A current list of my obsessions might look something like this:
1) Mila Kunis
2) Discussing ways in which the Harry Potter movies deviate from the books
3) Rajon Rondo‘s jump shot.
4) Finding a new apartment in New York
Since this is a basketball blog, I won’t discuss the dreaminess of Mila in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” the lack of Voldemort flashbacks in “Half-Blood Prince” or how creating a fake new nickname for the financial district (the “FinDi”) is wrong on at least three different levels.
I will discuss Rajon Rondo’s jump shot, because it is the one thing preventing the Celtics from developing a truly elite offense. With all the KG-inspired focus on the C’s defense the last two seasons, the casual fans have overlooked the fact that the C’s have had a very good to excellent offense since the Big Three arrived. Last year they were fifth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (110.5 points per possessions); in their 2008 title season, they ranked 10th in offensive efficiency, at 110.2. The best offenses of the post-Bird/Magic here (the Jordan Bulls and Nash Suns) have averaged about 114 points per 100 possessions, so the Celtics are a boost away from that sort of greatness.
This despite having a point guard who, outside of occasional flashes, cannot shoot jump shots. And if you don’t think it’s nice when your point guard can shoot, check out the great Jon Nichols’ study (available here at Hardwood Paroxysm) on how good three-point shooting PG impacts a team’s offensive efficiency.
Rajon is nowhere near becoming a good three-point shooter, of course. But I think we’d all settle for some progress on the 15- to 20-foot two-pointers. Unfortunately, we saw no progress between 2008 and 2009. Here are the numbers, using NBA’s hot spot data for every chunk of time other than the 2009 playoffs, which the hot spot data doesn’t include. For the 2009 playoffs, I went through Rajon’s shot charts for all 14 C’s games and tracked only shots from outside 15 feet.
First, the regular season:
2007-8 Regular Season 2008-9 Regular Season
At the rim 220-405 (54%) 283-497 (57%)
Floaters 42-108 (39%) 32-90 (36%)
Long twos 84-186 (45%) 51-117 (43.5%)
Threes 5-17 (29%) 15-48 (31%)
With teams daring him to shoot, Rondo lowered his head and darted his way to the rim with even more determination in 2009. On the one hand, this is a good thing. He hits a high percentage of his in-close shots, and his penetration breaks down the defense and creates open looks for everyone else.
On the other hand, an elite defensive team will find a way to limit his penetration opportunities to floaters instead of lay-ups at the rim. This is what killed Rondo against the Magic. Their point guards sagged off of Rondo, content to let him shoot jumpers, knowing that their perimeter defensive skills and Dwight Howard’s presence would prevent Rajon from breaching beyond the “floater” area. It worked, Rondo’s post-season run sputtered to a mediocre end, and the C’s went home.
Let’s look at the playoff numbers, focusing on the only two-point jumpers outside of 15 feet.
2008 playoffs: 31-63 (50%) in 26 games
2009 playoffs: 23-76 (30%) in 14 games
Rondo’s proficiency on jumpers in the 2008 playoffs was an under-rated reason the Celtics were able to win the title. It probably didn’t crack the top 10 reasons, but the fact that he wasn’t a complete liability forced defenses to guard the Celtics honestly. And good offensive teams can find ways to score against honest defenses.
Orlando didn’t have to do that this season, and that was surely in the top 10 reasons the C’s lost that series.
Get to work, Rajon. (Even it means jacking up your asking price after next season).