Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo Is NBA's Most Underrated Point Guard

Sam Quinn@@Samquinn23Contributor IIIJuly 17, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 05:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics stands on court against the Miami Heat in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I declared that the Boston Celtics would beat the Miami Heat because Rajon Rondo was going to have what I like to call "one of those Rondo games."

My friends laughed it off saying Rondo was not going to explode against a great defensive team like the Heat.

Obviously the Heat won, but look at Rondo's stat line: 44 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals. 

Think about that for a minute. Just off of points and assists alone Rondo produced at least 64 points against the NBA champs. Not only that, but apparently it happens often enough for me to have come up with a label for such occurrences. 

Yet according to Team USA's roster, Rondo is no better than the fifth best point guard in the league behind Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook.

Those guys aren't the only players getting more credit than Rondo.

Steve Nash is a two-time MVP, Tony Parker came in fifth in the voting this year and Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving has generated so much buzz on Team USA's select team that he has thrown himself into the top point guard discussion as well. 

It's time for Rondo to get his due. He's the league's most underrated point guard. The question here is why?

There are two sides to this story: statistical and anecdotal. 

Statistically, Rondo's biggest flaw is scoring. For his career he's averaged slightly less than 11 points per game. However, pass-first point guards still get their due in today's NBA. Take a look at these two stat lines:

Player A: 17.15 points per game, 11 assists per game, 3.75 rebounds per game, terrible defense.

Player B: 11.25 points per game, 11.45 assists per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, excellent defense.

Depending on what your team needs, you could easily take either player. If you were a contender who didn't need scoring, you'd probably lean towards Player B.

Well Player B is Rajon Rondo over the past two years. Player A? Steve Nash during his two MVP seasons.

Nash won the MVP award twice as a pass-first point guard, yet Rondo averaged more assists over his given two year span. Yet Rondo has only made one All-NBA Team (third team, 2012) in that span whereas Nash won the MVP twice.

Nash is proof that you don't need to be an elite scorer to be known as the NBA's best player, so it makes no sense that Rondo doesn't even get credit from most as an All-NBA player.

It's not even like Rondo can't score, it's that he chooses not to for the good of the team. He has spent the past five years playing with three Hall of Famers who needed shots. His career usage rate is only 19 percent.

By comparison, Derrick Rose has a career usage rate of 27.8 percent, and has exceeded 30 percent in both of the last two years.

It's no wonder Rose averages more points, he uses almost 10 percent more of his team's possessions than Rondo. He hasn't played with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Speaking of those three, now we can get into the anecdotal piece of the story.

When the big three came to Boston in 2007 Rondo was just a young point guard whose job was just to not screw up. He didn't, and Boston won a championship.

But as the big three started to exit their primes and Rondo started to enter his, there was a shift in Boston. Suddenly Rondo became more and more important, until suddenly he was Boston's best player. 

I'm not exactly when it happened, but for me it came during the Cleveland series in 2010. Not only was Rondo the best player on the Celtics, he was the best player in the series period. Keep in mind that this was a series that included LeBron James. The list of players who have outplayed LeBron James in a playoff series is not long. 

Here's the problem: Boston's three stars have egos. They were still the big three, and they lead the Celtics to a championship while Rondo was still in metaphorical diapers. They weren't ready to cede control of the team over to their young point guard.

They never went out of their way to say that Rondo was their best player, they still tried to embrace their identity as the big three rather than calling themselves the big four. There's a reason we kept hearing reporters call them "the big three plus Rondo" for years rather than the big four. 

This may have driven a wedge between Rondo and his veteran teammates, notably Ray Allen. That's why some called Rondo moody when in actuality he was probably just frustrated. He never gets the credit he deserves.

Issues like this have hurt Rondo in the eyes of many fans and analysts. Some say it means he isn't a team player. My response is that there aren't many guys who average 11 assists per year and aren't team players. 

The fact that he plays for this particular Celtics team means that Rondo was always going to be criminally underrated. There isn't much credit to go around when there are already three Hall of Famers on the team.

Ray Allen's departure is going to change things. We're probably going to see more scoring from Rondo this year, and if the chemistry problems were really as bad as advertised we could see him play with a bit more joy on the court. 

Now he's the official third member of Boston's big three. Now that the original group has broken up he's going to start getting the credit he deserves. 

Personally, I'd take Rondo over any point guard in the league not named Chris Paul. I've always maintained that Deron Williams is overrated, Derrick Rose is injured and incredibly inefficient, and Russell Westbrook has never seen a shot he didn't like.

This year he's finally going to "break out" in the eyes of the press. He's going to average around 15 points and 10 assists, play excellent defense, and, assuming Boston plays as well as they're capable of, will get some MVP buzz. 

My reaction? It's about time. 


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