Playing during an era of undeniable decision-making brilliance, where more than a few of his positional colleagues appear headed for eventual inclusion in the Basketball Hall of Fame, Rajon Rondo has officially separated himself from the herd as the best passer in the world.
Coming off his first season of leading the league in assists per game, Rondo not only picked up where he left off—his 12.9 assists per game stands alone as the only double-digit tally this season—but he's become even more efficient.
According to Hoopdata.com, Rondo averaging one more assist per game that leads to a basket at the rim this year compared to last year (his 5.1 per game currently leads the league). Despite missing two games due to a suspension, as of December 4 Rondo still held 23 more assists than the second-highest player.
Here's a video breakdown showing how the Boston Celtics point guard is such a wizard with the ball, and why moving forward we can expect to see even more team-wide success as a direct result of his passing.
The One-Handed Whip Bounce Pass
We'll start with a pass very few human beings can dream about pulling off, the one-handed snap rope bounce pass that's timed perfectly with a moving target. The play looks simple when you watch it live, but take a look at this screen shot.
After doing what everyone does in this situation and going below the screen, Evan Turner races toward Boston's point guard in an attempt to cut off his driving lane. Rondo recognizes this and splits the defense with a blistering bounce pass. Chris Wilcox is wide open, but because of Turner's incoming pressure there's only one way the ball could get there.
Rondo made this incredibly difficult pass look mundane.
The Two-Handed Overhead Bounce Pass
Similar to the previous example, this pass is difficult, but Rondo makes it look easy.
Jason Terry does a great job of slithering behind Philadelphia's transition defense without being detected, and Rondo rewards him by delivering the ball through a tight space as quickly as possible. He identifies the miscommunication and cashes in before the defense knows what happened.
No single player, let alone three or four, could react and rotate in the face of a pass this fast. It's beautiful, unorthodox and effective.
The Dump Off
What separates Rondo from everybody else are passes like this one: correct and effective, yet unselfish and difficult. After slicing up Washington's defense and penetrating by his man all the way down to the right block, an easier play might be to loft a floater off the glass. In the oft chance it misses, Jared Sullinger would be in perfect position to either corral it or tip it in.
Instead, Rondo drops off a beautiful pass to a player who isn't quite athletic enough to go up there and convert an alley-oop. He knows Emeka Okafor will rotate over, and the moment a step is made toward him, the ball quickly goes to Sullinger for an uncontested layup.
The Underhanded Toss
Why, every so often, does Rajon Rondo throw passes that look like this? It appears careless, right? Has anyone in NBA history consistently done something so physically strange and unnecessary? Well, when the results are what they are, who's to question it?
In this particular sequence Rondo takes a step back and calls a play for Jason Terry to run through two screens along the baseline, curl to the three-point line, and launch an open shot. The pass will make a high school coach hyperventilate, but it still ends up where it's supposed to be.
If you want to be an elite perimeter player in the NBA, driving into the paint, drawing a defense and then kicking the ball out to a wide open teammate behind the three-point line is a skill you must have. Needless to say, Rondo has mastered it.
By the time he lets go of the ball, there are three wide open Celtics on the perimeter. Rondo weighs the options in his head (a Kevin Garnett 15-footer, an above-the-break three-pointer for Jeff Green or Courtney Lee in the corner) and selects the best one, executing it to perfection.
Look for more of these throughout the season as the Celtics look to get Lee as many shots from the corner as they possibly can.
The Behind-The-Back Pick-And-Pop
This is the bread-and-butter play Boston goes to whenever they need an open look at the basket. After Brandon Bass doesn't set a hard screen on Nate Robinson, but he touches him just enough to give Rondo a step, forcing Joakim Noah to stay back and protect the paint.
In one smooth motion, Rondo drops a bounce pass behind his back that lands perfectly in Bass' hands. There's nothing better than combining flash with value, and this pass is a great example.
The "Disregard An Open Layup Because Three Points Are Better Than Two" Kick Out
This play basically sums up Rondo in a nutshell. It's exhilarating, unexpected and controversial all at the same time. Today we look at NBA basketball as one long efficiency battle; wasted possessions are the devil, and grabbing as many points as you can each and every time up the court is a necessity.
Instead of finishing what would be an uncontested layup/dunk at the rim, Rondo whips a pass back to Paul Pierce for three. Pierce is one of the best spot up three-point shooters in the world (he's at 40 percent this season), so setting him up for a wide open look isn't a bad decision, but the basic idea of avoiding an automatic two for the chance at three is a gamble too harsh for most viewers to swallow.