Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
The Boston Celtics might be the only team in the NBA right now that can pull a Detroit Pistons and win a title without a true franchise player.
They can do this because they have a couple of players in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who once were sufficient enough to carry a franchise. They also have a player in Rajon Rondo who is not a franchise player but has a tremendous ability to generate shots for his teammates.
Rondo also has a kind of Chauncey Billups-type flair to him, where he can turn things up another notch and play at a franchise level when he needs to.
Rondo, however, is not a franchise player—he is simply not a good enough scorer. He's close, but not close enough.
Many people have been pushing this notion that somehow "scoring point guards" are bad, arguing that you can't win a title with a "shoot-first point guard" and that a "score-first point guard" hasn't won since Isiah Thomas' Pistons.
Here's the problem with that argument: "Pass-first" point guards fare even worse. Steve Nash never won a title. Jason Kidd finally won one, but only as a somewhat peripheral player on the team. At the time he won, he had a career low in both points and assists.
John Stockton never won a title. Kevin Johnson never won a title. Mark Jackson, Andre Miller and Rod Strickland combine for a grand total of zero titles.
When you look at the career leaders in assists, only those who are also great scorers, such as Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, led their teams to titles.
Of course, every team that wins a title has a point guard, and the '08 Celtics had one. So did the '09 Lakers with Derek Fisher. That doesn't mean that Fisher "won" a ring in the colloquial sense of having led his team to that win.
Rondo really can't shoot. Hoopdata breaks down the court into five ranges: at the rim (which is less than three feet), three to nine feet, 10 to 15 feet, 16 to 22 feet and over 23 feet (three-point range). Rondo is about 10 points shy of the league average in all areas except the 16-to-22-foot range, where he is 0.8 percent over the league average.
In other words, he's a really, really bad shooter.
Not only that, but his overall field-goal percentage has gone down sharply over the last two seasons, from .508 in 2010 to .475 in 2011 to .448 in 2012. This is in spite of maintaining roughly the same usage percentage. This suggests that as he has taken on more of an offensive role, he has drawn more defensive attention.
He gets streaky, and everyone praises him as a triple-double machine. Rondo only broke 10 points in scoring 29 times in 53 tries this year. That's 10 times fewer than he broke double figures in assists.
Because of that, it's very hard to see him being the catalyst of an offense that doesn't have "sidekicks" like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (who are not getting any younger).
Rondo is an elite passer, but elite passers who don't score don't win titles unless they have someone to pass to. Rondo is the perfect point guard for the Celtics right now, but he's not a franchise player, and the Celtics will struggle when they lean on Rondo to create more offense.
The Celtics had three franchise players five years ago. Now they're down to none.
Trade Chips: Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo