Despite the NBA lockout threatening to probably shorten and possibly cancel the 2011-12 season, players must still be hard at work over the offseason to both maintain and improve their playing ability, no matter how long the offseason is.
In the case of Boston Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, he must not only work to maintain his position as one of the premier passing and facilitating point guards in the NBA; he must also improve his shooting as well.
For anyone who has watched at least some of the Celtics in action, it's very easy to see that Rondo rarely, if ever, shoots the basketball, preferring to pass off to an actual shooter, work it insider to a big or simply take it to the rim himself for a quick two points. This is all well and good, and has brought the Celtics both regular season and playoff success in each of the four years that Rondo has been a regular starter.
However, in a no-hand-check league that has made perimeter/mid-range shooting the single most valuable asset for almost every team, Rondo will need to develop a more consistent jump shot in order to stay competitive against the likes of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.
Here's a look at three reasons why it's best for Rajon Rondo to work toward becoming a consistent shooter.
The Boston Celtics are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, team in the NBA. The team continues to age, and with increased age of course comes decreased performance. Eventually, bodies break down, players become slower and a lot of the time, they simply lose "the shooting touch" or it diminishes over time.
This could become true very quickly for the Celtics' top two scorers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. At 33 and 35, respectively, Pierce and Allen are no longer the young guns they used to be.
Although they can still put up decent numbers (Pierce averaged 18.9 points per game last season, while Allen averaged 16.5), and despite Allen putting up career-best shooting percentages (he shot .491 from the field as a whole and .444 from beyond the three-point line), that type of performance can't last for very long, especially not after their lengthy careers.
The Celtics will likely see increased production from Jeff Green, Delonte West and even rookie E'Twaun Moore to aid their shooting game, but Rondo will likely still need to help out, and a having a point guard who can also shoot a solid jumper will be a huge plus down the road.
In just a few short years in the NBA, Rajon Rondo has matured from a rookie off the bench to a starter to Boston Celtics facilitator-in-chief and floor general, leading the Celtics to four consecutive playoff appearances, two Eastern Conference championships and an NBA Championship.
Although much of this success has come due to the Big Three, Rondo has no doubt played an important role as well, especially after 2008, as the Big Three have relied increasingly on Rondo's ability to pass and create scoring opportunities.
Because of this success, Rondo is now entering into the discussion as to who is the best point guard in the NBA today. He is now being compared to the likes of Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and of course, Chris Paul.
Rondo is well known for his extraordinary passing ability, but lacks the scoring ability of some of his upper-echelon contemporaries. If Rondo can improve his shooting, he can increase his scoring production to match that of Paul, Westbrook and Williams. Rondo has already proven that he can match, and even surpass, many of his rivals in terms of passing, but he needs to improve his scoring to truly reach the same level.
With the aging of the Big Three comes Rondo's golden opportunity to improve his shooting and score a few more points per game. If he can do that, he can finally silence critics who prefer the better all-around shooting and passing capabilities of other elite point guards.
Alright, alright, Celtics fans—calm down.
I'll start off by saying that I do not want to see Rajon Rondo traded. At this point, it's pretty clear that he's going to be the future of the franchise, at least right now. At age 25, he's one of the youngest players on the team right now, and with the impending retirement of the Big Three and the lack of other legitimate superstar talent on the roster as of the 2011 offseason, it looks like he could be the Celtics' next franchise player.
That being said, however, if either Danny Ainge or Rondo himself ever wanted a trade, Rondo's trade value could be greatly increased if he were to develop a consistent jump shot. Many an NBA team would love a point guard who can pass as well as shoot, and Rondo could eventually fit the bill. I wouldn't put it past Danny Ainge to make a move like trading Rondo, and in a league where star players are more mobile than ever, it wouldn't surprise me if Rondo ever wanted to leave Boston.