SportVu's Take on Rondo's First Two Months
BOSTON – During every Celtics game, six SportVu cameras sit atop TD Garden to track the movements of every player and the basketball at a rate of 25 times per second. They’ve had the opportunity to track Rajon Rondo for two full months, and their findings have done nothing but confirm the point guard’s pass-happy reputation.
Rondo, who will play in his 20th game of the season on Friday, returned to the lineup on Jan. 17. SportVu’s technology has been tracking him ever since, from the amount of time the ball stays in his hands, to the average speed he moves at, to the amount of passes he makes per game. SportVu’s findings, which are available at NBA.com/stats, paint the picture of Rondo’s tendencies as a playmaking point guard.
The NBA is currently loaded with playmaking point guards, but Rondo is unique compared to most of them. As opposed to many of the league’s other star floor generals, Rondo has one thing on his mind when the ball is in his hands: dishing out assists.
Rondo is very similar to other point guards around the league in that he dominates the ball. SportVu tells us that Rondo ranks fifth in the league in touches per game (87.4) and eighth in the league in front court touches per game (72.6). Every player ahead of him in those categories happens to also be a point guard.
All of those touches mean that Rondo has the basketball on a string for quite a bit of time. Rondo has possessed the ball for an average of 7.3 minutes during his 31.4 minutes of action, according to SportVu. Only John Wall (7.9 minutes) and Isaiah Thomas (7.6 minutes) possess the ball more often than Rondo does.
What does Rondo do when the ball is in his hands so often? His favorite activity: pass.
Boston’s point guard unleashes the sixth-most passes on average among NBA players, at 67.4 a night. Kemba Walker leads the league in passes with 77.3 per game, and that’s where we begin to notice the difference between Rondo’s passes and those of other point guards.
Rondo’s passes immediately lead to 18.4 shot attempts per game, which is the second-best number in the league. Walker’s, on the other hand, lead to just 11.5 shot attempts. That means Rondo’s passes have double the likelihood to set up an assist than those of Walker. Only one player, Chris Paul, has his passes result in shot attempts more frequently than Rondo’s, and the difference between the two is very slim.
Many have noted that Rondo is at his best when he’s playing a free-flowing style of basketball that doesn’t necessarily follow a script. Doc Rivers used to describe it as “random.” Now, with Rivers in Los Angeles, Brad Stevens is also allowing the point guard to run an unscripted offense.
Rondo loves random. It allows him to put pressure on the defense and then find his teammates for open looks. Oftentimes, he does this via driving to the hoop.
Rondo ranks eighth in the league in drives per game with an average of 8.9. The interesting fact is that he scores only 3.4 points per game off of those drives, which is by far the fewest points scored on average among any of the top 12 drivers in the league.
He doesn’t drive to score. He drives to dish. And it works.
A year off hasn’t prevented Rondo from ranking as one of the top assist men in the league. He currently ranks fourth in the NBA in assists per game (8.7) and third in assists per 48 minutes (13.4). According to SportVu, 20 of the points Boston scores each night are a direct result of Rondo’s passes. That number ranks fifth in the league.
We’ve seen with our own eyes that Rondo is the same guy he used to be, and SportVu has now confirmed it. He continues to be an electric point guard who loves nothing more than to find his teammates for assists.
Six SportVu cameras will sit above the court for Boston’s final 17 games of the season. They’ll watch other point guards dominate the ball, but none of them will do so in the same fashion as Rondo.