Why Kevin Love Is the Perfect Partner for Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo

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Why Kevin Love Is the Perfect Partner for Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics have a long-standing crush on Kevin Love. They’ve likely had their eye on him the moment they shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett off to Brooklyn for a significant haul of draft picks.

That deal’s entire motivation was to eventually exchange all or most of those future assets for immediate star-caliber production. Love is 25-year-old star-caliber production, and he’s available.

Beyond that, if the Celtics acquire Love, the three-time All-Star’s single greatest motivation for staying in green would be the opportunity to spend his prime beside Rajon Rondo, one of the cleverest point guards in NBA history.

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Here’s CelticsBlog’s Jeff Clark on why Boston’s franchise point guard could impact Love’s decision to stay as long as possible (after the Celtics hypothetically strike a deal for him, of course):

Again, you need stars. I'd even argue that at this point in the league you almost need a star to get more stars. Say we trade Rondo and then immediately trade for Kevin Love. Do you think Love is going to sign an extension or give any kind of assurances of re-upping his deal after the year is up? Do you think he's excited about being the best player on a lottery team again? Right now Rajon Rondo is a draw for someone like Love (or Melo or pick your star of choice). Take that away and you are back to square one again, looking for that first star player.

Declaring that Love and Rondo would make a productive duo is a lot like loudly announcing to no one in particular that french fries go great with a cheeseburger. Of course they do because both these items go perfectly with just about everything.

The same logic can be applied to Rondo and Love, two great players with respective skill sets that make their teammates better. Either one would be desired on just about any team in the league.

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Let’s first look at Rondo: He’s the third-best pass-first player in the entire league, behind LeBron James and Chris Paul. He reads the defense like a book of children’s poetry, and almost always makes—what he believes to be—the quickest pass that will lead to an open basket.  

Rondo has all the means to break a defense down by himself. He’s insanely fast and shifty, with double-knotted handle and masterful understanding of when it’s right to take what the defense gives, and when he should get greedy and steal something the defense doesn’t want to relinquish.

These are absolutely perfect skills that would help make Love an ever better scorer than he already is. Minnesota's power forward already has experience beside a pass-first point guard (Ricky Rubio), but Rondo is on a completely different level.

At his very best, Rondo transforms himself into a singular problem for the other team’s head coach. Schemes are altered with the sole purpose of laying speed bumps in his path. Obviously, this is distracting. It also allows Rondo’s ignored teammates opportunities they normally wouldn’t have.

Rondo will have you believe he’s playing an elaborate game of chess, just moments before smashing a sledgehammer through the table. He can turn just about any offensive system into an unsolvable riddle only his teammates know the answer to.

This of course can’t be proven, but swap Rondo with any starting point guard in the league and that team will either hum like nothing's changed or see a dramatic bump in production. Some personnel are more helpful than others (along with most point guards, he’s most useful surrounded by shooters), but overall, Rondo can fit in anywhere.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Then we have Love, a top-10 player who rebounds, shoots threes, creates his own shot and throws the most joyously re-windable passes in the league. He finished the 2013-14 regular season fourth in scoring average (26.1), third in PER (26.9), third in win shares (14.3) and eighth in usage percentage (28.8).

He did all this playing beside Rubio, one of the worst shooting point guards in NBA history, with very little offensive help elsewhere; defenses zeroed in to stop him every single night.

Love is an extremely powerful force, comfortable thriving in just about any environment the NBA brings. He’s also unique: No player in the league comes close to his collection of offensive strengths. It’s taken a historically competitive Western Conference, a few unfortunate injures and an all-time incompetent front office to keep Love out of the playoffs.

Together, Rondo and Love can make just about any defense sweat by merely showing up, but the No. 1 area where these two would directly work together is the pick-and-roll. Love finished the year as the league’s 30th most efficient roll man, per Synergy Sports. He has fantastic hands and Bounty-soft touch from just about anywhere on the court.

The following play is one Rondo and Love could run over and over again with little limitation.

As Love approaches to set a screen, Rubio drives away from it towards the baseline, forcing the two defenders to stop his penetration. This leaves Love wide open for three, so Rubio beautifully flips the ball back, and Love nails the shot. This sequence is perfect for Rondo, a knife that only gets sharper driving towards the basket.

One of his greatest strengths is the ability to force defenses to collapse, then find open shooters on the perimeter. His passes are impeccably timed and accurate.

Along with the pick-and-roll, these two would own transition. Love’s standing as the most complete defensive rebounder of his generation is where it all begins, fighting for position, grabbing loose balls and flicking them upstream to a streaking Rondo.

Love’s never played with someone like Rondo, a player with total control over the chaos basketball brings in the open court. All those gorgeous outlet passes would basically never go to waste. As a scorer, Love made nearly half of his 61 attempted threes in transition this year. Even if the accuracy numbers dip down a bit, playing beside Rondo will bump up the total attempts by a wide margin.

There should be no doubt that these two perennial All-Stars can succeed beside one another. One is a pass-first point guard, and the other is a top-four or -five offensive player. Their skills naturally complement each other in an obvious way without any overlap.

The real question comes after Love is on board, and it’s directed towards Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office: Will there be enough resources (and luck) to make this duo the foundation of a legitimate championship contender?

In order to get there, Boston needs to add a rim-protecting center (a vital ingredient anyway, but especially next to the defensively worrisome Love), another play-making ball-handler and serious three-point shooting to help further space the floor for Rondo and prevent defenses from overloading the strong side whenever Love holds the ball.

So much needs to happen before any answers can even be imagined, but in the meantime, pondering a Rondo-Love partnership should be every Celtics fan's dream.

 

All statistics in this article are from Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com/Stats, unless otherwise noted. 

Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, FOX Sports, ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, Grantland and The Classical. His writing can be found here. Follow him @MichaelVPina. 

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