Indefensible Rondo is Gaining MVP Traction
BOSTON – There is nothing that can stop Rajon Rondo at this point of his career. Not any defense. Not any opposing player. Not even a sprained ankle.
Rondo fought through all of those obstacles Saturday afternoon against the Raptors and all he did was accumulate 20 assists for the second time in nine games. His performance was mind-blowing at times, causing many to conjure up thoughts of a future Most Valuable Player.
To be mentioned alongside those three sacred letters – MVP – is a compliment of the highest regard. If Rondo continues to play at the pace he’s playing at, he’ll garner much more than just a mention.
Like nearly all of the league’s past MVPs, Rondo can currently be placed in the category of ‘indefensible.’ He has always been an assist machine, but now he has added a consistent jump shot to his arsenal that is causing nightmares for opponents.
Rondo is shooting 52.6 percent on mid-range jumpers this season, according to the NBA’s advanced statistics tool. That’s not just average; that’s great. Here’s how great that percentage is: it’s higher than the average mid-range percentage of Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest mid-range shooters of all time, over the past five seasons. Nowittzki’s average percentage over that time period is 49.7 percent.
The league must now defend Rondo in a way opponents had always feared. They used to go “under” screens and dare Rondo to shoot. Now they’re being forced to respect his shot and go “over” screens, which opens up even more alleys for Rondo to pick the opposition apart. Doc Rivers explained this new phenomenon after Saturday’s win.
“It’s hard because he’s so smart,” Rivers said as he began his explanation. “Now he’s making the shot (so) it’s a lot harder. That’s why the elbow action in the second half kept working, because they had to go over the top and with him. I mean, that gives him room.”
Room to carve up opponents to the tune of 14.3 PPG and a league-leading 12.6 APG. Both of those numbers would set new career highs, and the assist average is nearly a full assist more than his 2011-12 number of 11.7 APG that won the assist crown by a landslide.
One of Rondo’s newest teammates, Courtney Lee, is witnessing No. 9’s abilities on a nightly basis for the first time this season. Lee has already fallen in love with Rondo’s play and chose to compare his teammate to a player who has won multiple MVPs in another sport.
“He’s Peyton Manning out there,” Lee said. “He’s picking the defense apart and he’s getting the ball to guys in the right position to score. He was actually mad about the 20 assists; he thought he could have gotten 30.”
Thirty assists in an NBA game? That’s unheard of. Yet Rondo is realistically capable of reaching such video game numbers. Heck, he racked up 20 on Saturday and only played 96 seconds of the fourth quarter.
If the NBA is an oyster, it may be sitting inside Rondo’s freakishly long hands. He has a floor game that is indefensible, and as Rivers noted Saturday afternoon, it’s indescribable, too.
“I can’t (describe it),” Rivers said. “It’s an offense in itself.”
That offense isn’t going anywhere soon. Most NBA players puff out their chests after 20-point games, but Rondo prefers to do so after double-digit assist performances. He has now reached that feat in 33 consecutive games, which is the third-longest streak in NBA history, and he doesn’t plan on stopping.
“It’s something I look forward to every game,” Rondo said. “Just trying to make my teammates happy and somehow I keep getting to 10 (assists).”
This streak, coupled with two 20-assist performances in his first nine games, is fueling the MVP fire right now. Rondo doesn’t seem to hate the chatter, as he admitted that he’d love to win the award someday.
“Who wouldn’t?” he said. “That’s a dream.”
That’s where Rondo is wrong. A dream is created by lucid thoughts. This, on the other hand, is much more of a reality.
Rondo is an indefensible basketball player whom Rivers called “a rare bird.” Rare birds tend to win MVP awards in this league.
You can do the math and figure out where this is might be heading.
No obstacle has been able to stop Rondo yet this season. If the league’s other 29 teams don’t figure out how to stop him soon, this bird might be flying away with an MVP trophy at the end of the season.