Rondo's greatness is obvious to all. But is he really the best like he claims?
That is, he turned the heads of those who haven’t followed the Celtics’ diminutive all-star all that closely since he was drafted out of Kentucky in 2006. Rondo is confident to the point of cockiness, so his declaration really isn’t all that surprising.
And his self-assuredness isn’t necessarily misplaced, either; he led the NBA by dishing out 11.7 assists per game this past season, outpacing second-place finisher Steve Nash by a full assist per game.
After a 28-game double-digit assist streak was finally broken in Game 6 of the playoffs, Rondo played a game that became legend even before the final buzzer sounded. In a loss to Miami, Rondo finished with 44 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals while shooting better than 66 percent from the floor, putting his team on his back, and the eventual champions on their heels.
Alas, as good as he is, even the brash young point guard knows his game is not perfect and he happens to be playing during what appears to be the golden age of point guards.
No fewer than five point guards in the NBA have legitimate claims to the throne Rondo believes to be his own, and several more could make the case that they’re just as, if not more, valuable to their teams than Rondo is to the Celtics.
Most experts around the league think that CP3 is the best in the business.
The gold standard at point guard, according to most experts, fans and players not named Rondo.
Paul is a classic throwback; not flashy, not an uber-athlete, just a no-mistakes player who does just about everything well.
Shooting? His step-back three in the Olympic gold-medal game demoralized Spain at a time when it looked like the Spaniards had a chance.
Can he pass? Of course. What about basketball IQ? Off the charts. He’s no slouch on the defensive side of the ball, either.
But the best proof of Paul’s supremacy over Rondo? Celtics' President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge desperately tried to trade Rondo, draft picks and various spare parts, for CP3 last year.
If not even the man who drafted and signed Rondo to a multi-million dollar contract believes he’s the best, why should we?
Besides his various skills, Deron is a dead-eye shooter.
One of Deron’s greatest strengths is Rondo’s greatest weakness: shooting. During the Olympics, USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski frequently used a lineup with Paul at the point and Williams at shooting guard.
Can you imagine a scenario where Rondo would be substituted for Williams? No way.
Rondo’s shooting has come a long way. That Game 2 in Miami in which he went 16-24 from the field serves as a shining example of where his game could go if he ever developed a consistent jumper, but he’s not in Williams’ league in that area.
Although Williams’ shooting percentage has dipped since he arrived in New Jersey where he was one of the lone stars and the focal point of the offense, teams leave him open at their own peril.
Not so with Rondo, who is often left unguarded on the perimeter so his defender can double his more heralded teammates.
Considering that Deron is an excellent passer and defender and is just frightening off the dribble, most general managers would opt for the Brooklyn floor general over Rondo.
If not for his injury in his only playoff game this season, the Bulls' season would likely have ended very differently.
Some people might put an asterisk on this one as Rose is out with a torn ACL and won’t be back for some time. When he does return, it’s unlikely that he’ll be the same dominant player until at least the 2013-14 season, if ever.
However, when healthy, D-Rose is exactly that: dominant. There’s a reason he was the MVP two seasons ago. He was easily the best player on the best regular season team in the league.
Without teammates like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, who have played with Rondo all but one season of his career, and Paul Pierce, who’s been around for them all, Rose has almost single-handedly turned the Bulls into perennial championship contenders.
During his MVP campaign, Rose’s supporting cast was highlighted by the inconsistent, oft-injured and overpaid Carlos Boozer, as well as Luol Deng, a valuable player but not someone who has once created his own shot during his eight-year career. Yet Rose averaged 25 points and dished out 7.7 dimes a game.
The Bulls were ultimately eliminated that season when Miami put all its efforts into stopping Rose and neglecting everyone else. And without him for all but one playoff game this past spring, the eighth-seeded Sixers upset Chicago in six games.
Not many players can get to the hoop like the 11-year vet.
A couple of seasons ago gold-medal sprinter Usain Bolt visited the Celtics locker room after a game, prompting Rondo to boast that he could beat the Olympian in a race. Speed is a point of pride for him, but there’s at least one other NBA floor general who can challenge Rondo for the fastest man in the league, and that’s Parker.
The former Mr. Eva Longoria has grown into an explosive and efficient scorer over the course of his 11 seasons in the NBA (hard to believe Parker, who slid to 28 in the draft, has been around for so long).
He owns career averages of 16.8 points per game, peaking at 22 ppg in 2008-09, and a remarkable 49.2 shooting percentage, which somehow got up to 54.8 percent for 2005-06.
Parker has always been able to slice through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter and he has an equally deadly mid-range shot.
Over the last few seasons the Spurs have shifted from a Tim Duncan operation to one run by Parker, and during that time the Frenchman has improved his court vision, previously a weakness in his game. Somehow he managed to transform the club from a three-man team into an ensemble that’s always at or near the top of the league standings.
Not many holes to be found in Westbrook's game.
The starting point guard for the defending Western Conference champions is right up there in the discussion with Paul, Williams, Rose, Parker and Rondo of the best point guards in the NBA.
Westbrook has a complete game. He’s an elite scorer—his 23.6 points per game this season ranked fifth in the league—and though he only averaged 5.5 assists per game, the previous two seasons he averaged 8.1.
With a 4.7 boards-per-game career average, he’s even ahead of Rondo, who is considered the top rebounding point guard in the league.
Westbrook is a tenacious defender, too. There really are few holes in his game and the only negatives associated with him have to do with his playmaking and his attitude about being second-banana to Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, something he seemed to get a handle on during this season’s run to the finals.
Lastly, you can count on him: Westbrook hasn’t missed a game in his four seasons and when the Thunder beat the Celtics in February, he exploded for 31 points. Rondo didn’t play.
He's not there yet, but the rookie of the year has the chance to be as good as it gets in the NBA.
The reigning Rookie of the Year has easily surpassed Rondo’s meager scoring ability with an 18.5 per game average.
That he did it on one of the league’s ugly-stepchild teams with no other dangerous scorers (put your hand down, Jamison!) and yet still shot almost 47 percent, demonstrates the promise of Irving’s career.
Rondo’s strength has always been his playmaking ability, but Irving was a better distributor in his first year than Rondo was in his first two.
Rondo was once the young, up-and-coming point guard on the block, but now he’s entering his seventh season and his outside shot is still suspect. Irving, on the other hand, is already one of the top scorers in the NBA.
Is he there yet? No. Today, Rondo is better. But in terms of upside? Irving’s got him beat.
Though not the player Rondo is, Lin brings a team earning potential that the Celtics' point guard could only dream about.
Wait! Stay on this page! Just give me a minute to explain myself.
Rajon Rondo is and, barring an injury or a miracle, will always be a better player than Lin.
But it’s hard to discount what Lin did after coming out of nowhere in February: He averaged better than 22 points and nine assists in 13 games and made believers out of the cynical fans in New York, followed by the rest of the country and then the world, who were shocked that the Harvard grad had been living in obscurity prior to his explosion on the hardwood.
Lin’s talent and his ability to enthrall fans across the globe was enough to entice Houston to sign him away from the Knicks with a three year, $25 million contract. The Rockets were willing to make this investment in a player with just a two-month track record because it believed that, even if he turns out to be a flash in the pan, the team will make it up with the attention Lin will get from the Asian community in the U.S. and abroad.
Rondo’s a unique player and a ton of fun to watch, but he’ll never approach Lin’s transcontinental earnings potential.
With Terry's deft outside touch, he could displace Rondo in crunch time.
Again, calm down everyone, I can explain.
Like Lin, Terry is not better than Rondo, either. But the former Sixth Man of the Year has a chance to help his new team, the Celtics, in an area that Rondo has never been particularly effective: closing.
As we mentioned earlier, Rondo’s wayward jumper can be a liability at the end of games when defenses will double-down on other players and dare the point guard to shoot. This was best evidenced during the 2010 finals against the Lakers when Kobe Bryant played well off Rondo in the half court and freelanced on Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
With Terry coming off the bench for the Celtics, Coach Doc Rivers will suddenly be able to stack the court with shooters during crunch time when the game slows down, and use Terry and Courtney Lee at the guard spots with Pierce, Garnett and Bass filling out the front court.
If it happens that Terry is the guy playing the most meaningful minutes of the game, you could make the argument that Rondo isn’t even the most valuable point guard on his own team, much less in the entire league.