NBA Finals Breakdown – Rajon Rondo Can No Longer Be Considered Elite

With four games tucked away in NBA history, the steamrolling bandwagon for Rajon Rondo that stock piled throughout the first three round of the playoffs, has suddenly run out of fuel. Everyone, including myself, marveled at the kid and he has certainly been a big reason why Boston has emerged in the NBA Finals. Still, it’s hard for me to call him the best point guard in the league, let alone an elite one.

Aside from maybe three games (Game 4 and 6 against Cleveland and maybe Game 2 against the Lakers), Rondo hasn’t been a huge asset against the NBA betting line. Part of that is because the Celtics have found themselves in a lot of grueling, nail biting fourth quarters.

When it comes to Rondo, nothing has stood out more than his fourth quarter performances. You can call it unselfish to let Pierce or Allen take over games in the fourth, and while I naturally assumed that Rondo just wasn’t ready to take the game winning shots, I now believe that he can’t.

In the fourth quarter of Game 4, Rondo was inbounding the ball to Pierce because the Lakers were intending to foul and put somebody at the line. Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics knew that Rondo couldn’t shoot free-throws well, and weren’t about to place the balance of the NBA Finals in his unreliable hands.

Rondo has gone 67-for-110 from the charity stripe, giving him a .609 percent stat line in the NBA Finals. He has averaged 16.0 points per game and 9.5 assists, while also hawking 5.5 rebounds, but nothing about his play has stood out that much.

Even more disturbing is the fact that veteran Derek Fisher has seemingly solved Rondo defensively. By every stretch of the imagination, Rondo should be blowing through the 35-year old at every step and turn. I mean, there’s an 11-year age difference between the two. Why is that Rondo can’t seem to get around Fisher, when Nate Robinson is barreling through him every chance he gets?

It’s easy to be called the best point-guard in the game when you’re playing with two or three potential hall of famers (honestly, I don’t think Pierce gets in to the HOF, but that’s for another time) but Rondo’s can’t be considered an elite point-guard until he actually shows up in the NBA Finals. Being shell shocked by the big stage can cause players to shrink in to mere mortals, but that’s not an excuse for Rondo, who has been on that stage before.

There’s no doubting that Rondo is one of the best point-guards in the league and any franchise would love to have him in the fold. Yet ranking him ahead of Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Chris Paul borders on preposterous.

Rondo led all players at his position in field-goal percentage (.508) but also took just 11.2 shots per game. Derrick Rose took 17.6 shots per game and averaged a .489 shooting percentage. Even Steve Nash took 12.2 shots and ranked just behind Rondo with a .507 field goal percentage.

A point-guard is meant to run the offense and distribute the ball, and Rondo does that fairly well. He ranked fourth in the league with 9.8 assists per game in the regular season, which is great and all, but it’s hardly a measure of how good he is. Imagine how many assists Derrick Rose could manage if he was passing to LeBron. Try to percolate how many assists a guy like Mario Chalmers could get if he was passing to Wade and Amar’e. Rondo’s team is amazing, and that’s part of the reason we think he is by osmosis.

Still, I can’t get around the fact that he can’t hit free-throws. Of all point-guards who log more than 30 minutes per game, Rondo is by far the worst guy to have at the line. Isn’t that kind of important at the point-guard position, especially considering you’re the one getting fouled in crunch time when opponents are behind?

The player he’s most like is Tony Parker, because the majority of his points came in the paint on floaters and lay-ups. He’s deceptively quick, and by no means a pitbull like Jason Kidd used to be and Deron Williams is. So why is it that we’re calling him great when he can’t shoot the ball effectively on a consistent basis?

I belabored the point in my series preview for NBA Finals betting that Rondo has had big games in the playoffs, and has notched games with 27, 29 and 25 points. But aside from diving for a free ball at Jason Williams feet, has he done anything astoundingly memorable?

Go ahead and think about it. Something should stand out about this guy through four playoff series right? Got anything yet? Just the diving loose ball highlight on Jason Williams? Thought so.

Big fourth quarter moments have gone to his teammates, and Derek Fisher has been a hero in one of the games during the finals already. It just seems strange to me that everyone is saying “Rondo! Rondo! Rondo!” but nobody is really looking at the numbers or the highlights. His stats against the Lakers in four games have been his worst of these playoffs.

This series is far from over, and Rondo still has a chance to cement the thought that he is an elite player. Considering how he’s playing in the grand finale of NBA playoff betting, it doesn’t seem like he has the nuts to man up in the spotlight. Amazing what happens when you play on an incredible team. He’s good, but far from great.