Rondo started to show the look of an all-time great this past season.
Will Kevin Garnett retire? Will Ray Allen re-sign? Will Paul Pierce be traded?
One player who will almost certainly be in Boston next season and beyond is Rajon Rondo, who took his game to another level this year and looks to be at the center of any rebuilding project for the C's.
Despite showing a bit of a penchant for inconsistency, Rondo seemed to hone his already significant knowledge of how to control games this year. Whether it was through his scoring, his passing, his keen understanding of the C's offense and his teammates' tendencies or even his defense, Rondo took the next step in 2012.
If he continues to improve and perform at this level or higher, he could join his veteran teammates in the Hall of Fame some day. Here are a few reasons why.
Rondo sees things before they happen, making him a great passer.
Steve Nash is fearless. Chris Paul runs the pick-and-roll better than anyone and takes over games with his scoring. Deron Williams is capable of being a one man band.
But Rondo, right now, is the best passer of the bunch. He almost always puts the ball in the exact right spot, where only the designated recipient of the pass can reach it. He sees where his teammates are going before they get there. And his understanding of spacing and movement without the ball is unparalleled.
Sometimes Rondo gets a little bit cute with the ball, trying to put too much spin on his passes or squeeze the ball into a window in which it just can't fit. Even though he's a six-year veteran now, he is still just 26 and will learn to be more judicious with the basketball as he gets older and gains more maturity.
That will be scary. He's already the most exciting passer in the NBA.
Rondo can get to the basket whenever he wants.
This one isn't necessarily a factor folks would mention when considering Rondo's strengths.
But after his take over of Game 7 of the Eastern semis against the Sixers and his 44-point explosion against the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it's clear that this guy can absolutely fill it up when the situation warrants it.
Rondo averaged 12 points per game this past year and has averaged as many as 13.7 in his career. He connected on 44.8 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2012 and has a career high of 51 percent in that category.
But in the playoffs, he proved to be a difference maker in the scoring department. He averaged 17.3 points per game over 19 contests, a career-high, had the 44-point night (which was also a career-high) and shot a healthy 47 percent from the floor. He is a relentless driver who can get to the rim at will whenever he desires.
Depending on the look of the C's roster next season, Rondo may be asked to score more often. And Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said on multiple occasions that Rondo would rather run the team than look for his own offense.
Still, as his career goes on, he has shown that he can score and score a lot—something that could further separate him from the rest of the point guard pack.
Rondo rebounds as well as any guard in the league.
Generally, your point guard isn't asked or expected to rebound the ball. Any productivity you get from him in that regard has to be seen as a bonus.
That is another reason Rondo is so valuable and such a special player. His stat sheet looks rather modest in this regard. In his career, Rondo averages 4.4 boards per game and grabbed five per game this past season.
In the playoffs, he kicks it up a bit. He's snared six rebounds per game over his career in the postseason, 6.7 this year. And given his penchant for triple-doubles, he's shown the ability to get into double digits in that category at times as well.
The point is, Rondo is one of the best rebounding guards in the game. His long reach and ability to contort his body to fit into small spaces is a key aspect of this skill. There's no reason to assume he will get any less adept at that as his career continues.
Rondo is particularly adept at making the steal.
Rondo takes a lot of chances on the defensive end, sometimes preferring to gamble and go for the steal instead of staying in front of his man and guarding him on the ball.
Still, this is a player who has routinely swiped in the neighborhood of two steals per game and made two All-Defensive teams and two All-Defensive second teams in the past four seasons.
Again, his wildly long arms and extended reach allows him an advantage on defense, particularly when checking players bigger than him. He also has the quickness, both straight ahead and laterally, to stay with just about anyone.
This is about as much rest as Rondo gets on a given night.
Rondo has missed a handful of games in each of the past two seasons, but don't think that means he's injury prone or susceptible to bumps and bruises.
At 6'1", 186 lbs., Rondo is clearly not a big or stout fellow. And there is certainly a lot of finesse to his game. But when he goes to the basket, which he did far more frequently this past season, he gets crushed.
For the amount of times Rondo goes crashing to the deck at the end of a drive to the rim, it's fairly amazing that he's not hurt more often. Sure, there are plenty of times when he lies on the floor for an extra second or two, but he always seems to get up and make a highlight reel play moments later.
Rondo has been firmly entrenched in the 36-37 minute per game slot for the better part of the past three years. But like his stats, the number spikes come in the postseason. Rondo has topped the 41 minutes per game mark in each of the past four playoffs, with a career high 42.6 this season.
And don't forget the 53 minutes he played in Game 2 against Miami.
Assuming Rondo stays healthy and keeps up the pace he's set over the past five years, he'll be a no-doubter come Hall of Fame time.
There's a pretty good chance this play ended with a Rondo assist.
Some of the following was covered on the "Passing" page. But looking at the raw numbers, Rondo is on a Hall of Fame pace.
For three years running, Rondo has averaged 10 assists per game or more, starting with 10 in 2010 and ending with 11.7 this year, leading the league.
He kept that up in the playoffs, slightly upping the number to 11.9. He hit double digits in assists 16 times in 19 playoff games and of course, had that incredible streak during the regular season of 24 straight games with double digit assists which then carried on through the first four games of the playoffs.
Some of these numbers recall the glory years of Nash, Jason Kidd or even John Stockton. Both of those guys are Hall of Famers. If Rondo keeps up the pace, he should join them.
Rondo looks good to become the all time leader in playoff triple-doubles.
Rondo has become somewhat of a triple-double machine, racking up 13 in his regular season career and 10 more in his postseason career, including one in Game 7 against the Heat (22 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds).
It's unlikely that anyone, let alone Rondo, will ever match the heights reached by Oscar Robertson in 1962 when the Big O averaged a triple-double. And he has a long way to go to catch Kidd, the active leader in the category with 105 (the next closest active player behind Kidd is Grant Hill with 29).
But with the 10 in the playoffs, he's already third all time behind Magic Johnson (30) and Kidd (11).
It's not out of the question he could catch Magic's current mark. And that would be a Hall of Fame worthy feat.
Rondo is well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Has there ever been a player quite like Rajon Rondo? Players with unique abilities, skill sets, builds, what have you, come along every once in a while. But there hasn't really ever been anyone with that combination in his game other than Rondo.
His mix of ball handling skills, passing ability, court awareness, basketball IQ, energy and physical tools make him different than all other NBA players. And his style translates to all of those characteristics.
Now when you factor in how good and accomplished he is alongside everything else, you have the makings of a Hall of Famer. All Rondo needs to do to get there is keep up this standard he's set for himself.
He does that, he's in.