What can we expect when Rajon Rondo returns?

The Boston Celtics have been missing their star point guard for a full year now, but this will all change Friday night. As we all know, Rajon Rondo is returning from the dreaded ACL tear. So what can we expect from Rondo when he returns to the hardwood?

Three other speedy and athletic guards (all younger than Rondo) have recently made comebacks from the same injury. The results range across the board:

Derrick Rose: Rose's situation is the worst of the worst. He took a full season off to rehab only to injury his other knee ten games into this season. Lets chalk that up to bad luck and only focus on the number though.

In his last (semi) healthy season, Rose averaged 21.8 PPG (43.5% FG), 3.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, 0.7 BPG and 0.9 SPG. But Rose only played 39 games that season and was in and out of the lineup with multiple injuries. Going back to his MVP season, his last full healthy season: 25.0 PPG (44.5% FG), 4.1 RPG, 7.7 APG, 0.6 BPG and 1.0 SPG. After the ACL tear his stats dropped across the board: 15.9 PPG (35.4% FG), 3.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, 0.1 BPG and 0.5 SPG. Obviously Rose lost all of the explosion in his game that he was so well known for. Even blocks and steals, which were never a huge part of his game, but indicate the lack of explosion.

Ricky Rubio: Rubio had his rookie season cut short in March 2012 with the injury. He was able to return pretty quickly and play in 57 games the next season, significantly less recovery than Rose. Amazingly it did not really hurt him, here are his rookie season stats: 10.6 PPG (35.7% FG), 4.2 RPG, 8.2 APG and 2.2 SPG. Here is his second season: 10.7 PPG (36% FG), 4.0 RPG, 7.3 APG and 2.4 SPG… and Rubio was playing five less minutes per game than his rookie season!

Now Rubio is having a horrible season shooting the ball this year, that just seems to be the player he is. But the rest of his stats indicate that he is healthy from the ACL tear: 4.6 RPG, 8.2 APG and 2.7 SPG are good indications he has a burst back in his step.

Iman Shumpert: This is where is gets interesting. Shumpert tore his ACL on the same day as Rose (April 28th 2012) in the playoffs. But Shump also played in 45 games the next season! The problem is Shumpert has been no where near the same player since the injury. Here are his rookie season stats before getting hurt: 9.5 PPG (40.1% FG), 3.2 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.7 SPG. Now the following season (playing six minutes less per game): 6.8 PPG (39.6% FG), 3.0 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.0 SPG.

So your first reaction is - must be the minutes? Well Shumpert is back up to 28 MPG this season (same as before the injury)… but his numbers are not completely back: 7.3 PPG (39.6% FG), 5.1 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.3 SPG. Obviously they are better then his first season back, and I would guess will improve throughout the season. The high rebounding number shows that he does have some explosion in the knee.

So what does this mean for Rondo?

Well, the Shumpert/Rose debate is a strange one. Rose missed 549 days and Shumpert missed 264 days with the same (or at least similar) injuries on the same day. Now Rose is back on the sidelines and Shumpert is playing. You could argue that Shump is not at his best, but better than the zeros across the board for Rose. This tells Rondo the time off doesn't matter, it's about how his body feels.

The player we really want to compare Rondo to is Rubio. They are very similar players, although Rondo is a much better player last we saw him. Before this goes to far, I am not saying Rubio is as good as Rondo, simply pointing out he is the best comparison. Pass first point guard's that get a lot of steals and are not known as great shooters (although Rondo has a much better FG% - Rubio is a beyond brutal shooter).

This news is very good for Rondo, because overall, Rubio has bounced back the best. Here are Rondo's pre-injury numbers of last season: 13.7 PPG (48.4% FG), 5.6 RPG, 11.1 APG and 1.8 SPG. Obviously Rondo is going to start out against the Lakers on a minutes restriction, so at first these numbers are not fair to expect.

But overall Rondo should have a pretty strong finish to the season. If Rondo plays the final 42 games for the Celtics, numbers like this are not too farfetched - Rondo 2013-14 rough prediction: 13.5 PPG (46% FG), 3.4 RPG, 9.0 APG and 1.2 SPG. In general those would be fantastic comeback numbers for Rondo, and in 2014-15 those would jump back up again assuming he stays healthy. Rebounding takes the biggest hit, just seems like it has the most to do with the knee.

So to answer the question, overall, we can expect quite a bit from Rondo this season. Obviously not right away - there will be rust to knock off as well as a minutes restriction.

But put the numbers aside now, Rondo has always struck me as a tough player. Just think of all the injuries he has played through, playing in the playoffs with one arm comes to mind first. Not to mention when Rondo did tear his ACL he played the rest of the game with it AND was warming up for the Miami game later that weekend until they pulled him!

Yup, Rondo will be just fine.

Source: ESPN for stats

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