Rajon Rondo had a long journey before becoming the most dangerous point guard in this year's NBA Playoffs.
He was drafted 21st overall by the Phoenix Suns in 2006 before being traded on draft night to the Boston Celtics. Rondo wasn't expected to be the savior of a struggling Celtics team, and in his rookie season he wasn't able to help, as he was forced to split time with Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West.
The Celtics struggled and limped to a dismal 24-58 record, last in the Eastern Conference. But in the small frame of 25 games started Rondo showed flashes of brilliance.
The next year Telfair and West were both traded, and stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought on the team. Suddenly the Celtics were championship contenders. Rondo came into his own that year, starting 77 games and averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 assists a game while also finishing in the top five in the Most Improved Player of the Year voting.
In the postseason, the Celtics beat the Hawks in seven games, which was followed by dropping the Cavaliers in seven. Boston made it to the NBA Finals by beating the Pistons in six games, and in the finals, Rondo had his best series with 16 assists in Game 2.
In the series winning Game 6, he was the star scoring 21 points, dishing eight assists, grabbing seven rebounds, and grabbing more steals than the entire Lakers team with six.
Since 2008, the Celtics have made it to the postseason every year, but have not been able to reclaim an elusive 18th title. Rondo has evolved into one of the best point guards in the league and has cemented his status as a big game player with postseasons like 2010. And his stats like his nine postseason triple-doubles, the fourth-most in history, only back up his legacy.
He is also one of the few young young players on a mostly veteran Celtics team and expected to play a lot of minutes.
This year was a tough year for the Celtics as they had to scrap to win their division title in a surprisingly strong Atlantic Division. With Allen having a bad start in the postseason and both the aging Garnett and Paul Pierce having to both reduce their minutes, someone had to step up.
That someone was Rondo, as he stepped up and filled the role of a star player. In the first round against the Hawks, Rondo played more than 35 minutes in the games he played in (he was suspended in Game 2). And in every game but Game 6, he got a double-double in points and assists. Game 3 was his best game of the series as he got a triple-double with 14 rebounds, 12 assists and 17 points.
Who's the best postseason player still playing in the postseason?
In the following series against the 76ers Rondo stepped it up a notch as he recorded two triple-doubles in Games 1 and 7. Game 7 was his best performance of the postseason up to that point as he hit clutch threes and powered the Celtics to an improbable Eastern Conference finals match-up against the Heat.
Last Wednesday, Rondo had one of the greatest single-game postseason performances in history as he became the first person to score 44 points, have 10 assists and grab eight rebounds in one postseason game.
Without Rondo, the Celtics don't make it to the Eastern Conference finals, maybe they don't even make it past the first round. In the second round, the young 76ers took the Celtics to the brink and Rondo was the obvious x-factor, as he hit clutch shots and dished assists when needed.
Can the Celtics make it past the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals? Rondo had one of the greatest performances in Game 2 and the Heat still prevailed in overtime. Rondo can't get much better than Game 2, the only way the Celtics can upset the Heat is if Allen shakes off his shooting woes and becomes the Allen from the 2010 postseason.
To conclude, Rondo has become the hero of this team as he is a consistent play maker who can also score. Unfortunately, the chances of the Celtics making past the Heat down 2-0 are slim. However, if they make it to the finals to play the Spurs or the Thunder, and do pull off the upset to grab the improbable 18th championship, it will be all because of Rondo.