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Pascal’s Trader

 “But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager?”

Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Rajon Pierre Rondo is a Dallas Maverick.  Some people called the trade a stroke of genius.  Some people called it a lucky catch.  Vegas called it an increase in odds from 16 to 1 before, to 12 to 1 after.

Now, people are not as convinced.  As of March 23rd, the Mavs have gone 22-16, as opposed to the 20-7 record before hand.  Two key bench players in Jae Crowder and Brandon Wright were sacrificed in the process of the trade, leaving the Mavs bench limited in depth, particularly at the center position.

Most people are decrying the trade at this point, and are convinced that the Mavs are toast come playoff time.  I’m here to tell you, dear reader, that these people are nerds.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French apologist most famous for the theory of Pascal’s Wager.  The wager is as follows: given the uncertain circumstances of a divine creator, all humans are given a choice.  This choice is completely unavoidable, as choosing to ‘not wager,’ is a wager in of itself.  The question is: do you choose to believe in God, or do you choose to not believe?

The Wager:


The wager is a proposed a logic-based methodology for choosing faith over unfaith.

In one situation, God doesn’t exist.  If you’re an atheist, then you die and that’s that.  If you are a believer, then you wasted a little bit of time and effort pursuing your faith.

On the other hand, if God does exist, the stakes are much higher.  There’s either eternal damnation, or eternal salvation.  The safer choice, in Pascal’s estimation, is to believe.

For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to get into any further details.  He addresses many of the obvious flaws in his theory later in his book, Pensées.

The Rondo Wager:

My argument in favor of the Rondo trade is similar to Pascal’s wager:

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If the Mavericks choose not to trade for Rondo, the result is the same: no championship.  Without the Rondo trade, they finish the regular season with a slightly better record, but are not capable of contending against the stacked Western conference.

If the Mavericks trade for Rondo, it could either go poorly, resulting in a slightly worse record, or go well, which elevates the Mavs to legitimate contender status.

I’m not convinced at this point that the Rondo experiment is a failure, but the consensus in the media is that it is.  As time goes on, the team looks more and more comfortable, and is building chemistry and momentum going into the post season.  Adjusting to a new floor general with such an eclectic game is incredibly difficult.  They’ve also been incorporating Amare into the mix, and getting used to Villanueva’s and Aminu’s increased roles.  The other contenders in the West have years of experience together: the Mavs have barely 20 games with this completely overhauled roster.

Media alarmism is pretty typical when it comes to this stuff, but that’s all it is: alarmism.  It sells, its dramatic, and it keeps fans interested.  But the Mavs organization knew that this transition would be difficult.  Let’s all settle down a little bit, and let the wager speak for itself.

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