Why Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo Is the Most Uniquely Gifted Player in the NBA
Rajon Rondo has already distinguished himself among his generation's point guards, but he remains overlooked year after year on account of the fact that he's never been much of a lights-out scorer.
He averaged just under 12 points a game this season, giving fans with a short attention span yet another excuse to overlook the brilliance taking place in the Boston Celtics' backcourt. After three incredibly well-rounded games in Boston's first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, some of those fans may finally be taking notice.
Rondo is averaging 19 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and 3.7 steals in those three games, looking a bit like a 6'1" version of LeBron James.
As impressive as his all-around production may be, how he earns it is what distinguishes Rondo from so many other top-shelf point guards.
For a pass-first point, Rondo's as good as just about anyone at getting his own offense when he absolutely needs to. He's still not the purest of shooters, but at his best he's got a lethal mid-range game.
His ability to change speeds makes him a tough guard in half-court sets and uptempo paces alike. The 49 percent he's shooting against the Hawks says less about his jump shot and more about his ability to free himself up for open shots.
Of course, talent alone doesn't guarantee sound shot selection. It also requires a guy to make the right decisions, which is probably even harder for someone as skilled as Rondo.
In the mold of other great distributors like Steve Nash and Chris Paul, Rondo's first priority is putting his teammates in a position to succeed—a task easier said that done at the highest levels.
For Rondo, it means hitting Ray Allen at just the right time and in just the right place after he comes off a screen. It also means penetrating and finding Garnett in the high post, and keeping an eye out for Pierce's pull-up three on the fast break.
Yes, it helps that Rondo is surrounded by players who are exceptional in their own rights, but this symbiosis goes both ways. Boston's young floor general has extended the primes of Garnett and Allen by reducing the extent to which they must create their own shots.
Rondo further differentiates himself from his peers thanks to an aggressive presence on the glass and tenacious on-ball defense. Even on his best days, Nash didn't give you that.
While his perimeter game has shown flashes of improvement, it remains a weakness in an otherwise complete skill set. But similarly disposed guards like Jason Kidd improved their long-range games over time, and there's no reason Rondo can't do the same.
Even if he doesn't, he remains one of the game's most dynamic young stars and the primary catalyst for Boston's enduring success. There may be point guards that are as good as Rondo, but none that are just like him.
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