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Pick Your Pick-And-Roll

 

Zach Lowe may have departed Celtics Hub for greener pastures over at SI.com, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still link to him.

Today on his blog The Point Forward, Zach breaks down the 12 most anticipated pick-and-roll combinations of the upcoming season.  Conspicuously missing from his rankings is anyone in a green jersey (unless you count those weird times where the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls wear green, which I don’t).

I am not saying Zach is wrong to not include a Celtic pick-and-roll combination, it just would not be that far-fetched to do so.  The Celtics added two prominent post players in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal.  These players are going to be taking over the pick-and-roll duties for the Boston bench this season.  The latter of the combo also has some well-chronicled issues defending the pick-and-roll– a huge storyline of this upcoming season– the success of which is something Celtics’ fans are undoubtedly anticipating.

While any of those pick-and-roll combinations could have made their way onto Zach’s list, I’d say the highly anticipated Celtic pick-and-roll combination involves an improved Rajon Rondo and a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett.  The definitive proof is not quite there yet but in the land of  “what ifs”– the land where anticipation level is king– Rondo to KG could end up being the best combination of all.

Just like the Mo Williams to J.J. Hickson pick-and-roll, Rondo to Garnett is not new.  That being said, the dynamic of this on-court relationship becomes much different if Garnett is explosive again and Rondo begins to consistently hit the elbow jumper.  KG has shown flashes in the preseason thus far of regaining the explosiveness that made him such an unstoppable force.  He is elevation to snag rebounds, he is beginning to throw down alley-oops again, and he is running circles around the other members of his “over-30” fraternity.

Put the explosiveness back in the pick-and-roll and it actually lives up to its namesake.  In order words, Garnett actually rolls to the basket instead of “popping” out for a 20 footer.

The same cannot be said for Rajon Rondo.  Garnett has grown accustomed to “popping” out for jumpers, Rondo has used his explosiveness to power his way to the basket while avoiding any outstretched arms of seven-footers.  This explosiveness coupled with Rondo’s inability to hit jumpshots has led his opponents to exclusively go underneath picks instead of fighting over the top.  Rondo’s stroke this preseason (something I will delve into at length later on) has seen some marked improvement.  He is still taking most of his jumpshots at expiring shot clocks, but that does not mean the confidence to square up and knock it down is not there.

Regardless of the outcome, the Rajon Rondo to Kevin Garnett pick-and-roll combination is definitely something to watch out for as the season starts and progresses.  It has the potential to reach unstoppable levels.  Unfortunately, it also has the potential to crash and burn.

  • I Love Green

    Rondo to a rejuvinated KG has to be somewhere on that list. There's going to be some sick alley oops from Rondo to Kevin. I'm excited!

  • zebulon

    Rondo-KG should definitely be on the list. They are two of the most talented players in the league, and can run the pick-and-roll in so many different ways. The pick-and-pop set you mentioned as a negative is actually really effective offense, because KG is such an elite midrange jumpshooter. Also, it opens up a wider driving lane for Rondo to get to the basket, and forces the defense to step out at him, so that when he does roll to the basket, he is more likely to be open.

    Plus it is just a beautiful to watch. At this point we can count on Rondo for at least one "He-did-NOT-just-do-that!" moment a game, and if KG returns to form, we can expect the same from him.

    • http://CelticsHub.com Brendan Jackson

      I didn't mean to characterize the KG pick-and-pop as a negative. It's just been the only option for the last year and a half.

      • zebulon

        Very true – and when long two pointers are the result of one of your best offensive sets, it's gonna be hard to place in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency. And that's not even considering when we ran the same pick/pop with Baby or Sheed as the screener, who are nowhere near as effective shooters as KG.

  • MoBetterGreen

    Gonna be seeing some Delonte p&r combos this season.

  • willybeamin

    You guys should probably read the title of Zach's post, "Ranking the best NEW pick-and-roll combos"… KG and rondo is not new.

    Now if you wanted to argue for rondo-Shaq, Ray-Shaq, etc. that'd be one thing…

    • http://celticshub.com Brendan Jackson

      Oh willy….Did you read either post? Same logic as Zach used to describe Mo Williams and J.J. Hickson. Not necessarily "new" but used in a new way. Same with KG rolling instead of popping and Rondo shooting instead of driving/dishing.

      • willybeamin

        Yah, I still think you're missing the point. The cavs never ran JJ Hickson and Mo Williams pick&rolls last year, maybe a handful of times. We ran KG and rondo pick and rolls hundreds of times. Notice how all the other combos are of new teammate combinations?

  • Perry

    Another potential, lethal combo would be D. Williams/Al Jefferson. I would rank Rondo/anyone and Blake/Odom higher than Moe Williams/Hickson. Can you have a productive screen/roll with Yao playing only 24 minutes a night? The Curry/Lee combo should be devastating.

    • zebulon

      Curry/Lee in the high pick and roll might be the most fascinating in the league. Steph is one of the best shooters out there, particularly off the dribble. Lee sets solid screens, can roll to the hoop and finish with either hand, and also has a solid twenty foot jumper. Plus both players are excellent passers.

      Plus I love watching these combos of players who beat their opponent with shooting/intelligent decision making, instead of raw or uncontrolled athleticism. Watching steve nash run an offense is the perfect example of this.

  • I Love Green

    I have a NEW and EXCITING idea for the Celtics pick and roll. Nate Rob and Big Baby. Yes the 300 pound tank will set a screen, (a very good one since he's got a wide frame) Nate can either A. swish a 3 pointer, (not in Rondo's playbook) B. drive the ball and dunk on fools, C. pass to BBD where he will slam it home whilst getting fouled, or D. Lob it up to Big Baby who will just lay it in gently. Now that right there, should be #1.

  • Jason

    I don't think Rondo's even the best at using picks on the team. I'd put Ray and Pierce over him in terms of effectiveness. Ray's passing off screens is extremely effective. It seems like every time he creates a great opportunity for a big men. Pierce can pick and pop but also use the screens to drive or pull up. Part of what makes them effective is that defenses have to respect their ability to shoot. Defenders can't go under the screens. With Rondo they can and they do, nullifying the rolling ability of the big man.

    Rondo though is pretty good at using screens to attack the basket. If he can hit free throws like he did against Toronto, this could be an extremely valuable dimension of his game. His post up game is interesting as well. He's pretty good with the jump hooks and his passing ability out of the post has look excellent. Getting back to his ability to use screens, I just can't remember many times he's actually done a pick and pop with Garnett.

    I hope Rondo cuts out the alley-oops to be honest. They look hard on Garnett's legs and I rather avoid the risk. None of the other big men are capable of flushing it home anymore. Maybe Jermaine, but again with aggravating his legs. Erden doesn't have the hops to finish and Shaq sadly doesn't either. He should know the strengths of his teammates. Some of the alley-oop passes this preseason have been ridiculous.

  • Jason

    I also wanted to mention that if Rondo was really effective with screens, he could have used it as a weapon against Kobe, who runs flat into screens more than any player I've ever seen. But he didn't, one because many screens weren't called and two, because it's hard to screen when the defender is playing far off you. What are you going to do? Screen a guy so Rondo has even more room to shoot?

  • Crazylakerfan

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