Rondo Among C's Who Could Make The Leap

BOSTON – It’s a well-known fact that the Boston Celtics are in rebuilding mode. In order for them to take the next step in that process, they need several of their players to take a personal step forward this season.

Many refer to this individual progress as “the leap,” and that leap can occur on many different levels. The most important leap of all is from great to superstar. Then there’s the jump from good player to great player, and from role player to featured player.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo will look to make the leap back to superstar status during his first full season back from ACL surgery.
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE/Getty Images

Boston has players who fall into each of those categories, and Rajon Rondo is the man who headlines that list. He is ‘the man’ on this team. The Celtics need him to be a superstar.

Let’s not forget that Rondo has been such in the past. He is a four-time All-Star, an NBA champion and a triple-double machine. However, he was none of those last season.

Rondo returned to Boston’s lineup on Jan. 17 after missing nearly a year of action with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He was a very good player during his 30 appearances, averaging 11.7 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 9.8 assists per game.

Those numbers are solid, but Rondo would never admit to being satisfied with them. He wants to be a superstar – the best point guard in the league. That’s what he expects out of himself.

According to some who know him best, the eight-year veteran is poised to make a run at those monikers this upcoming season. Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers both believe that Rondo is on a path toward greatness.

“Watching Rondo right now and watching him develop as a player, I feel like he’s headed towards the best year of his career,” Ainge said in the spring, and many more times since.

Rivers, who still talks regularly with Rondo, wasn’t far behind Ainge’s comments when he spoke to the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn last week.

“Rondo’s going to be great this year,” said Rivers. “He’s going to be healthy… I think Rondo will have a great year.”

The Celtics will be pretty well off if Rondo can live up to these lofty predictions. However, he can’t carry the Celtics on his own. He’ll need a ton of help, and Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger should be there to provide it.

Bradley is fresh off of signing a new contract that will keep him in Boston for the foreseeable future. He has been a defensive star for the past three seasons while his offense has attempted to catch up. Now is the time for him to put it all together.

The shooting guard is coming off of the best season of his career during which he averaged a career-high 14.9 PPG and 3.8 RPG. He also shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range, which ranked 24th in the league.

A season like that has set the table for a breakout year from Bradley. He’s on the cusp of becoming a dynamic two-way player who can alter the course of a game in a myriad of ways. Ainge has used the word “great” on several occasions when discussing Bradley’s future. With a new contract and another summer of seasoning under his belt, this is Bradley’s year to make the leap.

Sullinger undoubtedly wants to make a similar leap, but it’s much more realistic to expect the big man to make the jump to a featured player this season. Remember, he averaged fewer than 28 minutes per game last season and has only 119 NBA games under his belt. Baby steps.

That being said, Sullinger’s baby step might be a bit larger than most. He led Boston’s full-time players (20-plus MPG) in player efficiency rating last season with a mark of 16.4. Sullinger also ranked third on the team in scoring (13.3 PPG) and first on the team in rebounding (8.1 RPG).

Considering those numbers, becoming a true featured player – in other words, a top offensive option and a nightly double-double threat – has to be the next step in his career. An increase in shot attempts, playing time and 3-point efficiency could leave analysts predicting greatness from Sullinger in the future.

This is rebuild year No. 2 for the Celtics, but it’s also a leap year. This is the season for Rondo, Bradley and Sullinger to take it to the next level.