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Rajon Rondo’s Step Back

 

rondoshootsA 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

Ouch.

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).

  • mallz

    rajon has no excuse this yr. he has ray allen to work out with. he has eddie house. he even has paul pierce. he can work on keepin the speed and build his basketball iq and timing of passes in players bread n butter. but he knows the offense, he knows where hes gunna be gettin shots. he’ll need it for the top teams. even rondo cant fuck up this yr lol health wise. KNOCK ON WOOD. THE GOAL IS 2ND RING

  • Jay

    I find it interesting that with all the controversy around rondo this past year (the ainge comments, the questioning of his work ethic, the talks that he feels he is undervalued, etc…) we really haven’t seen much out of him to develop what is really the only missing element to his game.

    If he wants to prove all the naysayers wrong, he better get to work. To be honest, if he pulls it off, I see him commanding a max contract very soon. Or very close to it at least.

  • Jeffs

    I have been saying this sense the playoffs. If Rondo can get a consistant 15-18 foot jumpshot the C’S will be unstoppable. That is a big if, but he can do it and I am sure he will do it as his career goes on but by next season that is a big if. Come on Rondo I am rooting for ya.

  • Jason

    You’re the one who’s been saying it? Glad to finally know who deserves the credit for this idea. Are you kidding me? EVERYONE’S been saying Rondo needs a jumper for two years. And even if no one said it, everyone still knows he needs to work on it, kind of like say breathing is necessary in order to stay alive. I’ve been saying people need to breathe “sense” before the I was in kindergarten. I am genius dontchaknow.

    Anyway, I agree with the post. Obviously I don’t want Rondo to neglect the top skills he already has, but he should be nearly 100% focused on his shot this offseason for sure and should come into the year with that extra dimension. I don’t see any excuse why he shouldn’t be able to develop at least a competent jump shot. He plays basketball for a living. He’s one of the top 0.000001% of athletes in the entire world. Over a span of months, he should be able to put in hundreds of hours to sharpen whatever weakness he has and make significant progress.

    I actually expected that last offseason and who knows maybe he did, but I was disappointed that skill remained sub-par. I would be severely disappointed in him if he didn’t show more progress in this area this next season.

  • CrashMacKenzie

    Careful how you talk about my future wife.

  • http://angryirish.com Lefty

    If Rondo’s outside shot is even 45% with better tha 35% threes we will be unstoppable. Although this is a small increase from where he was last year it is significant enough that if he can shoot the shots when he has them and be consistant we will definitely win the championship. I like the way the off-season has shaped up and barring injuries I can see the Celts winning their 2nd in 3 years (knock on wood). Should be a great season though.

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  • FittyBucksB

    Are you guys kidding me? Rondos been working on that jumper of his since summer ’07. Talk about whining at his teammates for not stepping up. If you take a look, his shooting mechanics just horrible, hence the crap FT%. Fix the that form son so you can make that paperrrr.

  • Arvin

    Rondo is not unstoppable and he not close to a “Max player” He cannot dominate a game. His shooting stroke sucks and his ft% is even worse. Now having berated Rondo worse than Danny Ainge, what he does do he does well. He is an excellent defender, quick, and finishes floaters second best in the league (behind Tony Parker). He does gamble too much on defense and needs to keep defenders more in front of him. Let’s not christen him as an elite point guard just yet. I would like to see consisteny and a jump shot!

  • sam

    No mention of Sheed? With Sheed, the Magic style of defending Rondo is impossible, unless the opponent is willing to concede Sheed 3s and KG 18 footers. As long as Sheed is healthy enough to contribute 25 minutes a night, any improvement in Rondo’s shooting will be a luxury.

  • Pasard

    Good point sam. Dog gone, we won 1 ring with Rondo, but everybody wants more. Never satisfied. Want to critiques this man’s jump shot. Ya’ll need to be happy that Ainge didn’t panic and trade Rondo after the Spurs got Jefferson, Cleveland got Shaq, and Orlando got Carter. That’s all we needed was for Ainge to have panicked and traded Rondo like Dallas traded away Devin Harris for Jason Kidd after the Lakers got Gasol from Memphis. Be glad we still have Rondo, and got Wallace. We’re getting Marquis Daniels. Be glad, and if all else fails we did get our one in 2008 after escaping ATL in the first round. After beating LeBron, and finally Kobe. Be glad like the day we got

  • Pasard

    Kevin Garnett. I prayed during the draft lottery night that Boston would get the first pick. We didn’t, but my prayers were still answered. We wounded up not getting Durant or Oden, but as we all know got Ray Allen which changed KG’s mind about playing for Boston. However, we seem to forget that and what more. Be glad that we have a decent team on the court that will contend for the championship. That’s all we as fans can ask for.

  • Jason

    Arvin: I’m the first to demand Rondo improve his shooting, but everything else he does still makes him an elite PG in the NBA. Just because he doesn’t do one thing well that you have a particular beef about doesn’t negate that fact. He’s an elite handler, (high assists, low turnover), facilitator, slasher, finisher, defender, decision-maker, fearless, leads, orchestrates, etc., etc. that a PG should be. He makes the offense run, gets others involve, then switches to dominating all very deftly and smartly. His one deficit is shooting (including FTs). Even still, his FG%, True-shooting%, etc are still tops for not just PGs, but all guards. Pretty good for someone who can’t shoot. Look up those percentages if you need. He’s elite. And oh yeah as a 6’1″ PG he was one rebound shy of a triple-double for an entire playoff series. Not elite PG? Give me a break.

    Sam: The Orlando way was to plant Howard in the paint and let him either intimidate or foul (but of course not get called). Btw, I was so furious about Howard’s preferential treatment in the series. I documented every questionable call for one quarter (I couldn’t take it after that). Between the moving screens and just bumping drivers when out of position, Howard committed 8 fouls and was called for none in just one quarter. The Celts got away with one non-call as a team in the same span. Think that’s a biased pov? Watch the Cavs series and how many times LBJ drives and Howard jumps in the air bumping him with his chest without drawing a foul. NO ONE ELSE gets that treatment in the NBA but Howard. No wonder he was DPOY. What a freaking joke. So that’s how Rondo was stopped. Yes, for all Perk’s strengths being that dominant finisher inside isn’t one of them so that hurt. KG could finish close and stretch the D and Sheed ditto. So, yes, not having KG was that big of a difference on both ends of the floor. That and stupid coaching.

  • GGW

    Rondo is unlikely to become a consistent jump shooter. He “slings” it with too much elevation — wrong form. He’d have to literally “rebuild” his shot. Ain’t going to happen. You’ll have to live with him being up-and-down from series to series.

  • Sean Darden

    Not only does Rondo need to work on his jump shot but when he drives to the left side of the basket but still shoots with his right hand, It makes me want to scream. Despite watching both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen finish with their left hand on that side of the basket he still refuses to do so. Against both the Bulls and Magic that shot was repeatedly blocked. And I blame the coaching staff because Rondo can shoot with both hands. He needs to really mature and work on his game for Boston to become a real dynasty.

  • HI

    hi all! im a big fan of rondo! i would just like to say that i think with a little practise, rondo could become a mvp? maybe not next season but possibly the one after? i think it is a really good idea : )

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  • http://www.yahoo.com jasmine

    hi rajon rondo

  • http://celticshub.com darian roseboro

    I think rondo is one of the best point guards in the nba.And if keeps playing he will be better.so keep up the good luck rondo

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