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The Rondo Effect

 

The definition of what separates a very good player from a superstar is oft-discussed, but difficult to pin down. The superstar can score. The superstar can lead. The superstar is elite in several areas. The superstar has flaws just like everyone else, but ones that are fewer and far between, less glaring in the spotlight. The superstar never takes a night off and hardly ever cedes a possession. Either indirectly or directly, the superstar makes the game of basketball easier for his teammates.

Entrance into the highest of NBA societies isn’t exactly fluid. By my count there are nine superstars at this very moment: LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Love. All of those guys fit the criteria listed above, and all are talented enough to be the best player on a champion.

Now, let’s enter Rajon Rondo’s name into this column. Rondo is not a superstar, but he’s certainly on the next ring of basketball brilliance. He’s elite in a few areas (intelligence, defense, passing), but disappears too often, can’t score at will, and has several technical, well-publicized flaws that shackle him from inclusion with the nine players listed above.

But despite the blemishes, there’s one undeniable thing about Rondo that makes people say he’s not only one of the best at his position, but an absolute nightmare for opposing coaches who’re trying to draw up a defensive game plan: His ability to make teammates better, and in some cases, to a level even they thought they would never see.

The grand piano dangling by a string over Rondo’s head these past few years has been the misnomer that his success is a natural byproduct of playing with three first ballot Hall of Famers. Obviously, having them on board doesn’t hurt his numbers, but what if we flipped this situation around and inspected it from a different angle?

For those who believe Rondo’s inability to consistently convert jumpers is this team’s primary source of offensive struggle, here are a few stats. This season the Celtics are averaging 35 points in the paint per game. When Rondo is on the court that number jumps to an average of 37.5 (a team high when compared to everyone else’s individual impact). When he’s on the bench the number goes down to a team worst 30.8. When it comes to fast break points, the Celtics average 12.1 points per game. With Rondo on the court the number climbs to 14.7 (a figure that makes Boston a top-10 fast break scoring offense). When he’s off the court the number falls off a cliff, tumbling down to a team low 7.8.

These are two of the easiest ways to score in a basketball game, so even though the Celtics don’t have a back to the basket presence or more than one elite rebounder, the numbers show that Rondo has a serious influence on getting his team straightforward buckets. Now, relative to every other team in the league these numbers don’t mean much (the Celtics are 19th in fastbreak points and 28th in points in the paint), but within Boston’s vacuum Rondo’s impact is undeniably gigantic.

Now let’s take a look at how he’s directly impacting the aforementioned trio of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce.

  • Despite clearly showing limitations as someone who couldn’t average 18 points a game if he wanted, Allen is having unprecedented success for a shooting guard at this stage in his career. So far this season he’s had 159 of his 207 made field goals come by way of an assist. Rondo was the deliverer on 75 of those 159 baskets. That’s incredible. There are many factors that go into Ray’s success, but if you put him on the Bulls, Thunder, or Clippers (all teams he could legitimately suit up for next season) it’d be interesting to see if there would be any significant drop off in production with three of the league’s other elite point guards feeding him the ball instead of Rondo. If it weren’t for the Celtics point guard, there’s a good chance Allen wouldn’t be viewed as a scale-tipping free agent in the first place.
  • Because of Paul Pierce’s ability to independently operate, Rondo’s influence isn’t as great with him as with Allen (although it definitely exists), but Garnett’s renaissance of a season—at least offensively—almost entirely falls on his point guard’s shoulders. Every time he launches a wide open 18-footer, it’s Rondo doing the leg work, drawing the defense, and smoothly dropping a pin point pass back at Garnett’s breadbasket. All that’s left for him to do is bend the knees and release. This not only helps the 35-year-old on offense, but it also allows him to stow away as much energy as possible for the defensive end, where his play has once again been exceptional.

Who around the league is better at directly making his teammate’s jobs that much easier? Well, there’s LeBron James, who I believe to be number one in this category. Then there’s Steve Nash, who continues to put teammates in positions to succeed. And there’s Chris Paul, the best point guard alive.

But even including those three in the discussion, who else can turn the likes of Ryan Hollins and Chris Wilcox into a couple of high-flying missiles that are actually forcing defenses to pay attention? The way he sets up non Hall of Fame worthy teammates like Brandon Bass, allowing them to showcase their strength multiple times each night is truly unique.

He may not be a superstar, but Rondo’s ability to make all four guys around him that much better is unquantifiable. Just remember that if he were ever to be traded, not only would the Celtics be losing one of the game’s most complete point guards, they’d also forfeit a little bit of what makes everybody else on the team so successful.

 

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

  • C'sBballFan

    Somebody should send this to Danny Ainge so that he understands the importance of Rondo.

    • dslack

      Look, I love Rondo as much as the next guy, but Brandon Bass's per-minute numbers are almost exactly the same as when the immortal Jameer Nelson was feeding him last year.

  • shiloh

    Great info. I don't think anyone in the NBA makes me use the "5 seconds back" button on my DVR as much as Rajon Rondo. He is phenomenal.

  • imm

    Can you possibly send this to Ainge? Please?

  • Dan

    Kevin Love? Really? He's efficient, but he's at best a #2 guy on a championship team.

  • High Rollers

    Fantastic post, Newbie. Print this one out and put it on the fridge. One thing though… making your teammates better than they or anyone can imagine… anybody who boasts this ability should get automatic inclusion into the superstar inner circle.

  • Lantrell Walker

    Gotta love Rondo, he's unarguably the smartest & grittest PG in the NBA. He's given us so many memorable moments so far in his short 6-year career. Moments like the 1st round playoff series w/ the Bulls where he damn near averaged a triple-double, Game 3 vs the Cavs in 2010 where he put up 29pts/18rbds/13asts, diving for the loose ball against the Magic in the ECF & Game 3 against the Heat last year where his elbow was dislocated and he came back & still competed and affected the game. He's the mold for what every PG from here on down should strive to be like, his combination of skill, heart and competitiveness is rare, awesome and greatly respected & appreciated.

  • High Rollers

    Maybe after last night you could replace D12 with the Dime Machine, because according to everyone and his mother, Dwight committed the cardinal sin of mailing it in at the very worst of times. Of course, the superstar of superstars LBJ has yet to truly shake the “Quitness” label himself. Interesting to think, all three guys have been around for a bit but are still pretty young. I guess time will tell if they’ll flame out or solidify.

  • -jp

    To the comment by Dan: Kevin Love is absolutely good enough to be #1 on a champ. He is stuck in Minny with bad teammates outside of Rubio. Love can play

    • KG215

      Disagree. Love is the perfect #2 for a contender but as a #1 his defense is not good enough. His FG% is only around 45% this year which is not great for a bigman, granted he shoots a little over 5 3 pointers a game. He also only gets 2 assists per game, so most of the time he is not setting up teammates. If he is going to be a superstar that doesn't play good defense, his all around offensive game needs work.

    • felix

      Love couldn't even handle an old 36 year old powerforward last week ;)
      seriously, he puts up huge numbers but his team does not really get better. Your team should at least compete for the playoffs, if you want to be a MVP candidate.numbers alone dont justify.

  • Phil

    I think its pretty obvious to Celtics fans now that the whole 'playing with 3 HOFers' thing is just flat out wrong. Rondo's the best player on the team now, and its not even really a discussion. He makes the others better, not the other way around.

    That said, it always takes the mainstream media a while to catch up and shirk their preconceived notions. Rondo's not a scoring first PG, which means he probably would struggle on a team like Washington, which only makes him easier to dismiss to some. Any team with legitimate playoff talent, he'd make into a championship contender. Not many PGs can say that.

    • KG215

      The thing is Rondo is far and away the best player on the team only when he is on his game. The Bulls game yesterday for example, the first half he was pushing and getting into the paint he dismantled the Bulls defense. The second half he was completely neutralized and was unable to breakdown their defense. Now it wasn't Rondo's fault the Celtics lost, other people and the team made plenty of mistakes. But as the best player he should have been the one to carry the team on his back, he is definitely good enough to do it. They had no Derrick Rose, the game was close the whole way, there were many opportunities. You just don't know when you can rely on Rondo and when you can't. He can disappear or he can completely take over the game like vs Miami, that is why when you say Rondo is the best player on the team you need an asterisk.

      • tbunny

        I was wondering if Doc looked so upset because it was Rondo who came out super soft in the second half.

  • skeeds

    There is no doubt in my mind, that outside of Chris Paul, there's no other PG at Rondo's level. Rose and Westbrook are basically SG's playing in systems with no playmaker. Fair play to them, I can't consider them playmakers though.

    There is exactly one thing between Rondo and Superstardom. And that is consistency. He loses interest easily, even when the team is playing well. That is a major flaw, one that you cannot fix, and the most important characteristic of a superstar. It's exactly what players like Vince Carter lack, the constant, crazy drive to excel even when not really competing.

    It's all good while the C's are still a pretty good team. Unfortunatelyif they fail to remain a relevant, top 5 eastern team in years to come, we can't count on Rondo to carry us.

    On the other hand, he makes guys so much better that staying competitive doesn't necessarily mean we need to get him a new big 3 to stay happy.

  • Betty

    If Rondo gets his free throws and jumpshots (getting better) straight, he will be the BEST point guard in the NBA (or ever).

    • ElRoz

      he'll never do it…6-7 years has passed and his FT is as bad as it ever was…the same with his jumper. Not going to happen.

      • Jo R.

        He was pretty good coming out of the lockout, consistently hitting Js and FTs, even if the C's lost the first three of the season…but that prolonged absence in the middle of the season derailed him a bit. Imagine if he had had a full pre-season training camp.

  • ElRoz

    Rondo makes less than 605 of his FT, has no credible outside jumper (unlike all other top tier point guards). This means that it is not just some flaw of Rondo:this flaw affects the whole team, and KG and Pierce have to contend with 1.5 and 2 players when the guy covering Rondo helps out and roams. Sure, Rondo is a very good point guard; yes he helps Boston offense, but he also hurts it as well. Boston beat Orlando twice, Memphis, and Indiana without Rondo this year during a stretch: they had KG – that is the most important element. (by the way, I really haven't seen much defense out of Rondo the last couple seasons).

    Of course the team is much better with Rondo; of course his contribution and assets outweigh his shortcomings, but the latter are what will keep him from being a top 3-4 point guard out there.

    • skeeds

      Actually, transfering KG to the 5 and starting Bass at the 4 finally (almost) solved Rondo's no-3P shot problem. Doc finally figured it out. Having those 2 able to hit the very long jumper, reverses the way defense has to play you.
      On the pick n roll, the main concern is that the big doesn't get loose and attack the rim. Rondo's superfast (and tremendously accurate) pick n pop with KG is exactly the opposite. It's the guard who'll hurt you at the rim, and the big who's lethal from range. I really give him credit too, he nails that play every single time.

    • IBleedGreen

      Completely agree with you. Rondo definitely has more goods than bads. But you have to average them out, don't you. If you do that, he's just above average.

  • yeah

    Good point; imagine where the Celtics would be if Rondo could at least shoot 80% free throws.

  • IBleedGreen

    The biggest attribute of a superstar or elite player is the ability to take over games when it matters. I can't remember the last game when Rondo made an impact in a close game in the 4th quarter. Until he can do it consistent, he is not elite. End of discussion. I don't care what stats you throw at me.

    • smalltownID

      ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT POINT MENTIONED. Good stuff guys.

  • Morena

    Great piece!! It's hard to understand the real importance of Rondo!!

  • Tos

    A superstar brings his team to the playoffs single handled. Kevin Love is not yet a superstar. He’s good but not that good yet.

    Look at the rest of the players on that list, when alone even they have gotten to at least the playoffs, if not even further in some cases.

  • yeah

    While my own list of superstars extends beyond 9, I approve of Carmelo Anthony not being on this list ;)

  • janos

    HI Micheals, is Janos
    I do quick check and seem article is mostly accurate, for fact. Coupel changes on :

    Rondo is not a superstar, but he’s certainly on the next ring of basketball brilliance. He’s elite in a few areas (intelligence, defense, passing), but disappears too often, can’t score at will, and has several technical, well-publicized flaws that shackle him from inclusion with the nine players listed above.

    Shold read:

    Rondos is superstar, is certainly on the top ring of basketball nba . He’s elite in aall area ( especiall y intelligence, defense, passing), not disappears , score at will, and has noflaws that shackle him from inclusion with the nine players listed above.

    Is refresh so full articiles Rondos, you know he favorite player celtics, mine. Can you say is good trade celtics send Rondos to Huston Dragich, Scolio? Is trade nba , celtics for, good or not good ? What you think. ?

    thank you time, and nice see articles get better .

  • C'sBballFan

    I feel like saying that Rondo's not an elite player because he can't shoot as well as other players isn't an entirely accurate statement. Think of it this way: if Rondo was a better shooter he would be more confident in his shooting, but then this would lead to others like Pierce and KG getting the ball less often to make things happen. The thing with Rondo is he utilizes any flaws, in this case shooting, and he supplements that by reating shots for people who can shoot well. This whole article is kind of a contradiction to the statement that Rondo isn't a superstar.

  • Akjoshi

    Hey man –
    First post i've read by you. Definitely opinionated but I like it. Keep up the good work!
    AJ

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