The Celtics' signal-caller is not yet ready to be alone in the spotlight
The NBA has become a superstar league. In fact, it has become a superstars league. What that means is that if the Boston Celtics are going to win an NBA title with Rajon Rondo, he is going to need help from a highly talented friend—or even two.
The facts are the facts. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, despite being consummate professionals and consistent leaders, are no longer at the level of play necessary to compete with other superstars in the league. Saying so isn't a knock against the great careers each of them has had, it's just that they do not stack up against the LeBron Jameses and the Kevin Durants who compete for championships.
So that leaves a blossoming talent in Rajon Rondo left to stand alone as the star of the team. Don't get me wrong: Many teams around the NBA would love to have Rajon as their starting point guard. And he will be an instrumental feature of the Celtics team this year and for however long he stays.
However, he alone cannot carry a team to a championship.
When you first think of Rondo and of comparing him to others at his position, two things immediately spring to mind.
First, he is the best pure passer in the NBA. Need proof? Check out B/R's own Michael Pina's very cool passing breakdown if you haven't already.
Rondo controls the pace of the game, has excellent court vision and can contribute in all facets, including rebounding. But those transition looks he creates for his teammates really separate Rondo in skill from the rest of the NBA's point guard talent.
But Rajon has a notoriously average jumper. His lack of consistent shooting skills, when paired with a poor free-throw percentage, hamper Rondo's ability to climb to the top of point guard power rankings.
To win a championship, the star has to be able to be a hero when the team is crushed for air. Consider LBJ's heart-stopping Game 6 performance against Boston in the Conference Finals in 2012 as proof. Or Dirk Nowitzki's entire 2011 playoff run.
When teammates see the ball going in the bucket time and time again, they gain confidence in themselves and elevate to that level. On the other hand, Rondo's skill set makes the other Celtics more dependent on themselves to find their own rhythms. That's not enough from a team's star.
Adding a pure scoring threat (OJ Mayo would have been a good choice) who could create on his own would alleviate some of Rondo's responsibilities as the sole engine and confidence provider for the Celtics offense.
More than another scoring threat, the Celtics need another top-tier perimeter defender to pair with Avery Bradley once he returns. Even a solid sixth man coming off the bench to be an agitator would suffice.
But if Boston really wants to win a title with Rajon Rondo, it needs to add a stud center. Rondo has never had a legitimate offensive weapon in a big man other than KG. Kendrick Perkins was the antithesis of an offensive threat, but at least was a gutsy defender.
Think about what Rondo's game would look like if he was lobbing it up to Dwight Howard instead of Chris Wilcox. Heck, I'm sure his play would improve dramatically if the Celtics added a guy like Marcin Gortat.
Today's NBA features superhero athletes rising to the top. Rondo is nearly at the top of NBA talent but cannot carry the playing or leadership roles on his own. In order for the Celtics to achieve their main goal, they need a fresh young star to complement their franchise-defining guard.
Until then, they'll continue to be set back by teams that feature superstar duos like Oklahoma City's Durant and Russell Westbrook, trios like James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh or whatever term you'd like to use to describe the Lakers' starting lineup.