7 Reasons Rajon Rondo Will Be in the 2012-13 MVP Conversation
The regular season is a different beast altogether, especially with the return to an 82-game schedule. If he can consistently replicate his playoff numbers throughout next season, it will be difficult not to have him in the discussion.
The "Best Point Guard" debate is small potatoes in comparison to the recipient of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Rajon Rondo made leaps and bounds last year, is he ready to make one more?
Podoloff Is No Stranger to Point Guards
Two of the last five players to be awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy have been point guards.
Derrick Rose, who mans the point for the Chicago Bulls, won the award in 2011. Prior to that Steve Nash earned the honor in back-to-back seasons (2005 and 2006). Thanks to these two players, three of the past eight Most Valuable Player winners played the same position as Rajon Rondo.
Nash's two wins were not the result of outrageous scoring totals. In fact in the two award-winning seasons, the Phoenix Sun averaged 15.5 and 18.8 points per game. Instead, it was Nash's all-around game that earned him the distinction. He posted double-digit assists in each of those years, something Rondo is more than capable of.
Rose's more recent award shows us that the voters are willing to go against the grain and select an undersized player over the stereotypical wings and bigs who have always won the award in the past.
Other players who have won the award while playing some point guard include Allen Iverson, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy.
Rondo's position may not grab the most headlines, but if he plays it well enough, there are votes to be had.
Improved Supporting Cast
The return of Jeff Green and signing of Courtney Lee have made Boston a much more athletic team. The days of watching Rajon Rondo run a one-man fast break with four elder statesmen chasing him up the court may finally be over.
Rondo developed a rapport with Avery Bradley last season that should carry over once the shooting guard returns to action. He also seemed to have a good thing going with reserve centers Chris Wilcox and Ryan Hollins. This points to Rondo thriving with more athletic and fast-paced players.
He finally reached the point that the Boston brass was hoping to see. They are starting to feel comfortable building around him. With the blessing of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics are moving in a direction that will allow Rondo to lead this team.
As the focal point of an offense that is built to score more points than in years past, Rondo will have more eyes on him than ever before.
More Eyes = Better Rondo
Rajon Rondo's No. 1 criticism may also be his No. 1 praise. The man enjoys playing basketball in front of an audience.
He has been accused over the past few years of drumming up his effort only in big, nationally televised games. Supporting that case was probably the best game of his career, which doubled as the NBA's second-best game of last season. Rondo posted a ridiculous stat line of 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists against the Knicks at the height of Lin-sanity.
More and more people are starting to take notice of the young point guard, which can only mean good things for the Celtics and his Most Valuable Player chances. With his most recent playoff performance, the attention on him has never been greater. He has earned the respect of some of the top basketball analysts and many still believe he is the only thing standing between the Miami Heat and a third straight NBA finals.
As Rondo becomes more popular a global player, his performances will just keep getting better.
A Sexy Statistic
In basketball, points are often the most impressive statistic you find. But sexy means something different. Sexy is a more unique trait that only a few players can employ. A triple-double is sexy.
In order to be in the Most Valuable Player conversation, a player must be sexy and eye-catching. Nobody controls more of a basketball game than the man who has won three of the past four Most Valuable Player awards, LeBron James.
His most impressive trait is how talented he is in every aspect of the sport. Scoring, rebounding, distributing, defense and leadership all come into play. Being good at everything is sexy.
That is what Rajon Rondo brings to the table. His mind-boggling triple-doubles are something out of this world. The ease with which it seems Rondo can influence a game is unmatched outside of James. That is why just six years into his NBA career, Rondo already sits third, behind just Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd in number of playoff triple-doubles.
He has 23 total, in a career that is just seeing its peak. When a box score is sometimes the only part of a game people see, double digits in three major categories is quite eye-catching.
There is nothing sexier in basketball than a triple-double, and there is nobody who does it as easily as Rajon Rondo.
He's Got the Attitude
There is really no one who believes more in Rajon Rondo than Rajon Rondo. Since, when it comes down to it, it is solely up to the player to improve their game to the next level, it is a good thing Rondo is the way he is.
It may sound cocky at times, or even downright foolish, but Rondo's consistent professing of himself as the best point guard in basketball reeks of confidence. Confidence is the No. 1 thing a player needs to vault themselves above their peers and into Most Valuable Player consideration.
Rondo will stop at nothing to get better and prove himself to the world. He takes every little slight to heart and uses it as motivation to thrash his supposed equals. Moving ahead from "best point guard" and into "best player" is a leap, but a leap that Rondo will make with the confidence of a player who has been there all along.
Multiple Elite Skills
Part of being a Most Valuable Player candidate is being better than everyone else at multiple things. Rajon Rondo already possesses some elite-level skills.
After leading the NBA in assists last season with 11.7 per game, he went ahead and upped his production in the playoffs to 11.9. He also finished the season on a streak of 24 straight games with 10-or-more dimes. The streak will continue with the first game of the 2012-13 season.
He is better at distributing than anyone in the NBA right now, automatically giving him an in into the conversation. Coupling that with other elite talents like defense and rebounding, and you have a player on the verge of making real noise in this running.
Rondo rebounds better than any point guard in the league, which enables him to get those dazzling triple-doubles. Defensively he has found himself on four All-NBA Defensive Teams (two firsts, two seconds), as well as the league's steals leader in 2010. In just six seasons, he has found himself ranked fifth on the Celtics all-time steals list.
When you have multiple elite-level talents, all it takes is slight improvements in some other areas (range and free throw shooting) for the Most Valuable Player votes to start trickling in.
What Is Valuable?
The Most Valuable Player vote focuses on the operative word, "Valuable." The award may not simply go to the best or most talented player in the league, but the most valuable.
In order for a player to be considered valuable they must influence their team enough to get them to perform at a certain level. Even with the massive overhaul in the Eastern Conference, I still believe Boston is heading for a top-four seed and probably a rematch with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The biggest reason they will get there is the play of Rajon Rondo. His value is felt in literally every aspect of what happens in green jerseys. He has advanced to the point where he is now an extra coach in the huddle during timeouts.
On the floor he is involved in almost all scoring plays, whether it be starting the possession with a rebound, dishing the ball on a fast break or half-court set, or scoring at the rim or with a jumper. Rondo dominates the ball in the way a selfish player does. The difference is, Rondo is not selfish. He dominates the ball because that is how the Celtics can succeed.
When he has the ball in his hands, he is as valuable as any player in basketball.