Rajon Rondo drives past Andre Iguodala in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Even the most ardent Boston homer would have a tough time arguing that Rajon Rondo is a better basketball player than Chris Paul. Sure, Rondo may be the most adept passer since “Pistol” Pete Maravich, but Paul’s jump-shooting and finishing ability are enough to keep him on top.
Results from the 2012 playoffs (through Thursday afternoon) would suggest otherwise.
Through eight games apiece for the All-Star point guards, Paul has averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 boards and 7.5 assists. Compare that to Rondo’s 16 points, 6.6 rebounds and 12.9 assists and you can see why some are making the case that Boston’s floor general is the best point guard in the playoffs.
Dig a little deeper and the statistical evidence for Rondo’s preeminence just keeps piling up. Consider Paul’s excellent 22.2 player efficiency rating (PER) and .152 Win Shares per 48 minutes (league averages are 15 and .1, respectively).
Then compare those numbers to Rondo’s 24 PER and .195 Win Shares per 48 minutes. Add to that Rondo’s edge in total rebounding percentage (9.4 percent to Paul's 8.5 percent) and assist percentage (58.9 percent to Paul's 36.9 percent) and the verdict becomes even clearer.
You’d better believe that defensively minded Celtics skipper Doc Rivers is happy to give up one point of offense for eight points of defense.
Who has played more impressively in this year's playoffs?
In fact, Paul has edged Rondo in only one meaningful statistical category this postseason: true shooting percentage (53.8 percent to 48.6 percent). Given Paul’s background as a scorer, that disparity isn’t surprising.
Of course, as critics are quick to point out, Rondo has played on more talented teams than Paul throughout his career and has benefited from the services of three surefire future Hall of Famers.
Their career playoff numbers reflect that talent discrepancy, with Paul contributing more Win Shares per 48 by a hefty .06 margin. He also has Rondo trumped in assist percentage and PER.
Perhaps Paul’s statistical regression in this year’s postseason can be explained by the increase in talent that came with his move to Los Angeles. Having scoring specialists like Blake Griffin and Caron Butler on the floor means Paul can take a less central role in the offense, much like Rondo was asked to do when Boston’s Big Three were at the height of their power.
Another factor to consider is coaching. Vinny Del Negro has come under criticism this year for his inconsistent rotations, while Doc Rivers has the luxury of coaching a cohesive, well-oiled team with experience playing together.
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