When a lot of NBA fans look at Rajon Rondo, they usually think about him not being able to hit a 15-18 footer consistently. They think of the term overrated or underrated depending on who you ask. They think of a game changer; they think of a player who needs to be hidden in crunch time.
Rondo can be many things to many people, but to me he is one of the most unique players to ever touch a basketball. He brings so much to both sides of the floor even without scoring the ball like a Derrick Rose or a Russell Westbrook. Rondo simply is one the best at causing chaos at the point guard position without a doubt. He frustrates opponents and gets under their skin in ways that you couldn’t imagine. Reading Rondo’s scouting report on nbaplaybook.com, watching plenty of tape on the limited access that I have to synergy (working on that by the way), and youtube videos I’ve decided to do my own scouting report.
With that said, lets dig in.
Rajon Rondo’s best quality, to me, is his defending. Don’t get me wrong, he is a phenominal passer; possibly the best of this generation. His defense is a key part of that creation that he’s doing for his teammates. When put in an iso situation–1 on 1 with the opposition–Rondo only allows .67 points per possession according to Synergy. The opponent only scores 32.3% of the time and turns the ball over 23.2% of the time. That’s astounding considering the elite crop of point guards that are in the NBA right now. Rondo only allows opponents to get .81 ppp in PnR situations when defending the ball handler. He is put in this situation 44.6% of the Celtics defensive possessions and is causing turnovers 18.7% of the time. Rondo is a great defender in most situations that you put him in. He doesn’t allow much space between he and the opponent and is always in a constant press in the half court. This causes turnovers that lead to the break. He not only knows how to jump passing lanes but he consistently plucks ball handlers in the half court when they aren’t paying attention. His long arms and quick feet enable him to do this.
Notice how quickly Rondo recovers from the PnR in this situation. He reads Duncan slipping the screen and going out to pop. He quickly shifts over to cover Duncan and before you know it the ball is intercepted.
Here you can see Rajon stealing the ball from Lamar Odom to set up the fast break 3 by Ray Allen. Rondo gambled off of his man because he noticed that Odom was showing the ball too much on his drive. He saw that he had been stifled for a quick second and that was the perfect time to swipe for the ball. The rest is history.
Here, after Boston has stifled Miami’s offense and Miami regains possession, Wade isolates himself on the right side of the floor at the top of the arch with Rondo after Rondo closes out on him. He uses a fake to try to free himself but Rondo doesn’t bite. He is disciplined in his closeout and doesn’t jump on the fake; that is a signature move by Wade to try to draw a foul on a close out man. That is something that was probably in the scouting report; great job by Rondo. Wade tries to use his handle to get by Rondo, but Rondo ends up plucking Wade with his reach and quick hands.
Now, getting back to Rondo’s offense. In transition the Celtics score .89 points when on the break with Rondo in the game. This low point total can be attributed to the Celtics not wanting to push the ball because of their age. They run a slow, half court, grind it out kind of game; they only go in transition 22% of the time. When Rondo does go on the break, though, he is masterful. The Celtics end up with points 46.3% of the time which is pretty good when you consider that the Celtics were the league’s 22nd fastest team according to basketball-reference.com.
Rondo’s vision and speed are key in the break for the Boston Celtics. No matter what the numbers are in the break Rondo can find a teammate or use a crafty ball fake to finish at the rim. This is why I believe that if Boston ever chose to push the pace then they would be one of the most dangerous teams on offense in the NBA. With so many weapons at Rajon’s disposal a lot of points would be put up. Now, of course that won’t happen because of the residual effects of the defensive end, but it would play a lot to Rondo’s strength which is in the full court.
The Celtics rebound the ball off of a Knicks miss in round 1 of last years post season. One of the things that is constantly coached by Doc Rivers and preached by the Big 3 in Boston is communication. On offense and defense you can really hear the guys talking to each other loud and clear; in this clip you can hear Rondo calling “KG, KG!” This is the signal to Kevin Garnett that Rondo wants to push the ball. He has read the defense and has seen that they are being lazy in getting back on defense. He’s going to push the ball up the floor and score it himself with one of his crafty lay ups.
We must not forget that a key to Rondo’s game in the fast break is that he shoots 63 percent at the rim according to Hoopdata.com. His finishing ability is keem as he pushes the break. Teams must remember to respect that when the Boston Celtics are in transition. You have to account for Rondo here more than ever; not only playing the pass but also making sure that you at least change his shot at the rim.
Rondo is also the premier passer, in my opinion, in the NBA. You must account for all passing lanes and stay home on your man or he will destroy you in transition. That can also lead to him beating someone one on one at the rim; so in a way its like picking your poison. Whether you are man enough to take it depends on how you defend it.
When you defend Rondo well he tends to force passes and shots up instead of slowing down the break. This leads to turnovers in certain cases on the fastbreak. This is part of the reason why Boston turns the ball over 25.3% of the time in transition. You can see that above.
One of the most dangerous weapons in Rondo’s arsenal in the break, possibly the most dangerous, are his eyes. You must train yourself to never trust them and what they are looking at. Rondo has always been a player to look one way and ball fake then pass the other. That’s a skill that Rondo has mastered throughout his years in the NBA. He doesn’t telegraph who his is going to pass the ball to; that’s what makes the break so chaotic and messy. He can use his eyes to push the defense one way and open a lane for a teammate in the process. To train yourself on defense to not watch a players eyes is extremely hard; especially when that player has mastered this art. See that below.
That is how Rondo uses the fast break to his advantage. He is simply a master of chaos and one of the best at it. He uses his defense to create extra fast break possessions for his team, his passing skills in the break–and half court. That’s another post for another day– are rivaled by some of the best passers of all time. The way he uses his eyes and body trick the defense into thinking one thing and creating an open look for his team. That’s my breakdown of Rondo in the fastbreak. Hope you all enjoyed that.
Crazy like a fox: http://youtu.be/bFEQemmWS1A
Michael Sykes is a writer for SportsBlogMovement. Follow us on twitter; use the hashtag.