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The Elimination of the Celtics Turnover Problem… Thanks to Rajon Rondo?

Death, taxes, and plenty of turnovers by the Boston Celtics. If there were ever three things you could count on over the past five years, those would be safe bets, with the safest choice being plenty of miscues from Doc Rivers’ crew.

Since Danny Ainge put together an All-Star trio back in the summer of 2007, the C’s have had a recurring turnover problem that buried them in the bottom-six of the NBA in team turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions). The numbers are so glaring and consistent over this stretch, it makes you wonder whether someone needed to have an intervention with Rivers and his roster to help the team solve the problem.

Turnover rate (league rank)
2007-08: 14.9 (29th)
2008-09: 15.0 (29th)
2009-10: 14.5 (27th)
2010-11: 14.5 (28th)
2011-12: 14.7 (25th)

Early on during the Big Three era, Boston was able to get away with having a subpar turnover rate due to the fact they made up for it in other parts of their offense. They shot the ball with tremendous accuracy, hit plenty of 3-pointers (thanks Eddie House!) and got to the free throw line at a healthy clip. For a couple years there, believe it or not, they were actually an above-average offensive rebounding team as well, which should give you yet another reason to miss Leon Powe.

As the veteran stars have aged over the past three years, Boston’s shooting accuracy and ability to get to the charity stripe regularly has, understandably, declined. Those realities, combined with the inflated turnover rate and non-existent offensive rebounding, meant Boston had one of the worst offenses in the league last season. Little has changed over the horrendous first half of this season as the C’s posted a 99.8 offensive efficiency rating over 43 games (24th in the league) prior to January 27th — the pre-Rajon Rondo era.

Once Rondo went down with a torn ACL during the last week of January, the masses (including some of us here at the Hub) started to worry even more: Who would handle the ball? How would the C’s handle ball pressure by opposing teams? Boston’s turnovers would surely go way up without their All-Star point guard…right?

Instead, the opposite has happened. The C’s are taking better care of the ball than ever, which leads us to an important question…was Rondo the C’s biggest turnover problem?

The short answer is yes – yes he was. Outside of Pablo Prigoni and Earl Watson, Rondo had the highest turnover rate for any rotation point guard in the NBA this year, giving the ball away to the opposition a whopping 22.6 times per 100 possessions. For some perspective, other elite point guards generally have turnover rates in the low teens or even single digits. They value the ball while Rondo didn’t show the ability or inclination to do the same.

There are plenty of reasons why the C’s offense has struggled over the past couple years, but Rondo’s tendency to lose the ball is at the top of the list, especially when you consider the fact he was on the floor for close to 40 minutes most nights. Any time you give away a possession nearly once out of every four trips down the floor, you are in trouble. In fact, outside of Jason Collins, Rondo had far and away the highest turnover rate on the team for the past two seasons.

Turnovers have been a major issue for Rondo throughout his career, especially as his usage has increased the past three seasons. Two seasons ago according to Basketball-Reference, his turnover rate was 24.3. Last year it was 22.8. These high percentages are largely due to his high-risk passes, which are incredibly pretty when they work, but cost Boston precious possessions when they don’t.

Rondo does tend to take better care of the ball when the bright lights are on in the postseason, where his career turnover rate drops a few points. However, it’s still been above 18 percent for the past three postseasons according to B-R, which is just not a good mark for any point guard around the league. Rondo’s stellar scoring, assisting and rebounding made up for the turnovers during those postseasons. Still, regular season Rondo had been a walking turnover for years now and hadn’t done enough to make up for it most nights in other facets of his game.

What about the rest of the team? They are obviously just as involved in the team’s turnover issues the past five years. After dispatching high-turnover players like Ryan Hollins, Greg Steimsma, and Marquis Daniels this offseason, Ainge restocked the roster with career low-turnover guys like Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green.

This philosophy worked for the first half of the season, as the Celtics became a middle-of-the-road team in turnover rate despite Rondo’s issues.

Before Rondo went down, the C’s gave away the ball about 15.3 times per 100 possessions, which was good enough to vault them into the top-15 for the first half of the season.

I talked to Rivers about the team’s improvement earlier this season:

“It’s been a lot of personnel and a lot of emphasis,” Rivers explained. “Through training camp, we had clock number, you got to run more [if you turn the ball over], everything’s been on it.”

Despite the improved personnel surrounding Rondo, I don’t think even Rivers could have expected what came next after his All-Star point guard fell victim to an ACL tear.

As the Celtics have switched to a spread offense without their offensive general, a system which relies on plenty of ball movement, the C’s have become one of the best teams in the league at taking care of the ball.

How good have they become? Over the past 15 games, Boston has turned the ball over on just 14.1 percent of their possessions, the 3rd best mark in the entire league since January 27th —  the post Rondo era. 

“With us, they are offensive-minded more than our other teams. They know what our numbers show, when we turn the ball over that we really hurt our team as well as we are offensively,” said Rivers.

A quick sampling of individual turnover rates on the C’s tells an even bigger story.

Turnovers/100 possessions

Pierce: 12.8
Green: 12.7
Lee: 10.7
Bradley: 9.7
Wilcox: 9.6
Barbosa: 8.5
Terry: 7.9
Crawford: 7.4
Garnett: 7.3
Bass: 6.3

That, my friends, is an elite group at protecting the basketball, even with increased ballhandling duties for the guards with Rondo on the shelf.

The best part of these reduced rates for Rivers is they are all relatively sustainable. Throughout their career, all of these guys have low-turnover tendencies, meaning that despite the limited sample size, Boston should be able to keep protecting the ball for the remainder of the season.

The team’s improvement in the turnover department has translated into their overall offense as well, as the team’s offensive efficiency has jumped from 99.8 to 101.9 (18th in the NBA) without Rondo at the helm.

Now am I saying the C’s are better without Rondo? Absolutely not, although I won’t go as far as to completely rule out the possibility. More data is needed. As I wrote a few weeks back, I thought Doc’s predictable and stale offense was just as much, if not more to blame, than anything Rondo did.

However, there is no denying one thing: the C’s, for the first time in a long time, don’t have much of a turnover problem. As we watch to see whether Boston can keep this up, we are also left to wonder if Rondo can cut his miscues in a new-look spread offense upon his return, one that relies less on him handling the ball.

(Note: all numbers taken from nba.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com)

  • Josh_5

    This is totally off topic, but I want everyone to enjoy this little tidbit. Over the last 16 games, KG is averaging 9.9 boards on 31.7 minutes. Yum.

  • chris s

    great post (as usual)…don't forget rondo's inability to shoot consistently from outside, allowing defenses to sag off him, play passing lanes, etc. probably affects turnover rate…rondo (it's been said before) does lots of amazing things, but maybe his high risk/high reward style isn't best for the overall team (esp. our older jump shooting kind of team).

    • KillerGymRat

      Said it before and I'll keep saying it since opinions like this lack any statistical proof to substantiate it:

      Rondo dramatically improved his shooting and shot over 50% for most of the season, and dipped just slightly below that before going out with his injury. He was indeed knocking down jumpers with consistency. From 3-point range he still needs to improve, but from mid-range his numbers are as good or better as anyone on the roster and he finished the season with the 3rd best FG% on the team and by far the best among our guards. He destroyed several teams this season who made the mistake of sagging and turning him into a jump shooter.

      My only criticism of Rondo's much improved shooting, was that he needs to develop a shooters mentality like Pierce and not let a series of misses keep him from taking open looks.

      • Phil725

        Not all improvements of shooting are equal though; Rondo developing a spot up 3 shot would be a massive improvement to his game; it would make him a constant threat off the ball, and defenses would have to stretch and allow other looks to keep him from burning them. It's what made Bradley hitting the 3 last year so devastating. It's not just the addition of three or six points a game, it's how it forces the defense to always cover it.

        Adding an off the dribble 17 footer doesn't move the needle much though. Long 2s aren't good shots, and teams will continue to let him take those shots in lieu of bending and allowing better looks. Just shooting over 50% on the best looks from there isn't enough. He still shrinks the floor when he doesn't have the ball, and no team is fretting giving up a few more long 2s a game. Shooters mentality or not, they'll let him get those looks. He could win a game or two, but over 82 games, it will hurt the offense, like it did this year.

        Ideally, Rondo would improve his 3pt shot, but the free throw line is still the place he needs to live, not 17 feet.

        • KillerGymRat

          While I agree he should improve and consistently hit the 3 and he also needs to improve his free throw shooting that isn't the point. The point was he has improved (more then anyone else on the team) as a shooter this year, and is now consistently knocking down mid-range jumpers.

          And we can agree to disagree on whether on not hitting a mid-range jumper opens things up or impacts a D. I would argue that when Rondo is knocking them down, it forces the D to run out and opens up passing lanes and driving lanes. The few teams that refused to do so watched him go for 30. And yes, that hurts. He hit some big 3's as well to impact games.

          Bradley is a poor comparison because he can't hurt you off the dribble and can't hurt you with the pass so there is never a reason to sag off him. Take away his jumper and watch him for his cuts (which he rarely gets now without Rondo) and you can easily neutralize him. He gets buckets because he is the 4th or 5th option on the floor and teams would rather be beat by him then PP, KG or even Lee and Bass. Nobody is drawing up defensive schemes to focus on him and the (barely) 2 – 3's he'll hit in any game certainly isn't devastating.

          You said "it will hurt the offense, like it did this year".

          You are of course entitled to your opinion, but as I've watched every game all season, it isn't actually true that his jump shooting hurt the offense any more then any other player who has an off shooting night or slump. (see also: PP, Jet, Green, Bradley, Lee, Bass, KG).

          How can you single out Rondo when every player on the team has had horrible nights…even KG…and especially PP?

          And how can you compare what happened in that crappy precision offense to the looks players are getting now in the spread?

          • Phil725

            I wasn't singling out Rondo for blame for the offense being bad as much as I was just pointing out that Rondo's improved jumper didn't actually improve the offense this year. Improving as a player is never a bad thing; Rondo's jumper could lead to better things in a different offense next year, but that doesn't change the fact that you would have a really hard time finding evidence of it helping this year. You can point to the few (one?) game that Rondo won this year by getting hot from mid range, but it didn't make teams alter their defensive plan, and the bad numbers across the board support that. Nothing the team was doing with Rondo was working.

            And I wasn't comparing Bradley and Rondo or anything like that, just the impact of a spot up shooter. Floor spacing is one of the most important things in the NBA, and I really wish there was some way to measure it statistically. That insanely efficient lineup from last year involving Bradley was because teams had to respect him from 3, opening up the floor for everyone else. With teams not respecting him this year, the floor shrunk, and those good looks turned into bad looks. It's a game of inches of space.

            Long 2s from the guard spots don't improve spacing. It didn't hurt Rondo in the past when he was dominating the ball, and he's perfectly capable of running his game without being a good shooter. He's not a threat off the ball though, and he won't be a true one until he can do more than what he can now. He's still a great player now, but I have concerns how he would fit in this new offense that we all love if he can't be a true off ball threat. The entire crux of basketball analytics is that long 2s are bad. The Cs are already shooting as many of them as well as possible, the last thing they need is another person launching them.

  • Bill


    • janos


  • High Rollers

    It's a pity to let genius go stale.

    At the end of the day Rondo just wants to win. Show him a better way to get that done, and I bet he embraces it.

    • CG12

      I hope that that is true, but I'm not sure I believe it yet. My observation has been that Rondo wants to win HIS WAY. If winning means Rondo having less of the ball, as I feel is the case, I have a hard time believing that he is going to embrace that. Time will tell.

  • Josh_5

    In another unrelated story, anybody see Ray Allen's pu$$y flop against Barea last night?! What a tool, I hope the only place he gets his jersey retired is the garbage.

  • Phil725

    Count me as one of those who thought turnovers would be a big problem post-Rondo. Despite Rondo's individual turnover numbers listed here, the team turned the ball over less with him on the court. It makes sense when you think about it; with Rondo handling most of the playmaking, if there was a turnover, he was probably responsible, since no one else really had a chance to turn it over. The bench units had those chances, and they turned it over a couple more times per 100 possessions. I remember watching the Kings game shortly after the injury, where the Cs threw away multiple ugly, careless turnovers as they were being expected to make more passes in general, and expecting that to be the norm.

    It hasn't happened though. It's a testament to how the Cs have done so well in spreading the added responsibility, but no one has had to take on such a heavy load that they're being forced to do too much. A part of me is somewhat annoyed by how well things are going now, since it means they could've been much better before, but it's good that they've figured out something that works at least. I still wouldn't be surprised to see the number come up from the elite figure they've posted lately, but the fact that these are low turnover guys is very important if you're banking on the offense not regressing going forward.

    • CG12

      I was not at all surprised to see the offense function without Rondo, and said so at the time. A ball-dominating PG with a shaky jumper is just not a good formula for NBA success. I would love to see Rondo work off the ball more when he comes back. It is something he used to do, but hasn't done for years. There is no reason why he couldn't be a terror cutting to the hoops, with his instincts, hands, and hops. Rondo used to dunk, and dunk big! You have to get other guys involved more regularly and more intentionally on offense, both to keep them more engaged and to get the defense to respect them more. With Rondo this year, neither of those things was happening, and you could see it. It is truly a game of inches, and little things like this is where those inches are found.

      • Phil725

        Just to clarify my initial comment, I'm not surprised by the offense functioning well without Rondo, since that trend's been consistent all year, even pre-injury. I just expected more turnovers to happen at the same time.

        I do miss those dunks though, I had him completely destroying Bosh as my desktop background on a previous computer.

  • idywild

    Informative piece, but I have a slight problem with this line

    *They value the ball while Rondo didn’t show the ability or inclination to do the same.*

    No, they (the others) are shoot or score first point guards, the ones you are referring to. Pass first PGs (check out Nash and Rubio) tend to have high TOV %. CP3 is one that doesn't but he is sill more scoring minded than the one mentioned. Nash's TOV% (last year was his highest) never seriously adversely affected the Suns offense, because it was a faster pace. So one could infer in this spread offense, Rondo's TOV% wouldn't be a detriment either. The only way you could say Rondo hurts the team is if he hurts the new offense, which not much data can be accrued since the offense has changed when he fell to injury. So yes the old system with Rondo helming it no longer was successful with the new guys, but there is no way to say the new spread offense would be worse with him because there is nothing to draw from to support that premise.

    • Larry

      I agree with this comment, and I just want to add to the support of Rondo. The Celtics to me now come down to how good Pierce is feeling and how well he's playing. That recent overtime win in Utah showed that if Pierce is on his offensive game, the Celtics are sitting pretty. But I've also watched Pierce turn the ball over a lot in crucial situations. I've watched the offense look college level as they pass the ball around the three point arc because nobody can dribble drive or pass into the post with mild pressure. Rondo may be a little Jekel and Hyde, but the Celtics are not better without him. They just aren't. He can raise his game when the situation demands, both defensively and on offense.

    • brobb7

      Thanks for the thoughts. I definitely agree with you on the fact that Rondo's high turnovers may have been more of a product than the C's offensive system, rather than on him. I covered that and the fact he might work in the new system in the last couple paragraphs of the piece (with the excerpt below). With that said, given the number of risky/careless passes Rondo makes within the offense this (and past seasons) he deserves some heat. Unlike Nash, C's offense did not play at high pace, making Rondo's turnovers more costly.

      Now am I saying the C’s are better without Rondo? Absolutely not, although I won’t go as far as to completely rule out the possibility. More data is needed. As I wrote a few weeks back, I thought Doc’s predictable and stale offense was just as much, if not more to blame, than anything Rondo did.
      However, there is no denying one thing: the C’s, for the first time in a long time, don’t have much of a turnover problem. As we watch to see whether Boston can keep this up, we are left to wonder if Rondo can cut his miscues in a new-look spread offense upon his return, one that relies less on him handling the ball.

  • Phil725

    Also, is there any reason why every one of these posts has to add in the minute by minute reactionary update on whether or not the team is better without Rondo? They were struggling early, and they're playing well/better now, we all know that. To stretch that into anything more is a comparison of a nebulous team structure over a five year period against a month long sample size. That's not something you can discern in a paragraph or two. It's something that's going to need to be worked out for real in the offseason and when the team decides whether or not they want to build around Rondo.

    We'll have a bigger data size in the offseason (as well as a postseason to see how much the team misses Playoff Rondo,) and who wants to break down the last few years of Rondo's impact in the middle of the season anyway?

    I don't know why it's so hard to just say 'the team is playing better now than early in the season' and leave it there.

    Edit: And I'm not really directing this towards this post in general, it's pretty much all Celtics related analysis everywhere over the last few weeks that has to add in the day by day update on the Rondo question. It's a media pet peeve of mine when buzz stories are focused on when there's actual news. Buzz stories are for dead times.

    • KillerGymRat

      Couldn't agree with you more on this.

    • High Rollers

      Because people want to figure out why their expectations (e.g. regarding turnovers) turned out wrong.

      Rondo touches every aspect of this team. When he went down, the anxious speculations began. Rondo plays an unpredictable game deliberately when he's able to go, for one thing. Then there's the fact that the team right now is experiencing undesired but real unpredictability from game to game, practice to practice. It's as exciting as it is irritating. Hard not to get compulsive the situation.

      People like to predict things, pat themselves on the back when they're right, and go back to the drawing board when they're wrong. It's no surprise Rondo has become an essential part of the Good Will Hunting -esque Celtic equation on the board in 2013.

      If it makes you feel any better, every time I read someone's new explanation, I roll my eyes and think the same thing as you for the most part. The team is playing better now than early in the season. A lot goes into it, but that's the bottom line. And it's a good thing.

      • Phil725

        I don't have anything against breaking down the team pre and post Rondo, in fact, I really liked this turnover break down since it's something that I felt pretty confident in that's turning out to be wrong.

        The question about whether or not the team is better without Rondo is an unnecessary addition to any piece breaking down the Celtics this year though. Even if someone had a concrete answer (which is impossible given the small sample size aspect,) it's irrelevant since he's not a factor for the rest of the year. It just complicates whatever you're saying. Take this comment section as an example; what I assume was an intention of focusing on the team's recent trend with turnovers is like 85% Celtics with/without Rondo talk.

        If the intent was to focus on turnovers, that addition of Rondo speculation just muddies the water to the point of losing the original conversation.

        • idywild

          The piece is entitled "The Elimination of the Celtics Turnover Problem… Thanks to Rajon Rondo?" It is about Rondo thus why commenters are mentioning that factor. Hard to go around it.

          • Phil725

            Maybe I'm just looking at the piece the wrong way. I initially took it as a breakdown of the Cs turnover problems pre and post Rondo injury, since that offers a very noticeable line of demarcation for the season. If it was meant as another commentary on whether or not the Cs are better without him in the first place, I guess my complaint is kind of misplaced.

            I know when I was reading the piece the first time, I didn't even think about the 'are the Cs better without Rondo' question until it was stated verbatim. The second to last paragraph starts; "Now am I saying the C’s are better without Rondo?" To me, that's a big change in direction of the piece, now we're talking about next year, not this year.

  • KillerGymRat

    Count on me to be the first person to point out what a difference Rondo would have made when we are in the playoffs and we just lost another winable game because the fallback PP iso didn't work this time…and we went the final 2 minutes of a crucial game without a basket because the spread offense and a lack of anyone who can get to the rim at will or create a shot better then a contested mid-range jumper was expossed by grity playoff D.

    You know the kind that Chicago, Indiana, and Miami all play.

    I truly hope I'm wrong, but for all his flaws (and there are many) nobody on this team can shread a defense and get to the rim like Rondo.

    • janos

      hi rat this good reason post

  • Sophomore

    "There is no way to say the new spread offense would be worse with him because there is nothing to draw from to support that premise."

    Worse? Probably not. But I don't think that's the right question. To fit into the spread, Rondo would have to learn to play a different brand of ball than over the past several years. We know he doesn't like to drive during the regular season (and given the way he's built I'm not sure I blame him), and his jump shot is still iffy. Also, not only has he become an all-star in the league playing a very different way, he can also look at the Nashes and Rubios (as you point out) and tell himself there's nothing wrong with the way he plays now. Why *should* he change?

    It's going to be interesting to see what he takes from these few months. I don't know the man or how he'll react. It's a real challenge to a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of (justified) pride. What does he take from it?

    • idywild

      The thing is Rondo already had to adapt to a system that didn't really fit his strengths, when he was elected to be the starting PG of the 2008 Championship team. He adapted to it and added his own flair to it eventually seasons proceeding, but it seems the more he got better the worst his style seemed to be for the system. I could have predicted something this year was bound to come about if they still adopted the same offense with the new pieces. The offense should have been renovated from the start of the season. Whether it was Doc or Rondo who kept trying to force it, I don't know. Sure Rondo might have pride, but surely everyone must see that this team particularly must do something different on offense to be successful. This stretch right here proves it. Again, that's why I said there is no way to really infer if he would or would not fit the system, by basing it off past stats.

      • CG12

        Rondo is not a particularly good fit for this team. I can see him playing in Denver or something, running the floor tossing no-looks and alley-oops all over the place. He isn't a game-manager who is going to focus on getting the team into its offense and getting his scorers the ball in their preferred spots. If you switched out Rondo and Andre Miller (I'm not suggesting we should do so), they would both be much better suited to their new teams.

        • idywild

          He was the game-manager who focused on getting the team into its offense and spots int the precision system. The new spread system doesn't really need that. Miller would be good in that system not sure with this system. He is potent and brings a different offense than DEN starting unit. Rondo would work good on Denver, however Ty Lawson fits them perfectly. Once the vets are no longer on the team or get reduced roles, the C's can look to DEN offensive approach but hopefully better half court execution. Will be very interesting to see if anything is done next season.

  • janos

    I have answer this one
    rondos boss team and everybodies want work hard while boss away so he come back to a good team of no problems;, is same fo rme at the job

  • hydrofluoric

    I've been adamantly pro-Rondo, but these numbers don't lie; Rondo has been very careless with the ball in the past and that drove me bananas. Glad to see this aspect being highlighted. On the other hand, the TO% that you cite is a little unfair because despite Rondo's dribbling a lot, he rarely finishes a possession with a shot attempt. As a result, the number of possessions that count to his credit is relatively low, and the turnovers that do accrue increase the % very quickly.

    With all that said, we miss Rondo's ball-handling and pure skill. Courtney Lee loses the ball at least once a game in the lane in an insanely frustrating manner; Avery (ridiculously) can't finish at the rim; and Jason Terry in the spread makes some truly terrible passes and dumb mistakes. Rondo overcomplicates things at times, but when he sticks with the basics, that's when you get those ridiculous National TV Rondo 20-15-20 lines.

  • jman

    Jesus folks, enough with the Rondo shit. I'll say this especially based on this years and last years stats. If Rondo was playing now, we'd probably be sitting in 9 or 10 spot in the conference. Rondo is a good pg everyone but not great. His game is not consistent. Majic said it right awhile ago. Until he's averaging in the 20's with double digit assists, he'll never be great. This team needs a shooting guard not a passing guard and since lee and Bradley both have better offense and superior defemse than Rondo and are willing to be team-oriented, we are much better. Rondo is a good shooter as his numbers showed this year, but he is way too hesistant. I could give three shits about play-off Rondo if he can't step it up during the year where seeding counts. He will not adapt to this style of play I predict for his pride will not allow it. Hopefully unlike Rondo, kg and Pierce's ego's will allow them to take a back seat next year and come off the bench for wow what a bench that'll be.
    Rondo's got to go folks for this team to win. Trade him now while the league thinks he's an all-star talent for us to receive an all-star big in return. His defense is atrocious and he will not change. His play is his play and it's not what this team needs as what has been proven since his departure. Just let him go…lol. You all wanted kg and pierce gone last month but want to keep the main problem which is #9.

  • Michael

    Well, when the league top 3 TO leader is not playing, sure
    and again the terrible Doc-RR centered offensive system gets big credit.

  • Kamalu S.

    I did see that flop, what a joker! I just happen to think the team is forced to share the ball handling and play making load which means every one is touching the ball more hence more comfortable and looser. Reintroduced Rondo (the guy that can shoulder the load if need), with some team mates who know how to fight in the play offs, and u got urself a contender. The chemistry jus needed a shake up… Too bad such a high cost tho. No data, jus from watching and playing team sports myself. Go Celtics!!!

  • kel

    Lots of good things said here, both pro and con Rondo. I just have a sneaky feeling that If we get rid of Rondo it'll come back and bite us in the ass.

  • C's in La

    rondo for Josh smith! KG will whip J-smoove into shape, 2 years under KG's barking will make J-Smoove stellar, and he can be KG's "project"

  • mmmmm

    I'm a little confused by your numbers.

    According to basketball-reference.com, the C's are currently 12th in TOV% at 13.8% – exactly league average. Note also that the spread between the top and bottom of that ranking is small (11.4 – 14.7). So I'm not sure one should put too much meaning into rankings like '29th' vs '25th'. In absolute measures, a random TO per game swings you way up or down the rankings. Another way of stating that is that random chance noise probably dominates this ranking when it comes to a single game matchup and probably even in a 7 game series.

    HoopData.com also has us right at the middle of the pack at 14th, with a TOR of 13.99, just a hair above league average (13.72).

    According to their splits, the C's have very close to that TO rate all season. It dropped during February, true. But not a ton. About a TO per 100. It also drops around the same order when you split by wins versus losses. Surprise! When a team plays well, it turns the ball over less and wins! The team played well in February. I'll bet if we isolated on the 6 game win streak at the start of January (WITH Rondo) that our TOV% was pretty low then as well:

    1/4 vs Pacers 12.6%
    1/5 vs Hawks 11.7%
    1/7 vs Knicks 10.8%
    1/9 vs Suns 13.1%
    1/11 vs Rockets 15.7%
    1/14 vs Bobcats 13.6%

    So one game with slightly high TO rate and otherwise all low rates — leading to wins.

    Basically, the only evidence I see is that the TEAM has been playing better since the new year and thus the TEAM turnover rates are lower as a correlation.

    On Rondo as an individual, yes, he personally has high TO counts. But that's largely because in the offense we have run since right before the start of the 2008 playoffs, Rondo has been ball-dominant. In that playoffs, Rondo's AST% rate shot up to 36.3% (from a relatively modest 28.2% during the regular season). We had success with that and ever since, his AST% has never dropped below 43% in either the regular season or the playoffs.

    When the team played poorly, we very simply as a team, had more TOs. In an offense where Rondo dominates the ball, he is more likely to be getting charged with the TO – even if it was perhaps due to others being out of position or leaning wrong or not looking for the pass or whatever.

    According to HoopData.com, Rondo's TO Rate (per 100 possessions) this year was actually _down_ to 13.79 – pretty much identical to what the team TOR is. That rate is down significantly for Rondo from his prior seasons – which were up closer to 20ish.

    But we can also see that Rondo's Assist Rate (AR) dropped significantly. It is still high (second among all full time PGs) but at 19.05 it is way down after being over 70 the prior two seasons. I would attribute this to a couple of things. (1) Rondo was taking a couple more shots this season but mostly (2) a lot of his passes were going to guys who missed shots.

    With all the talk about Rondo this last couple of months, the glaring elephant in the room that cannot be denied is that several of the shooters on this team have suffered through some _horrendous_ personal shooting slumps. In particular, Pierce, Lee, Bass & Terry through differen parts of the first half of this season. Pierce alone was just beyond awful during the 6 game losing streak in Rondo's last 6 games. And trying to blame that on Rondo seems odd, considering how well both Pierce and Bass shot with Rondo feeding them last season.

    More likely, shooters simply slump and shooters get hot. And as Doc says, "It's a make/miss league."

    The only way to protect yourself from shooting slumps is to take more shots at the rim and play stifling defense.

    • hydrofluoric

      Really appreciate the alternate take on this, thanks.

    • mmmmm

      Edit: should be: "but at 39.05 it is way down after being over 70 …"

    • CG12

      Isn't TOR and TO/100 the same thing? So how come hoopdata and mmmmm have 13.79 and the post here says 22.6? If 13.79 is right, RR's TO rate was way down this year. Anecdotally, that is not how it seemed from watching the games.

      • mmmmm

        I double checked into this and at first I thought there was an error in the hoopdata.com number. Using their own published formula, they should have 22.6 as well.

        TOR = 100*TO/(FGA+TO+(.44*FTA))

        The 22.6 number matches basketball-reference.com so they probably use that same formula.

        Similarly, the assist rate for Rondo should be higher at 64.1 instead of just 39.05, based on their published formula.

        The numbers they have listed for Rondo's prior seasons all match the published formula.

        That said, they seemed to have that 'error' in the data for ALL point guards this season. When I listed comparisons between players, all the TOR and AR numbers for the guards were similar to Rondo's.

        This was a clue to me that they have changed the way they calculate TOR for this season.

        I figured it out:

        They DID change the formula. And the newer formula makes a LOT more sense:

        TOR = 100*TO/(FGA+TO+(.44*FTA)+AST)

        Basically the first formula makes sense for a _team_ rate (because all assists get added up into the FGA total), but not an individual rate since it doesn't factor in the assists as an additional 'basketball move' that a player could do with the ball. It is still not perfect because it doesn't factor in passes that don't become an assist.

        So, the 13.79 TOR for Rondo is the actual correct rate. What is wrong is the older, historical data that is with the other formula.

        Note – that this correction is applied to all other individuals at hoopdata.com for this season. So we can still compare Rondo to other full-time PGs. From that we see that his TO rate, while high, is not absurdly so. Of the top 5 PGs with very high Assist Rates (above 32%), three of the 5 have TOR above 13.

        This number also makes a lot of sense when you consider Rondo as proxy for the team assist rate. Rondo played in a majority of the minutes for the C's, and while he was on the floor, he tended to dominate the ball. His contribution to the overall team weight thus would have the largest 'weight' in the calculation. So it should not be surprising that the overall team TOR (13.8) and Rondo's (13.8) should be similar.

        In fact it should have been a red flag for them to be as different as the '22.6' number implied.

        Basically, this throws all the conclusions of the OP's article into question.

    • brobb7

      Hey mmmm, thanks for the comments.

      For my numbers, as I stated in the bottom of my post, I used basketball-reference.com and NBA.com/stats media page, two highly reputable team sources. As you said, Hoopdata has different formulas than those sites, hence the different numbers. Hoopdata's numbers aren't updated as often as those other sites, so you were probably looking at numbers that are a month old as well (before they updated yesterday, they hadn't updated their database since 2/10. You can check out the turnover numbers here for individual guards http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2… which shows Rondo as one of the worst guards in the league aside from a couple outliers I mentioned in turnover rate.

      As I also stated, the team's turnover numbers have improved without Rondo, as I measured the games before Rondo's injury on NBA.com/stats tool and came up with these numbers:

      Before Rondo went down, the C’s gave away the ball about 15.3 times per possession every 100 possessions, which was good enough to vault them into the top-15 for the first half of the season.

      Over the past 15 games, Boston has turned the ball over on just 14.1 percent of their possessions, the 3rd best mark in the entire league since January 27th — the post Rondo era.

      Those should help explain all the numbers to you. Based on that, it's hard to deny there has been a measurable difference in turnovers in C's offense since Rondo went down. Whether that is because of Rondo or the team's new offensive scheme is what should continue to be rightfully debated.

  • mmmmm

    And now, watching tonight's game versus the 76ers …. 22 turnovers …

    That's not going to help the small-sample statistics of the post-Rondo era.

  • check12check

    I've said it before as a disclaimer so let me say it again, I've just never been a big fan of Rondo. jman said it right when he pointed out that rondo is an average PG. yes, his rebounding numbers are sexy, but beyond that i'm really not a fan of what he does. I DO think the whole "rondo's team" thing makes his play exponentially worse than it would be if were just playing ball in the kind of offense the team is running now, but I believe mediocre is the best we can expect if we become a rondo centered team in the future.

  • Danny

    Of course law of the universe says the game immediately after the writing of this article sees the celtics lose 22 ugly turnovers. The irony is not lost here at celticshub.