The Importance of Rajon Rondo

» February 25, 2009 4:55 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

The consensus around the league is that the Boston Celtics have taken a step backwards after winning an NBA best 66 games and capturing their first NBA title in more than 20 years. But with Monday night’s win over the Nuggets, the Celtics matched their 2007-08 record (46-12) through 58 games.

The Celtics aren’t as deep as they were last season and while their defense remains stifling, it isn’t as efficient as it was a year ago. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s numbers are down from last season as well. How then have the Celtics maintained last season’s pace? It’s simple really: Boston’s “Big Three” has become the “Fab Four.” Rajon Rondo has arrived.

Garnett, Pierce and Allen remain Boston’s best players, but Rondo has become their most valuable player. Or as Garnett puts it: “It starts and ends with Rondo.”

The third-year point guard is averaging career highs across the board, posting career bests in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and field goal percentage. Rondo still struggles to connect from outside, but his quick first step and tight handle make it impossible for defenders to keep him out of the paint. And that’s where Rondo wrecks havoc on opposing defenses. Rondo is first among all NBA guards in field goal percentage (51.6%), due in large part to his ability to finish inside (65.2 eFG%).

When the defense collapses on Rondo’s penetration, he counters by finding teammates for open looks. Cross-court bounce passes, baseline slings, strong and weak-handed dimes on the move — you name it. Rondo has every pass in his arsenal and does a phenomenal job of delivering the ball to teammates in their shooter’s pockets so they can dial in from long distance without having to adjust the ball before shooting.

Defensively, Rondo keeps his opponents guessing with different looks and uses his huge wingspan (6-foot-10) and quick hands to pick pockets and disrupt passing lanes. All-NBA defensive teams are normally determined by steal and block totals (Rondo trails Chris Paul by .74 steals per game for the league lead), but it will be a shame if Rajon is left off the All-NBA Defensive 1st team. Boston’s league-leading defense wouldn’t be nearly as efficient without Rondo denying penetration at the point of attack.

Rondo’s impact doesn’t end with traditional offensive and defensive measures either. He also brings a number of intangibles to the table. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder from the guard position (1.4 per game). Rondo grabbed 3 offensive boards in the first quarter versus Denver. Those extra possessions resulted in a putback, a hockey assist to Ray Allen for a three-pointer, and a trip to the charity stripe where he converted both free throws. That 7-point swing enabled Boston to take a 9-point lead heading into the second quarter and led to a 23-point advantage at halftime.

Rondo is also humble to a fault. Despite an NBA championship on his resume, an All-Star worthy first-half of the season, and a four-game stretch where he averaged 20 points, 9.8 assists, 7.5 assists, and shot 70% against the Mavericks (Jason Kidd), Jazz (Deron Williams), Suns (Steve Nash), and Nuggets (Chauncey Billups), Rondo had to clarify whether a writer was including him, and not one of his teammates when citing the “Big Four” after Boston’s win over Denver. And there wasn’t a trace of insincerity in his voice when he insisted that he was “just a role player focusing on winning another championship.”

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10 Responses to “The Importance of Rajon Rondo”

  1. mastermind Says:

    “Rondo is first among all NBA guards in field goal percentage (51.6%), due in large part to his ability to finish inside (65.2 eFG%).”

    Rondo’s eFG% is 52.7%. 65.2% would be insanely high; he would not only be leading the league by far, he would also be on pace for the fifth best season ever in the stat. Also, you are somehow equating eFG% with scoring inside, while three point shooting is, in actuality, the reason that the eFG% stat even exists.

    Are you sloppy, making stuff up, or do you just not know much about basketball? I expected better from basketblogger.

  2. mastermind Says:

    Check that- ballerblogger, not basketblogger. Basketblogger would be a dumb name.

  3. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Mastermind:

    http://www.82games.com/0809/08BOS1.HTM

    Take a look at Rondo’s shot selection chart.

    Cheers.

  4. mastermind Says:

    Ok, neat. But if you are talking about a player’s shooting percentage in the paint, it is overkill (and therefore, retarded) to say eFG% when the standard FG% would suffice (as the two figures must be the same when the sample size is only includes shots inside the three point line.

    I hear ballerblogger is buying out yahoo sports, is that true? It must be, I read it on the fundamentals.

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    It’s semantics really, but FG% would have sufficed.

    No, BallerBlogger isn’t planning on buying out Yahoo! Sports. You read that here?

  6. Basketballogy Says:

    Great article. Rondo is a young Tony Parker: a guard whose shooting percentage is benefited by the fact that most of his shots are at or near the rim, and the fact that Rondo is not by any stretch of the imagination the first concern of opposing defenses.

    There is a phrase that gets thrown about in basketball circles far too much: he makes his teammates better.

    Rondo is a great point guard, but he also benefits from the fact that he plays with 3 future hall of famers.

    Not only does that pad his assist totals, but assures him a higher number of open looks at the basket.

    It is a mutual benefit that not every guard could step up to, but then again Rondo probably wouldn’t be putting up these numbers playing for the Thunder.

    At any rate, GREAT article again, Hoffman.

  7. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Basketballogy:

    Thanks.

    I like the Tony Parker comparison. And you’re right, Rondo benefits from playing with KG, Pierce and Allen. Those guys draw a lot of defensive attention.

    But Rondo is a skilled basketball player. He came into the league as an athlete and he’s made tremendous growth as a point guard. His basketball IQ is high, he’s a great ballhandler, and his passing has really improved.

    Granted, the Nuggets didn’t put up much resistance Monday night, but his skill level really impressed me. If he maintains his level of play over the last four or five games, the Cs have a good chance of repeating as champions.

  8. Basketbawful Says:

    I don’t know if I’d say Rondo is the team’s most valuable player, but he’s indispensable. He needs to improve his outside shooting, obviously, because when team’s lay off and dare him to shoot, it limits his effectiveness as both a scorer and a passer. It seems like part of the problem is confidence. He often times has to be urged to shoot by Doc Rivers.

    One thing I really, really wish Rondo would stop doing is that pass where he pulls the ball behind his back and then, while in the air, whips it back around for a bounce pass. He loves doing it, and he tries it at least once a game, but it almost invariably goes out of bounds or gets stolen.

  9. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Basketbawful:

    I guess it boils down to how you equate value. Rondo certainly isn’t the best player on the Celtics. But if you look at their record over the last two years, their success has been tied to his play. When he struggles, they struggle. Some of that should be attributed to the nature of his position and the lack of depth behind him. But he’s really become the catalyst for what they do on both ends of the floor.

    The Celtics will weather the storm without KG, and they could get by without Allen or Pierce for a short stretch, but they would fall apart without Rondo. He has to play well for them to win.

    That’s why I think he’s the most valuable player on their team. When Rondo’s on his game, Boston is almost impossible to beat because they’re so good defensively.

    I agree with you about the fake behind the back pass. He does that move every game. I haven’t seen anyone “faked out” in quite some time. It has to be on every scouting report by now. Just make the simple play.

  10. Bruce Says:

    Rajon is the best so get on my balls

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