COMMENTARY | The Boston Celtics have been fielding trade offers for All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the last couple of seasons. Now that time is running out on his very favorable contract, the Celtics must decide whether to trade Rondo or commit to him with a maximum contract.
But is Rajon Rondo really worth a max deal that matches or exceeds salaries paid to Chris Paul, Derek Rose, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony?
In order for Rondo to be considered worthy of a maximum contract, it has to be proven that he is on the same level as other elite point guards; he doesn't necessarily have to be better or even equally as good, but he has to at least be close.
As the evidence below proves, however, Rondo does not belong in the same class as other elite guards, and he shouldn't be paid a maximum deal that will handcuff any team that is foolish enough to give it to him.
Why compare Rondo with Chris Paul?
Chris Paul is the ideal player to compare to Rondo to help determine if a max contract is valid, because Paul is not necessarily a pure scorer like Derek Rose or Russell Westbrook, and Paul is probably the only elite point guard who can keep up with Rondo on the defensive end. In short, Paul's talents are more similar to Rondo's than probably any other player in basketball.
Is Rondo an elite-level scorer or shooter?
One of the weakest elements to Rondo's resume is his shooting and scoring ability. Despite shooting a high career average of 48.1 percent from the field, Rondo has managed to average only 11.1 points per game, with 13.7 points per game being his career high. This figure is significantly lower than every other so-called elite point guard in the NBA. Chris Paul, for instance, has a career average of 18.6 points per game on a very solid 47.3 percent shooting, reaching a much more impressive career high of 22.8 points per game in 2008-2009.
The reason why Rondo struggles scoring the ball relative to other great point guards is due to his inability to shoot from mid-range or from the 3-point line. Over his career, Rondo has only managed to average 36.8 percent from at least 13 feet compared to Chris Paul's season average of 41.3 percent. In particular, Rondo has struggled greatly from beyond the arc, hitting only 24.3 percent of 3-pointers on average while Paul made an average of 35.7 percent of his 3s.
Rondo at the charity stripe
Getting to the foul line to shoot free-throws is one of the easiest and most underrated ways a small guard can impact the game. Unfortunately, for Celtics fans, Rondo is one of the worst guards in the NBA at hitting free-throws and getting to the line. In the 2012-2013 NBA season, Rondo made a dismal 64.5 percent of his free-throw attempts, the worst rate of success for any point guard that year who had at least 30 attempts. There were even 39 NBA centers who managed to shoot a better free-throw percentage! Chris Paul, on the other hand, shot 88.5 percent.
Rondo struggles in the fourth quarter while Paul thrives
In Rondo's career, he has taken far fewer than half the number of field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter with five minutes or less to go in the game than Chris Paul has, but Paul and other elite point guards are shooting at a higher rate.
Rondo has made only 41.2 percent of his shots in this important game situation, but Paul has made 45.6 percent of shots, LeBron James has completed 46.1 percent, Derek Rose has sunk 44.3 percent, and Deron Williams has made 43.2 percent. And although the gap here seems relatively small, Rondo's attempts per game are much lower (because he knows he is a poor shooter in the fourth quarter), and the gap between Rondo's shooting percentage and other elite players is much larger when you only look at shots beyond 10 feet.
Rondo doesn't always make his team better
Rondo's inability to shoot from the outside, his stretches of careless ball-control, and his struggles from the free-throw line have, at times, hurt his team more than his incredible passing ability has helped Boston.
After he tore his ACL on Jan. 25 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics were a disappointing 20-23. Despite suffering multiple additional injuries, Boston would post a record of 21-17 for the remainder of the year, a winning percentage with Rondo off the floor of .552 compared to .465 with him on it. This is likely due to the fact that when Rondo was in the lineup for Boston, the Celtics managed to make only an additional 0.3 field-goals on average compared to when he was not in the lineup. In contrast, Chris Paul added an average of 4.8 field goals for his team when he was on the court.
Elite point guards like Chris Paul deserve maximum contract deals, but as this analysis shows, Rajon Rondo, while still one of the best point guards in the NBA, is not on the same playing field as Paul, Rose, Durant, James and other elite players. For that reason, the Celtics would be wise to avoid giving him a long-term deal at or near the maximum yearly salary.
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Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rajon Rondo
- Chris Paul
- Derek Rose