NBA Analysis: Is Celtics' Rajon Rondo Being Overhyped Right Now?

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The Boston Celtics are two games from their third NBA Finals in five years, and for the first time in that span, point guard Rajon Rondo is the talk of the team. Rondo continues to make headlines with his triple-doubles and monstrous box score numbers, while something like Kevin Garnett‘s otherworldly 43-point efficiency difference while on the court has gone unnoticed. (That’s right, the Celtics have been 43 points per 100 worse with Garnett on the bench this postseason.)

So how good is Rondo? Retire-His-Jersey-Now good, as some Celtics faithful claim? Or simply the benefactor of a good defensive situation, as his detractors profess?

Rondo is receiving high praise for his basic box score averages (24 points, 7 rebounds and 11 assists per game in the Eastern Conference Finals) and frequent triple-doubles. First, it’s important to remember box numbers are just measuring something, and are limited in what we can conclude about a player. Second, and more importantly, is that all assists aren’t created equally.

Indeed, if we look back on the two year study we presented last year on creating and pressuring defense, Rondo has the least important assists of anyone of the league; His Opportunity Created to assist ratio is lower than any other high profile creator in the league. All this suggests what the eye sees: Rondo does a lot of sitting back and making solid passes to open shooters.

So why doesn’t he pressure defenses like Chris Paul or Steve Nash? The simplest answer is that Rajon Rondo is a terrible, terrible shooter of the basketball. And that shooting, as we’ve seen in the Spacing Effect, is an enormous part of being good offensive player. Consider the simplest measure of shooting, the open 15-foot free throw. Here’s where Rondo ranked this year among guards:

Dead last.

Even worse, he as an outlier of the worst kind. Among basketball-reference’s “guards only” who qualified for the free throw title, he was a whopping 13% worse than the penultimate player:..

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