Rajon Rondo Shooting, Improving for the Boston Celtics
The 76ers were scraped off the floor Wednesday night by inexorable Celtics play. Play that was fueled in large part by Rajon Rondo (23 points, 14 assists, one turnover). He was scintillating from the outset, attacking from all angles, taking the layups he sometimes passes up. In totality it was a smothering offensive performance for the defensively stingy C's.
Even competent offense has not always been easy to come by for Boston. Since Rondo joined the team, they've only once finished top 10 in offensive efficiency, and this year they lagged at 24th in the league. With few players who can drive to force fouls, the Celtics have often had to rely on the whims of long, contested jump shots.
While the hyper-creative point guard creates many opportunities for teammates, his reluctance and occasional inability to shoot can be a drag on their attack. Teams don't have to switch on pick-and-rolls because they can just go under on screens where Rondo's the ball-handler.
Since they don't fear his shot, there is no need to chase him around a pick. If he's not looking to drive, there is every reason to devote full coverage to the pick-setter. Possessions can often dwindle with the shot clock beckoning after multiple Celtics pick-and-rolls.
But not Wednesday night, and as far as Rondo goes, not in these playoffs.
Doc Rivers has been encouraging his point guard to shoot more, and despite the occasional avoided layup, this "pass-first" creator has been slinging this postseason. As someone who has often carped about his reluctance to chuck, it's been a thrilling transformation.
Rondo is averaging 16.5 field-goal attempts in the playoffs, significantly above his regular season average of 10.8. Of course, he's been playing more minutes, but adjusting for that adds a little over one shot per game.
Boston's offense has been balky at times, but I put more of that on Paul Pierce's equally balky knee than on the Rondo field-goal explosion. For his part, Rajon's been killing it. Through eight games, he's posting career-high averages in PER, win shares and wins produced—aggregate advanced statistics that don't always agree on what's important.
Most promisingly—and there was another example in this game—Rondo is hitting .333 percent of his three-point attempts this postseason. It's a small sample size and a pedestrian mark, but it could presage a more complete game. Shooting is a skill that tends to improve as players age, as close followers of Jason Kidd's career may not be surprised to hear.
As it stands, Rondo runs a nice pick-and-roll with Kevin Garnett. If he develops an outside shot and continues to "be aggressive" (as every NBA player puts it)? His value could ascend past Jason Kidd in prime years.
When people talk about Rondo's game, they often refer to "the good Rondo" versus "the bad Rondo." It's often used to draw a dichotomy between the Rondo who controls the game like a puppeteer and the Rondo who fades out of the action. I think we'll see more of the former if Rondo keeps shooting.
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