With the Boston Celtics making big changes to their roster this summer, the biggest issue going forward for the team is what to do with point guard Rajon Rondo. Currently recovering from season-ending knee surgery, Rondo no longer has the talent around him to make the Celtics a championship contender, but he himself might be too good of a player to allow the team to tank and get a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Next year’s draft is supposed to be the best draft since the LeBron James/Dwayne Wade/Chris Bosh/Carmelo Anthony draft in 2003, and there are a lot of terrible teams in the NBA, so tanking is not going to be easy.
Rondo, while very intelligent and very talented, has some major flaws in his game that would prevent him, in my opinion, from being the elite franchise player many Celtics fans think or hope he is. He is a bad shooter, which makes him a liability at the end of games since he is afraid to go to the three point line. While Rondo is a great performer in big games, his complacency in games that are not nationally televised is staggering. People seem to forget that before Rondo got hurt last season, the Celtics had a losing record and were out of the playoff picture. Rondo has gotten into conflicts with his coaches at every level, whether at the University of Kentucky or the Boston Celtics or Team USA. While he is talented, the idea of having him be your best player should scare Celtics fans.
One of the most frustrating things about Rondo’s game is that he’s found a way to make the assist into a selfish statistic. He is a phenomenal passer and his ability to distribute the ball adds a great dynamic to the Celtics’ offense. The problem is that sometimes it looks like he’s choosing the plays he makes based on what will most likely credit him with an assist and not necessarily the most efficient scoring play. Too many times I’ve seen him have an open look to drive to the hoop, only to make a flashy pass behind his back at the last second instead and risking a turnover instead of taking the easy two points that were in front of him. Rondo is also one of the most overrated defensive players in the NBA today a as he cheats and plays for the steal instead of focusing on the man he should be covering. These are fixable flaws, but NBA stars tend to get stubborn the longer they play and the more people tell them how great they are.
The issues with Rondo being a franchise player go beyond Rondo himself. In recent years, it seems that basketball fans and writers have overrated and overvalued the point guard position. The last team whose best player was their point guard to win the NBA Finals was Isiah Thomas’ Detroit Pistons in 1990. Take a look at the best PGs of the last 30 years excluding Thomas and Magic Johnson. John Stockton is the NBA’s all time assist leader and widely considered the best pure point guard (since Magic could play any position if needed) in the history of the game. Stockton has as many championship rings as I do. The same can be said for Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. While one of the best point guards of all time, Jason Kidd was 38 years old and the fourth or fifth best player on his team when he won his championship ring in 2011. Rondo’s one ring came as a young player and the fifth or sixth best player on the Celtics behind Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and (arguably) James Posey. Tony Parker is a great player and has three rings, but Tim Duncan has been the man in San Antonio as long as he has been there. For all the hype these players have gotten, it hasn’t amounted to championship glory when they were their team’s best player.
It will be interesting to see how the team handles their star point guard this season. They could sit him out for an extended period of time to make sure his knee is fully healed. New coach Brad Stevens will need to assert himself with a player notorious for undermining even established coaches like Doc Rivers and Mike Krzyzewski. If things are not going well, maybe the Celtics could move him at the trade deadline. It would be nice to have Rondo around to help the new lottery player the Celtics could potentially draft, but the prospect of Rajon Rondo being the leader and the best player in the next Celtics championship team seems far fetched.