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Rajon Rondo: Big Digits

For Rondo, the digital age arrives sooner…or later.

Any way you look at it, Rondo will become a very wealthy young man.

The player with long digits can score some big financial digits due to his ability to produce triple double digits.  But Rondo will need to get some other digits under control along the way. It is a digital world.

One of the bigger news items coming out of the early Celtic camp reports is that Danny Ainge is about to attempt to re-sign Rajon Rondo to a multi-year contract a year before he becomes a restricted free agent. The Celtics have until October 31st to do so, otherwise they can try again next year when he can test the waters as a restricted free agent.

Danny says that neither side knows exactly where the other stands and that conversation starts soon. Rajon Rondo says that he will work on his game this season and see what happens. In Dan Duggan’s Boston Herald article, Rondo specifically mentions…

improving my outside shot, ballhandling and my court awareness,” Rondo said. “The biggest thing for me probably is defense – getting over the pick-and-rolls on defense. You just have to play ball to get better at that.”

Ball handing? I didn’t know that was an issue. Court awareness? Another interesting comment. I thought that Rondo saw the court fairly well. As revealed in his break out playoff performance, there are still a few other offensive issues to iron out. More on that later.

Sports Math Question – does triple double = double digit average yearly contract?

He was on track for big dollars before the playoffs. But the sight of ‘triple doubles’ on his resume will work wonders with anyone. It also exponentially increases the attraction he will have to other teams.To say that Rondo stepped it up in the absence of Garnett and a shaky bench would be an understatement.

Rondo took the challenge that Derrick Rose presented him in the very first playoff game and ran with it… and passed with it… and scored with it… and even rebounded with it. The team needed him to play a much larger role with Garnett out, and he ‘tripled’ his production.

So…does Rajon let Danny lock him into a 5 year deal in the neighborhood of double digits? Or does he play out the year and see what will surface in the open market? Celts can still make an offer or match.

Duggan in the Boston Herald….

Though he was tight-lipped on the issue, Rondo said he wasn’t optimistic about signing a contract extension in the near future.

That implies that Rondo won’t be taking a home team discount, nor will Ainge be offering what Rondo believes his fair market value is.

If Rondo doesn’t seem optimistic for an early signing, then neither do I. He may do better to wait until this season ends anyhow.

What did the playoffs reveal, besides that Rondo can play at a very high level? Let’s call it….certain inefficiencies….or ‘foul’ shooting.

Many say that Rondo doesn’t need the Big Three to play well. Fair enough.

But playing with the Big Three does afford certain freedoms for their team mates that playing on other teams may not. So…. we actually got a little glimpse of what it may be like to play on another team when the Celtics played without Garnett. Certainly, they are another team without him.

Rondo’s playoffs numbers were astounding – 16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9.8 assists in the two series. He also was the only guy on the team consistently stealing the ball or causing turnovers. He had 35 steals total for a healthy 2.5 average. His rebounding was just crazy good – never mind that the guy is a skinny 171 lbs. and 6′ 1″.

Attaining Offensive Harmony

But a look at the totals reveal that he needed to take 223 shots to score 236 points. Not the model of efficiency, and here is why. His shooting percentage dropped to 41% (vs 50% on the season). He made just 65% of his free throws. His foul try attempts dropped significantly as the Magic series wore on. Save game 4, when he had eight attempts, he averaged just two attempts in the last 6 games.

After getting to the line 49 times for a robust 6 plus attempts in the first 8 games, he only took more than 3 free throws once in the final 6 games and had zero free throw attempts in game  5 in 28 minutes.  His final six games he averaged 3 attempts, and he compounds the problem by being a below average foul shooter.

He needed 18 shots to score 19 in game 2 Chicago, 22 attempts to score 28 in game 5, 17 shots to score 8 in game 6, 8 shots to score 7 in game 7.  In the Orlando series, he needed 19 shots to score 15 in game 2, 17 to score 15 in game 3, 12 to score 6 in game 5, 19 to score 19 in game 6, and 10 to score 10 in game 7.

Hurt, or tired, or both or Rondo just needs to improve in those areas to truly reach the elite level. Just making his foul shots would be a big help to his whole approach to scoring.

But teams with tall, solid interior defenders like Cleveland, Orlando, and the L.A. Lakers give Rondo trouble. They are teams the Celtics must go through to get another title.

The amount of other things that Rondo does well, and there are a number of them that show up in the stats, covers up and offsets those things in his game that work against each other.

The Rondo Challenge

His lack of a reliable jump shot (a weakness) can be offset by driving to score (a strength). Missing the shot but not getting fouled gives you zero points. Getting fouled and missing foul shots (weakness) is better, but far from ideal. By not having Garnett there to help draw interior defenders away, Rondo was seeing defenses that he might see if he played on another team . Teams can protect the paint more. When Rondo does draw a foul on a drive, it is not an automatic two points. That is a problem.

That he is so successful in spite of those things is a testament to his confidence, energy, competitiveness and all around effort. If he can get the logical progression of making outside shots, drawing fouls and making foul shots are a rate that punishes the other team, his offensive game moves up a huge notch. He has shown some improvement already.  The contract money he will be offered will go up as well.

One Last Thing

I read in the Herald article that the fatigue factor theory for last season was discounted. Then a few lines later, the importance of getting more rest for Ray and Paul with Daniels on board is mentioned.

Thomas Halzack

2 Responses

  1. halzack says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the insights. While I agree that points per possession is another indicator of efficiency, the analysis I used includes the free throw factor for that very reason.

    To discount the free throw portion is to discount the players FT skill. To say that it is too highly valued is to discount its total value. You add team fouls to the other team, increasing the likelihood of penalty free throw situations, besides getting opposing players in foul trouble.

    Having a player that gets to the line skews the points per shot number, but has direct benefits (if you can hit the FTs) as well as indirect benefits.

    Specifically, when your game revolves, almost exclusively, around driving and drawing contact, it is an even bigger factor.

    But even saying that, the performance illustration used would have looked better if only RR was hitting at a higher %. Simple really.

    Still, I’ll listen to alternative arguments. I appreciate the input.

    Thanks for reading,

  2. Dave M says:

    Points per shot is a bit misleading since it gives too much value to points scored on free throws. Points per possession would make far more sense. This should be computed by counting all possessions that end in the player shooting or going to the line.

    Possessions should probably be adjusted for the offensive rebounding percentage on missed free throws to get a better handle on the efficiency of a player..