Friday, January 17, 2014

The Return of the Dynamic, Underappreciated Rajon Rondo

Tonight marks the return of one of the NBA’s most dynamic, electrifying, and all too underappreciated players: Rajon Rondo. It’s been nearly a year since his devastating ACL tear, and during his hiatus, Rondo has fallen off of the NBA radar. His return hasn’t been anticipated. His name hasn’t even been mentioned.

Of course, this isn’t surprising. Ever since Rondo entered the league, he’s been viewed as a coattail rider (Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Rivers), and a guy that never really had a superior skill set. He’s been bashed for not being able to shoot, and he’s been portrayed as a head case and a problem child. He’s been left off of the Olympic team, and he’s been in countless trade rumors.

All of this disrespect is completely unwarranted.

The reason for this disrespect, however, is no mystery. Rondo’s style of play makes people feel uncomfortable. He’s a transcendental player that doesn’t fit any particular mold or idea of what an NBA point guard should be, and people can’t handle it. It’s a smaller scale problem of what plagued Tim Tebow, but unlike Tebow, Rondo is an extremely polished player.

In fact, for the last few years, Rondo has been one of the most polished NBA players in the league. And, his skill set all starts with his passing. During his entire career (especially during the past few seasons), Rondo has been a statistical anomaly when it came to assists, averaging a Nash/Magic/Kidd/Stockton level 11 assists per game. On top of that, during the middle of last season, Rondo was only a few games short of breaking the
Rondo's long arms allow him to get creative with
his passing.
record for most consecutive 10 assist games. But, what may be even more amazing is the way Rondo gets his assists. His praying mantis arms and oversized hands provide him with one of the best ball fakes in the league, as well as allowing him to throw head spinning wrap around passes and extremely accurate lob passes.

Passing isn't the only thing, though. Adding to the polished play is Rondo’s shooting. Waaaaaaaait!!!!!!!!! What????

When Rondo first entered the league, he was a non-threat from outside of the paint. But, times have changed. According to Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, “Rondo was actually one of the best elbow shooters in the league last season. Out of 141 NBA players who attempted at least 100 shots from the elbows, Rondo ranked fourth in field goal percentage- trailing only Jason Smith, Steve Nash, and Jose Calderon.” DAMN. Who the hell would’ve thought that? Sure, he still can’t shoot a three, but Tony Parker has proven that an elite point guard doesn’t have to. In fact, the entire Rajon Rondo shooting evolution is very Tony Parker like. Hmmmm.

But, Rondo is most underappreciated when it comes to his playoff performances. Over the past 6-7 years, NBA fans have watched Rondo dazzle when it matters most. He’s been more electrifying than Steve Nash (no defense), Derrick Rose (shoots too much), Russell Westbrook (shoots too much and at horrible percentages), Chris Paul (never wins), and Derron Williams (is he like 50 years old?). Really, his only point guard rival is…once again Tony Parker (this guy is just really fucking good).

Rondo was a huge contributor when the Celtics won their ’08 championship, even garnering Phil Jackson’s respect; “he was the star of the [deciding] game.” For the next few years, Rondo put up staggering triple double numbers while carrying his team deep into the playoffs. During the ’09 playoffs, he averaged 16.9 ppg, 9.8 assists, and 9.7 rebounds!!! During the 2012 playoff run, he set a Celtics record for most playoff assists and most playoff triple doubles. The Celtics are the most historic playoff team of all time!! And more impressively, he almost single-handedly led the hobbled Celtics to what would have been the biggest playoff upset of all-time.

Rajon dropping 44 points, 10 assists, and 8 boards 
in the '12 Eastern Conference Finals. 

Tonight, after way too long, we get to watch Rajon again. Hopefully, his injury doesn’t creep around like it did for Rose and Westbrook. Hopefully, he can push the Celtics into the playoffs, so we can watch him go wild. Hopefully, everyone will appreciate him a little more this time around and give the respect he deserves.

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