Which Boston Celtics Fit Best with Rajon Rondo Long-Term?
Relative to the other four positions on a team, building around a point guard shouldn't be very complicated. It's the one player specifically designed to make others better, therefore, gathering generic talent and throwing it on the floor should be enough.
Rajon Rondo is a little different. He isn't worse than your typical All-Star point guard, but Rondo needs certain skill sets around him in order to maximize his ability and give his team its best shot at winning.
The Boston Celtics are rebuilding, but a few players on today's roster may be able to thrive beside Rondo—and help push him along—in the year's ahead. Here they are, ranked by how well they fit.
5. Jerryd Bayless
The NBA is getting faster, mutating into a league where the more ball-handlers/decision-makers on the floor at the same time the better.
This makes Jerryd Bayless an intriguing partner for Rondo. Bayless is the team's backup point guard and a capable scorer (albeit an inefficient one) who creates his own shot and can manage a pick-and-roll.
Rondo is used to having the ball in his hands a ton, but in the future that may need to change as more and more defenses are loading up their strong side to halt penetration. For the sake of good offense, this means putting another perimeter threat like Bayless on the floor could do some good.
So far, these two have shared the floor in just 15 games, but when they do, Boston's defense spontaneously combusts, allowing 112.3 points per 100 possessions.
The good news, however, is that the Celtics offense goes from 98.7 points per 100 possessions to 102.5, a "substantial" leap from 29th to 20th (equaling the Indiana Pacers).
Bayless may not be efficient enough to stick around (he's shooting under 40 percent from the floor this season), but a player with his skill set is someone the Celtics should search for this summer.
4. Jeff Green
Rajon Rondo is a pass-first player. Jeff Green is a shoot-first player. The Celtics haven't had much success on either end when these two share the floor, but the potential is there.
Both players will be 28 years old next season, and both are in their physical prime. Common thought has always been that with an athletic marvel like Green running beside Rondo, the Celtics would be able to race up and down the floor and punish opposing teams in transition.
But as an alley-oop partner, Green only holds so much value. Where he can really help is in the half-court, working off the ball from a Rondo/big man pick-and-roll, or directly as the screener.
Green is fantastic in the post against smaller defenders; his right-handed jump hook is soft and dependable. Forcing opponents to switch on pick-and-rolls, Green could attack down low, but also create a situation where Rondo has a larger, slower man on him with a live dribble (especially if the Celtics go small with Green at power forward).
3. Chris Johnson
We know very little about Chris Johnson other than he can shoot. This reason alone is good enough to put him beside Rajon Rondo.
Johnson is shooting 40 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers this season, averaging a decent 2.9 attempts per game, per SportVU. Having someone so dangerous on the outside helps keep defenders at bay and allows Rondo to meander through wider driving lanes.
According to NBA.com/Stats (subscription required), Rondo's shooting 44.7 percent with Johnson on the floor and 36.4 percent when he's on the bench. More important, though, is what happens closer to the basket.
Rondo is making 58.6 percent of his attempts in the restricted area when Johnson spots up on the outside, and just 40 percent when he does not. Johnson's team-friendly contract is enough to keep him around a while, and if he continues to make life easier for Rondo, his minutes will surely go up.
2. Avery Bradley
There’s little reason to believe Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo shouldn’t be the starting backcourt in Boston for the next six years. Unfortunately, due to various injuries to both players over the past few seasons, the evidence to prove either side of the coin isn’t large enough.
Despite the noticeable improvement both players have made on their shot, the jury is still out on whether it'll be effective enough to command the respect of defenses. And Boston won't be too effective on offense if other teams continuously pack the paint and hope Rondo and Bradley fire away.
Both are still improving, though. And in the limited time they've shared the floor, Bradley has been fantastic as a baseline cutter off Rondo's penetration.
Defensively, somehow there's both potential for greatness and a worry that they'll be undersized every night. Both guards are fantastic defenders (Bradley being perhaps the best at his position), but what's stopping opposing teams from going large and bullying them in the post?
On paper this tandem makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how they complement each other as ball-handlers (Bradley is fine pulling up off the dribble, but can't get all the way to the rim and isn't a great playmaker), but more information is needed.
1. Kris Humphries
Kris Humphries and Rajon Rondo have worked magic in the pick-and-roll over Boston's last few games. The relationship should come as no surprise, as Humphries is one of the sturdiest screen-setters in basketball and has a mid-range jumper that benefits from the open looks Rondo provides.
The Celtics run a high screen-and-roll regularly with these two because there's a good chance it'll result in an open shot for somebody on the floor.
Humphries is shooting an incredible 46.7 percent on shots between 16-24 feet this year, and it's only a matter of time before defenses worry too much about leaving him open over putting two bodies in front of Rondo's penetration.
Having bigs who can shoot is still a rarity in the NBA, and even though Humphries is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Celtics would be wise to lock him up, for Rondo's sake.