He’s improved his shooting from 15 feet and in, and he’s shown flashes of a quality jump shot from outside of 15 feet. But the last two months or so have shown the long jumper just isn’t going to be a reliable part of Rajon’s arsenal this season. And you feel the impact of that reality when the C’s face a team (like the Spurs) that packs the paint on defense and doesn’t turn the ball over and allow Boston to get into transition.
Over Boston’s last 20 games, Rajon Rondo is 13-of-55 (24 percent) on shots from outside 15 feet, according to box scores on Hoopdata.
That is, frankly, awful. But we should separate three-pointers from long twos, since Rajon shoots most of his three-pointers with the shot clock expiring. When we do that, we get this:
Last 20 games:
Three-pointers: 2-of-17 (12 percent)
Two-pointers outside of 15 feet: 11-of-38 (29 percent)
How bad is 29 percent?
According to Hoopdata, there are 68 players classified as point guards who have played 20 games and averaged at least 10 minutes per game. (I used these criteria to weed out extreme stats from players who have barely played).
Among those 68 players, only three have hit fewer than 29 percent of their long two-point attempts: Rafer Alston (who has pulled this off for both Miami and New Jersey), Chris Duhon and Mardy Collins.
Over the full season, Rondo has been a bit better than 29 percent on long twos—but not by much. He’s hit 34 percent of two-point Js from beyond 15 feet, down from 40 percent last season and 43 percent in 2008, according to Hoopdata. The percentages are trending down even though the number of attempts per game has stayed about the same over those three seasons; Rajon’s percentage hasn’t dropped because he’s taking more (and tougher) jumpers.
And that 34 percent mark for the first 73 games of the season? It ranks 58th out of 68 on that list of point guards I mentioned earlier. (If you’re curious, the other guys below him are Tyreke Evans, Earl Watson, the Jazz version of Eric Maynor, Ronnie Price, Ray Felton, D.J. Augustin, Kevin Ollie and Jamaal Tinsley).
This isn’t to knock Rondo. He’s been the C’s best player this season, and he’s improved as a passer, defender and mid-range finisher. You can’t improve on everything in one year, right?
But perhaps it doesn’t serve a team’s offense well when their best player can’t hit jump shots. Casual fans might miss the fact that a decline in the team’s offense is behind the C’s slippage this season. All the talk of aging and KG’s knee focuses the narrative—almost by accident—on the C’s defense, and you hear commentators occasionally discuss the C’s alleged problems on that end.
Guess what? The C’s are, right now, the best defensive team in the NBA. No team allows fewer points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.
But on offense, the C’s have fallen from 6th in offensive efficiency last season (110.5 points per 100 possessions) to 17th (!) this season (107.0 points per 100 possessions).
As the Big Three have aged, more of the offensive burden has fallen on Rondo. He has proven up to that burden more times than not, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to speculate that one reason for the C’s decline in scoring could be their reliance on a player who can basically be ignored outside the paint.