of upside the Celtics would want back for giving up Rondo. A combination of these players and Asik may do the trick, but that might be too high of an asking price for Houston.
Ultimately, unless Parsons is involved, any Rondo-to-Houston deal seems unlikely at this stage. If the Celtics do ultimately decide to deal Rondo away this summer, Houston is one of the more appealing destinations out there for the point guard to sign long-term. That fact alone makes this possibility one to keep an eye on moving forward.