Celtics Looking Strong at Point Guard
Celtics.com is rolling out a position-by-position outlook for Boston’s 2012-13 roster. In the first installment of the five-part series, we take a look at the situation at point guard.
BOSTON – The one position that is a clear advantage for the Boston Celtics nearly every night of the season is point guard, and that is because of the presence of Rajon Rondo.
No. 9 has been a consistent force for the Celtics over the past three years. Rondo’s level of play has led to three consecutive All-Star appearances for the Eastern Conference and he has cemented himself into the conversation of best point guard in the world. As we outlined here, he’s also turning himself into a legitimate MVP candidate.
The Celtics, however, aren’t concerning themselves with Rondo’s accolades. They simply want him to continue to be the leader and director of their traffic at the offensive end of the court.
It is often said that a basketball team’s point guard, much like a football team’s quarterback, is an extension of the head coach onto the field. That couldn’t be more true for the Celtics since Rondo came into his own in the NBA.
Rondo and Doc Rivers are on the same page, period. They’ve grown close over the past six seasons, close enough that they now see the game through the same lens and break it down in the same fashion. Rivers has gone on record as saying that Rondo is the smartest point guard he’s ever been around, and he’s been around a lot of them.
Much of Rondo’s success is due to his incredible vision, creativity and pure skill, but the basketball IQ that Rivers alludes to might be his most important asset. He consistently makes the best decision possible and, as a result, is the best in the game at creating open shots for his teammates.
Rondo can make claim to those statements because he has mastered Doc Rivers’ offense. Rivers trusts Rondo to call the correct plays and execute them as they’re intended to be executed. The duo has a comfort zone at this position that not many teams can make claim to. Yes, there are plenty of talented point guards in this league, but not all of those point guards make the All-Star team every season and have a connection with their coach like that of Rondo and Rivers.
And no point guard in the league – we repeat: no point guard in the league – has a better command of the game at the offensive end.
Rondo won the NBA assist crown last season by dishing out a career-best 11.7 APG in 2011-12. The race for that crown wasn’t even close. Rondo beat Steve Nash, who finished second, by a full assist per game. A full assist! That is the largest margin we’ve seen in the NBA since 2006-07, when Nash won the assist title by 2.3 APG over Deron Williams.
The Celtics know that they’ll have the league’s top assist man on the floor nearly every night of the season. Rondo is durable, as he’s missed an average of only 6.5 games per season since he entered the league in 2006. That number is interestingly low considering that he is often on the wrong end of a physical beating around the cup.
There are, however, times when Rondo isn’t available. He can’t play 48 minutes per game for all 82 regular season games and then the playoffs. The Celtics need a backup point guard, and they will have several options this season.
There isn’t a pure point guard on the roster outside of Rondo, but there are numerous players who can eat up minutes at the position. Jason Terry, Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling have all played substantial NBA minutes at point guard during their careers. In fact, Terry was regarded as a scoring point guard in the early stages of his career. He averaged 5.6 APG during his first six NBA seasons. In comparison, Rondo averaged 8.1 APG over his first six seasons. So Terry is clearly capable of handling the ball and distributing.
Do not allow that fact to mislead you, though. Terry was brought in to be a sharpshooter off the bench and fill a role similar to the one he excelled in with the Dallas Mavericks. He will, however, be called upon to man the point guard position from time to time.
Boston has rarely had a true backup point guard for Rondo since he became the full-fledged starter in 2007-08. The team knows that he’ll be on the court for about 37 minutes a night, which means the C’s need someone else to bring the ball up the court for only 11 minutes. Last season it was Bradley, Dooling and E’Twaun Moore who split those minutes up as combo guards. This season it will be the trio of Terry, Bradley and Dooling – a clear upgrade - once Bradley is fully recovered from his double-shoulder surgery this offseason.
All is bright for Boston’s point guard position with Rondo at the head of the table. He is the driving force of this team and everyone knows it. With two reliable veterans behind him and an emerging young talent, too, the Celtics should have one of the best point guard crops in the league this season.