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Rajon Rondo's Improved Foul Shot Will Boost MVP Candidacy in 2012-13

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 16:  Rajon Rondo #9  of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against the Brookyln Nets during the preseason game on October 16, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2012

Rajon Rondo believes he is the NBA's best point guard, but that doesn't automatically translate into MVP candidacy.

With an improved foul shot, though, it might.

For everything Rondo does right, there are some things he does wrong—his jump-shot mechanics, for instance.

Most of his shortcomings go overlooked, though, even his underwhelming field-goal percentage.

But his inefficiency from the charity stripe? Not so much.

And yet, as troubling as his struggles from the line are, it's even more disconcerting, borderline tormenting, to consider how much more viable an MVP candidate Rondo would be if he exuded any sort of competency as a free-throw shooter.

Which is why his preseason foul-shooting display is so notable, so important to both his and the Boston Celtics' cause.

In eight preseason contests, Rondo converted on 77.3 percent (17-of-22) of his free-throw attempts. Such a mark is nearly 16 percentage points better than his career average and more than 12 percentage points higher than his career best.

Which is why he needs to keep working on his accuracy from the line. Or, according to Rondo himself (via Mark Murphy of BostonHerald.com), why he needs to continue neglecting it:

“It’s very important, but it’s up to those guys in stripes too,” he said. “I attack the rim, but those guys have a lot of control of the game these days. Just keep attacking.

“It’s only (eight) games,” he said. “I didn’t work on it at all. God just let me make a couple more this year.” . . .

Is Rondo's method, or lack thereof, questionable?

Perhaps, but at this point, after he shot a paltry 59.7 percent from the line last year, the star point guard shouldn't stray away from what is apparently working.

The importance of foul shooting is rarely stressed, but for Rondo it must be. Because for him, it means everything.

Possessing a free-throw shooting conscience further completes his game, renders him a more well-rounded player.

Most importantly, though, it increases his value, increases his importance to the Celtics—in more ways than one.

Yes, a higher conversion rate ensures he'll put more points on the board. He attacks the rim with such frequency that he is bound to get hacked on more than one occasion.

But it goes beyond that. Well beyond it, in fact.

As Boston's point guard, Rondo is obviously the primary ball-handler. Down the stretch, with the game on the line, however, is another story.

If the Celtics need to sink free throws to clinch a victory, Rondo isn't the one they turn to. Because with the exception of Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Hollins—who both averaged less than half a free-throw attempt per game—Rondo was the team's worst foul shooter last season.

How is he supposed to win an MVP award when his team needs to actively keep the ball out of his hands in certain situations?

He can't.

You can't become a league MVP when your of little value, let alone a hindrance, to your team under any circumstance where the game is on the line.

And while Rondo has proved he can hit the wide-open jumper when it matters most, he has yet to render his foul shooting better than uncertain.

So yeah, his improvement from the charity stripe means everything.

It's the difference between him making a limited impact and one that knows no bounds.

It's the difference between him being a multifaceted closer and a potential crunch-time hindrance.

It's the difference between him deeming himself the Association's best point guard and such a proclamation becoming a reality.

And it's the difference between him being considered an indispensable facade and a legitimate MVP candidate.

 

 

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