One player sets the tempo on offense and frequently has the ball in his hands calling out the sets. The other player controls the defensive end of the floor and usually makes big plays.
When the Boston Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett to form the Big Three with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the one question was how would a young point guard like Rajon Rondo be able to distribute the ball to these superstars?
In their fourth year together, everyone has found a niche and Rondo has improved to become one of the best point guards in the NBA. Since both Rondo and Garnett have been injured, it is interesting to ask who is more valuable to the Celtics?
Sure, the Celtics are built on defense and the centerpiece of this defense is Garnett.
When Garnett was absent for nine games, the defense was lacking to opponents and the Celtics were dominated on the glass. Boston had a deficit of 362-311 in total boards, including 111 offensive rebounds. In the 108-102 loss to the Houston Rockets on January 10, there was no intensity shown. Houston shot 52.7 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Celtics 38-31 at the TD Garden.
Meanwhile, Garnett is returning to his healthy form prior to the knee injury he sustained in Utah on Feb. 19, 2009. He can guard all four positions. Due to his length, he can alter shots or force steals like the one he made against the Orlando Magic. In a tightly contested game on Jan. 17, Orlando was playing to tie the game with a final shot. Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson tried to make a pass to Hedo Turkoglu. Garnett came from behind to get in the passing lane to take the ball away.
The Celtics offense is predicated on ball movement. Rondo is the head of the class averaging 12.3 assists. When Rondo missed seven games in December, the ball was not changing hands as well, and Nate Robinson showed that he is not the penetrator or passer that Rondo is. The squad only averaged 90.1 points per game and 19.5 assists. When Robinson cannot hit from outside, the offense does not hit its stride. In Orlando on Christmas Day, the Celtics shot 34.6 percent from the floor and had only 15 assists.
Rondo helps on offense by controlling how the game is going to be played. Rondo can speed the rest of the team by pacing the transition game when he creates steals or when the game is slowed down, he can make crisp passes in the half-court offense.
Lately, the opposition has left Rondo open to shoot from 15 feet and he has been knocking down shots, especially at critical moments. He hit a couple of mid-range jumpers in January against the Minnesota Timberwolves (within the final two minutes) and San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter.
Rondo's ability to penetrate has opened the floor for Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and the rest of his teammates. Pierce is shooting 50.8 percent from the field, Allen is knocking down 50.6 percent of his shots, Garnett is at a 53.2 percent clip and Shaquille O'Neal, in limited minutes, is at a ridiculous 66.2 percent. Allen (45.7 percent) is shooting a career high in treys.
The Celtics need both of these players in order to accomplish their goal of winning another title in the Big Three era. They are co-MVPs on this team because they are both unique talents and highly energized players who push the Celtics into championship contenders.