Overrated: Rajon Rondo Claim to Best PG in the NBA

by Jeeves

Flowchart courtesy of Shamsports

After a 1 week hiatus, overrated/underrated is back. This week we’re looking at Rajon Rondo

As always, let’s get my biases out front and center. I’m a big Bulls fan, thus I love Derrick Rose.

There’s a definite rift between Rose and Rondo both on the court and amongst their proponents in the media. Even with my adoration of Rose, I’ve never fully understood the fawning over Rondo. It’s quite possible that I’m missing something, but to me he is merely a very good point guard. He doesn’t strike me as “in the conversation” for best point guard in the league.

The flow chart above sums up one of my main complaints about Rondo. I realize a point guard needs to initiate the offense, but it’s detrimental if that’s all the point guard can do. I like my point guard to control the offense while also maintaining the ability to create something on his own. Simply racking up assists isn’t enough for me and racking up assists seems to be Rondo’s greatest claim to fame.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good passer and has great vision, but he has three teammates that are perfect for amassing large assist totals. Pierce, Allen and KG are all great jump shooters and their games conflate to inflate Rondo’s stats. Large parts of the Celtics’ offense is predicated on Allen running off of screens catching the ball and shooting immediately or KG catching the ball at the elbow and firing an 18 footer. They do all the work to get open, and all Rondo has to do is hit the open man for the assist. Much as the D’Antoni offense is known for inflating offensive statistics, I think the (Real) Big Three in Boston have that affect on assist totals.

If inflated assist totals were my only issue with Rondo’s game, I’d put him up there with the best PG’s and I wouldn’t be writing this post, but that’s just my opening salvo. His lack of a reliable jump shot is another huge flaw in his game. Rondo is a great finisher at the rim. He makes 2/3 of his 4.2 shots a game at the rim; that’s really good. If you move him away from there, though, he becomes a sieve on offense. He shoots 34% from less than ten feet (excluding at the rim shots) and 28% from 10-15 feet. His 16-23 foot shooting is a bit better (41%), I assume, because defenses sag off of him. Rondo just has no mid range game at all. The large knock on Rose’s game, coming into the league, was that he didn’t have a jump shot; to this day announcers are still surprised at his ability to knock down a 12 footer. Despite this widely acknowledged flaw, he has never shot worse from <10 to 15 feet as Rondo is currently shooting in his 5th year in the league. Why isn’t Rondo’s lack of a jumper a bigger talking point?

Rondo’s lack of shooting ability means defenses can sag off of him. It means that he doesn’t get rushed with double teams to get the ball out of his hands. Even with this amount of space his usage is a low, 17.96, yet his turnover rate is a sky high 26.63 (Rose for comparison is at 31.75 and 13.3). Rondo has the 6th highest turnover rate in the league. He doesn’t face much defensive pressure, yet he still racks up 4 TO’s a game.

We haven’t even touched upon his free throw shooting yet. It’s kind of incredible; for as reluctant as he is to shoot, he is even more reluctant to step to the free throw line. His FTA per game have cratered 2.0 this season, and of those two, he usually splits the pair (55% from the line). He is in the bottom 20 (of players who get 15+ mpg) in terms of FT% behind such luminaries as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Point guards need to be able to draw fouls. They need to be able to draw big men over while driving in order to free up passing lanes. Rondo, as his game is constructed, is completely missing this facet to his game. I’ll compare him, yet again, to Rose. Derrick saw some heat in the press for avoiding contact and selling out for the layup rather than accepting contact. Seeing all the articles chiding him for this, one would think he struggled to get to the line as well, yet he averages 6.2 free throws a game. He isn’t quite Lebron James in that department, but his 6.2 a game is good for 15th in the league and 2nd overall at the point guard position (behind Deron Williams).

Please don’t read this and think that I don’t see any value in Rondo. I think Rajon Rondo is a very good player. I think he’s a very good point guard and a pretty damn good match for the Boston Celtics. I also just happen to think that he is rather overrated for the amount of production he brings to the table. I think the one facet of his offensive game that is elite is his assists totals, and even those are inflated. And, hell, just for the sake of comparison,

Rondo’s 3rd season: 8.2 assists per game.

Rose’s 3rd season (to date): 8.2 assists per game.

I realize some of you would still choose Rondo as the PG to start your team, but for me, give me a point guard that can shoot. Give me a point guard that shoots free throws, hell, until Chris Paul proves his knee his healthy, just give me Derrick Rose.

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One Comment to “Overrated: Rajon Rondo Claim to Best PG in the NBA”

  1. Yeah Rondo can’t shoot, and he’s sloppier with the ball than is generally perceived.. he just plays for a really awesome team, and is thus perceived to be awesome individually. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good, just not as good as people think. He can score inside though..

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