Remorse, Regret, and Rajon Rondo.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you immediately felt the pangs of embarrassment and remorse? I think back often to the time I brought my car to the mechanic and when he stuck out his hand for the keys I gave him an unsuspecting handshake that made both of us feel uncomfortable.
The Dallas Mavericks are probably feeling that same uncomfortable cringe of embarrassment and remorse today, five years after one the worst trades in franchise history. It was December 18th, 2014 the Mavericks pulled off a surprising swap with the Boston Celtics. It was a deal that many Maverick fans still have nightmares about. Continue scrolling at your own risk.
The Mavericks traded Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a future protected first-round pick, and a second-round pick for Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell. At the time, it made sense to bring in an all-star point guard with defensive chops to a 19-8 team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Playoff Rondo was a nickname for a reason, he had a knack for rising to the occasion when it mattered most. After losing in the first round of the playoffs two out of three seasons since their championship run, the Mavericks were looking for a tough, gritty, player with playoff experience.
Plans quickly went awry.
The Mavericks were one of the top-rated offenses in the league at the time, yet they were struggling with their point guard rotation. Nelson was merely a bench player moonlighting as a starter at that stage in his career. J. J. Barea and Devin Harris were best suited coming off the bench, not being the leading floor generals.
Rondo played in 46 regular-season games and averaged 9.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds for the Mavericks. Not terrible numbers, but it doesn't end there. Head coach Rick Carlisle often butted heads with the notoriously stubborn Rondo, who would eventually quit on the team, leading to him being benched during the playoffs.
There was even an infamous "back injury" that circulated news, but that was nothing more than a ploy to save face between the growing tensions between the player and the organization. Both sides knew that there was no future between the two.
Things were so bad between Rondo and the rest of the organization that the players voted to not allow Rondo to partake in the playoff share that is award to teams who make the post-season. Typically, first-round playoff teams could take home upwards of $200,000 to be divided up however they see fit, and clearly, Rondo was not a fit.
The Mavericks finished the season 31-24 and would go one to lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Rockets in five games.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
There was a risk in trading for Rondo, who everyone knew was past his prime. The players sent out in the deal were all marginal role-players at the time. Crowder would go on to carve out a nice career has a glue guy for every team he has been on, but Nelson's and Wright's best days were behind them.
The 2016 first-round pick became Guerschon Yabusele, who is no longer in the NBA. That pick could have been Pascal Siakim, Caris LeVert, or Malcolm Brogdon (but again, hindsight is.. well you know). The second-round pick became Demetrius Jackson, who is currently in the G-League.
The one silver lining is that Dwight Powell has turned from an end-of-the-rotation player to a serviceable big man who has started 20 of the 23 games he's played in this season. Depending on what side of the line in the sand you are standing on, you either think Powell has been good this season as a rim-runner, or you've been dreaming up trade scenario's the past week with the trade season now open.
A few years ago Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson referred to the trade as the Dwight Powell trade, "He was the main piece in that trade. Who was the other player again? I forgot."
Who indeed, Donnie Nelson, who indeed.