Sure, the duo rarely saw the court together during the 2012-13 season. However, Rondo and Bradley have already proven that it’s a pairing that delivers results.
It’s also one that should only get better with time.
Over the first half of the season, the Celtics were largely criticized for being soft defensively. Opposing point guards seemed to have no trouble attacking the basket and putting up points in bunches.
Bradley missed the team’s first 30 games while recovering from offseason surgery.
During the second half of the year, Boston was blasted in the media for having no true ball-handler. The team often looked lost on the court while relying on the 35-year-old Paul Pierce to distribute the ball.
Rondo missed the Celtics’ final 44 games, including the playoffs, after tearing his ACL on Jan. 25.
Think it was a coincidence that the team was without either Rondo or Bradley during these two disappointing stretches? Absolutely not. In fact, over the next couple of seasons, Boston will only go as far as these two will take them.
They’re Two of the NBA's Best
Individually, both players can hold their own on the court.
Rondo has been a major player for the Celtics from his second year in the league. Back then he was the relatively unknown signal-caller who played in the shadows of the Big Three as they helped deliver the team its first title in 22 years. Since then, Rondo has been considered one of the NBA’s elite point guards, earning All-Star honors in four of five seasons.
The 2012-13 campaign was no different.
In 38 contests, the 27-year-old averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals over 37.4 minutes per game. He also shot 48.4 percent from the field.
Aside from receiving All-Star honors for the fourth straight season, Rondo also led the league in assists while leading all point guards in rebounds. Surprisingly, he also led the league in triple-doubles with five, finishing ahead of LeBron James (four) even though he played just half as many games as him.
With Bradley, the upside is easily his defense.
According to Synergy Sports data, the 22-year-old limited opponents to just 0.697 points per play. That’s good enough to rank as the lowest total in the league among players with at least 475 total defensive possessions played. Furthermore, opponents shot just 30.8 percent against him while scoring only 31.8 percent of the time—both also league-lows.
Bradley’s defensive efforts have influenced the rest of his teammates as well.
Prior to Bradley’s return, Boston ranked 14th in the league with a defensive rating of 102.1. By the end of the season, the team had jumped up to sixth in the category (100.4).
Offensively, he hit a rough patch this season.
While it may not have been Bradley’s best offensive showing—9.2 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting—he’s shown glimpses of hope in the past. In fact, during the 2011-12 season, Bradley averaged 12.3 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting in 28 appearances as a starter.
But then again, he was recovering from surgery to not one, but both shoulders.
It’s a Formula That Has Worked Before
Due to their lengthy stays on the disabled list, Rondo and Bradley only appeared in 11 games together this past season. The Celtics were 5-6 in those games.
However, the 2011-12 season provided a much better look at the pairing. Both Rondo and Bradley displayed improvements when the other was on the floor at the same time.
In Bradley’s case, with Rondo on the court, he averaged 14.5 points per 36 minutes while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor and 51.5 percent from three-point range. He also posted an offensive rating of 102.7 and a defensive rating of 88.
With Rondo on the bench, Bradley only averaged 11.9 points per 36 minutes while shooting just 46.5 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc. He also posted an offensive rating of 96.3 and a defensive rating of 95.4.
On the other hand, with Bradley on the court, Rondo averaged 8.9 points, 14.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor. He posted an offensive rating of 102.7 and a defensive rating of 88.
With Bradley on the bench, Rondo averaged 12.4 points, 10.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes while shooting 44.3 percent from the field. His offensive rating was 101.2 and his defensive rating was 99.
Needless to say, both players are at their peak when the other is on the court right alongside them.
That can only mean good things for Boston.
Summing It Up
With these two in the backcourt, the Celtics will be in the conversation for many years to come.
Bradley gives the team the best perimeter defender in the league. On the other hand, Rondo is arguably the most versatile point guard in the game. Not to mention both players are years away from turning 30. Throw in some of the other young talent on the roster, such as Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, and Boston has a strong nucleus to build around.
Who said anything about a rebuilding year?
Unless otherwise stated, all stats used in this article are courtesy of NBA.com’s Media Central (subscription required).