The debate over who the best point guard in the NBA is has been a question normally answered by saying Chris Paul. Lately there has been some debate after Rajon Rondo led the league in assists last season. While Rajon Rondo's shot has been improving and he has taken over the reins in Boston, Chris Paul jump-started Lob City, led them to the second round of the playoffs and was named First Team All-NBA.
Make no mistake, Rondo’s play has been quite spectacular the past few seasons. His assist rate, shooting percentages and PER have consistently improved. Rondo also had the second-longest double-digit assist streak snapped at 37 games, leaving him tied with John Stockton and behind Magic Johnson.
However, Rondo’s career statistics fail to reach Chris Paul’s. Take a look at the graphic above. Paul’s career averages are all better outside of field goal percentage and offensive rebounds. When comparing the two stellar point guards, one has to remember that Paul’s career is on pace to make him one of the best point guards in league history.
Rondo’s numbers are quite impressive, especially when you extrapolate his numbers out per 40 minutes. There are not many players who can boast 12 points, 12 assists and five rebounds per 40 for their career.
Yet they still do not compare to Paul’s.
Furthermore, check out both players’ shooting statistics. Rondo is typically praised for his great shooting percentages around the rim, as he holds a 60.9 percent career average. Paul takes less shots in the paint and has only shot below 60 percent once in his career.
As each player’s shooting moves further out on the floor, the better Paul’s averages look. Paul has consistently shot in the mid-40s from mid-range, while Rondo struggles to reach 40 percent. Rondo also does not take many threes and is a career 24 percent shooter on only 0.6 attempts each game. Paul, on the other hand, shoots 36 percent from downtown on 2.6 attempts.
While Rondo’s shot is certainly improving, especially from mid-range, Paul dominates shooting in all areas, including the free-throw line. Rondo’s career true-shooting percentage is a miserable 51.5 percent, while Paul’s is 57.3 percent. This is why Rajon Rondo’s PER has struggled to reach the 20-point mark.
PER is not the gold standard of statistical analysis in basketball, but it clearly defines a player’s offensive impact. Rondo is a great floor general, but his lack of shooting certainly diminishes his overall impact on offense.
The defensive side of the ball is where things become interesting. According to Basketball-Reference, Rondo’s career defensive rating is 101. Considering how well the Celtics have defended since drafting Rondo, one would expect Rajon to dominate this category. That is not the case.
CP3’s career defensive rating is 104. While Rondo is typically considered one of the best defenders in the league, Paul is statistically neck and neck with him. Paul even has a better steal percentage than Rondo—3.5 to 3.1.
Also Paul and Rondo have made All-Defensive first team and second team twice. Needless to say, on the defensive side of the ball, both players are near equals, despite completely different body types.
However, one concerning area comes in the injury department.
Chris Paul injured his right knee in 2010, and Dr. James Andrews performed surgery on it just before the All-Star break. Andrews attempted to repair the torn lateral meniscus but was unable to and had to remove the cartilage in Paul’s knee. Each knee has two menisci, and Paul currently has only one remaining on the right side. This could become a problem down the line as the knee and menisci deteriorate.
Paul’s injury is not the same as Brandon Roy’s, who had six surgeries on one knee and lost both menisci, but the concern is still there. If Paul’s knee deteriorates, will he have to have microfracture surgery? How will his game change, if at all?
Rondo has had a few nasty injuries but nothing like Paul’s. While Paul’s skills and abilities remain more polished and mostly better than Rondo’s, will he be able to play as long as Rondo? Will Rondo’s shot continue to improve?
Both players have legitimate questions about the future of their skills and bodies, but the fact still remains that Paul looks and performs like the league’s best point guard. Rondo continues to improve each season, but he has not been able to outperform Paul yet and likely will not top him, barring an injury, anytime soon.