When Rajon Rondo returned, many folks thought that the Celtics, 14-26 at the time, would improve as a team. Sure, it may take a little while as Rondo shook the rust off, but eventually the Cs best player would make the team better. I mean, isn't that how things work in the NBA?
With the season winding down, it's clear that Rondo's return has not sparked the Celtics on to bigger and better things. For those rooting for losses, that's a great thing in the short term. But that does not mean that there are not concerns surrounding #9's impact on the team since he's come back.
Let's take a look at some numbers.
First off, team record. With Rondo in the line-up this season, the Celtics are 6-23. Without him they are 17-32. That means that the Celts have played like a 28-win team without their captain, and a 17-win team with him. That's a pretty jarring difference, but to be fair, not all of that can be placed on Rondo. After all, his return coincided with two trades -- Courtney Lee to Memphis, and Jordan Crawford to the Warriors -- that worsened the Cs. While Lee and Crawford are not great players, they are far better than Jerryd Bayless and Joel Anthony, the two guys who the Celtics received in return. These deals could have also had an impact on the psyche of the Celtics, as they clearly signified that the organization didn't really give a crap about this season. There were also injuries, as Avery Bradley has barely played in the season's second half, Gerald Wallace (actually playing well when he went down) has missed significant time, and now Kris Humphries is hurt. Suddenly the Celtics are playing several D-League guys and two rookies in their regular rotation, not a recipe for success.
But still, some of this falls on Rondo. And when we look at the on/off splits, it's clear that this is not a "Kevin Love situation", where the team thrives with their best player on the court, and falls apart without him. Instead, Rondo has had nearly the exact opposite effect.
This season, the Celtics have scored 101.8 points per 100 possessions (PP100) with Rondo on the floor, and they have allowed a staggering 113.0 PP100. That leaves Rondo with an atrocious -11.2 rating.
Compare this to the Celtics' numbers without Rondo, 102.4 PP100 scored and 105.8 PP100 allowed, and you can see that the Cs are a slightly worse offensive team with Rondo (-0.6) and a far worse defensive team (-7.2). Overall the Celtics are 7.8 points worse per 100 possessions with their best player on the court than without, a jarring number.
Now let's take a look at the 12 Celtics who have played at least 700 minutes this season, and what their +/- looks like per 100 possessions (keep in mind, the average for the Celtics is -4.9 points per 100):
Ranked by minutes played
Jeff Green (-7.5)
Brandon Bass (-9.3)
Jared Sullinger (-2.4)
Avery Bradley (-4.6)
Gerald Wallace (-5.8)
Kris Humphries (-6.4)
Kelly Olynyk (-2.0)
Jordan Crawford (-4.3)
Jerryd Bayless (-8.2)
Phil Pressey (+0.4)
Rajon Rondo (-11.2)
Chris Johnson (+1.5)
Rondo ranks last with his -11.2 rating, and also ranks last with his 113.0 points per 100 allowed on defense.
Plus/Minus is not perfect. It is impacted by the other four players on the court, and therefore is not something to be taken as the end all, be all. But still, over a large quantity of minutes it usually does a good job of pointing out who is playing well, and who is not. And the picture it's painting of Rondo is not very pretty.
What concerns me on offense is that the Celtics assist rating shoots up when he's on the floor compared to when he's not (55.7% to 62.1%), but their effective field goal percentage (which adjusts for threes to count more) dips to 46.1% (down from 47.9%), and the Celtics end up with far fewer field goal attempts.
What does this tell us? Rondo is holding the ball too much. He cannot dominate the ball to the levels he has in the past and expect to be successful by starting the offense with 8 seconds left on the shot clock. When he had Ray Allen coming around screens to shoot threes, Paul Pierce to isolate, and Kevin Garnett to bury turnaround jumpers as the shot clock died down, he could get away with this. But now, and likely next year, he's going to have young athletes running the floor, and he absolutely needs to lessen his death grip on the basketball. And he is completely capable of doing this. We've seen in the past that a healthy Rondo is deadly in the open court, and a healthy off-season should restore what little athleticism he has lost this season. It's a change in philosophy more than anything else, and one that is essential for Rondo and the Celtics to fix.
Defensively I'll give him some leeway in that the entire team has been a disaster defensively since early January. The lack of a paint protecting big man and Bradley's injury have caused the Celtics defensive rating to plummet from 6th at the end of December, all the way down to 18th as of now. Also, the Celtics putrid offense is leading to many a fast break opportunity for opposing teams (example: the entire fourth quarter vs Atlanta), therefore hurting the defensive number.
I'm not that Rondo is blame free on that end, but the bigger issue is his lack of an impact on the offensive end, where he should be helping the Celtics significantly.
Am I trying to say that Rondo sucks? No, not by a long shot. Part of the issue is health, as anyone who has ever torn their ACL will tell you that it takes 18-24 months to truly get back to being 100% (Adrian Peterson not withstanding). Once that first-step explosion is back, Rondo will begin converting more shots at the rim (he's at 55% from within three-feet this season compared to 62% before this year), and will also improve defensively.
But Rondo needs to make some changes, and that's going to be a challenge for such a headstrong, stubborn guy. Unless Danny Ainge invents a time machine and brings back an in-their-primes Ray, Pierce and KG, Rondo needs to adjust to this new era. He has the skill-set, now it's just a matter of mind-set.
Tommy Heinsohn says Rajon Rondo has bad habits from Doc Rivers' team, should be benched at times
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 4/11/2014 04:57:00 PM Tweet