By Marc D'Amico
August 30, 2012
BOSTON – There are only a few active players who immediately come to mind when you hear the words “NBA MVP.” You’d be remiss not to conjure up thoughts of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan in their prime.
Maybe the time is approaching for us to add Rajon Rondo to that list.
Although Rondo may not be the friendliest player on the court or with the media, the fact of the matter is that he is one of the greatest players in our league. He has surged onto the NBA scene over the past few seasons by elevating his game to new heights time and time again. His assist average has climbed in every season of his career and he averaged a league-leading 11.7 APG in 2011-12.
Rajon Rondo's statistics have blown by those of former MVP Steve Nash over the past couple of seasons.
Read that again: a league-leading 11.7 APG in 2011-12 - this coming during a modern day golden age of point guards.
To give you an idea of how great Rondo’s season was, his 11.7 APG last season were more than Nash averaged in either of his MVP seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
These facts don’t only mean that Rondo is currently one of the best passers in the league. They prove that he is the best passer in the league. And that’s saying something when there are guys like Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook out there.
Let’s take this one step further. Believe it or not, Rondo can actually make a claim that he is the best passer the league has seen in nearly two decades. Take a guess at how far back you need to turn the clock to find a season in which a point guard averaged more than Rondo’s 11.7 APG.
Five years? Ten years? Fifteen years?
Try 17 years, all the way back to John Stockton’s 12.3 APG average during the 1994-95 season.
Rondo has yet to reach Stockton’s level, and he hasn’t taken down multiple MVPs like Stockton’s former running mate, Karl Malone, but don’t rule those possibilities out. Sportswriters and broadcasters who make up the panel that selects the NBA’s MVP are noticing Rondo’s remarkable level of play.
Boston’s point guard received his first-ever MVP vote after the 2010-11 season, a single third-place vote. That may seem like one measly vote, but it broke Rondo into the MVP conversation. That conversation is not an easy one to break into.
Rondo has only gained traction in the discussion since that initial vote. He climbed all the way up to eighth place on the list with eight total votes following the 2011-12 season. Only six players received more votes than Rondo and he finished ahead of the likes of Nash, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose.
Why is Rondo climbing the MVP list while his team’s regular-season performance has been dipping slightly over the past two seasons? It’s clear that many people around the country credit Rondo for keeping the Celtics in the discussion regarding elite teams.
The Celtics are Rondo’s team. He is the starter, the engine and the breaks of this green and white car, and everyone knows it. More often than not, he’s starting the C’s up and putting them into fifth gear with his eclectic set of skills.
Rondo might have the widest set of basketball skills this side of Miami’s James. Interestingly, if you’re looking for a triple-double threat, Rondo is your guy instead of James, according to last season’s numbers.
Rondo finished the 2011-12 campaign with a league-leading six triple-doubles in just 53 games played. That number accounts for one-third of the triple-doubles that were accumulated across the league during the regular season. Look for another NBA player who had even two triple-doubles last season and you’ll be looking for the rest of your life; Rondo is the only one. He averaged a triple-double for every 8.8 games he played in.
He was even better in the playoffs. Rondo stacked up four triple-doubles in only 19 playoff games. He recorded at least one in each of Boston’s three playoff series, including a monster 22-point, 10-rebound, 14-assist game against the eventual champion Heat.
It’s performances like those that have garnered the watchful eye of basketball enthusiasts around the world. Rondo came into the league as a quiet and unproven youngster five years ago. Since then, he has quickly turned himself into one of the most outstanding and electric players in the world.
Now he has an improved supporting cast around him that could help him push for 12.0 to 13.0 APG during the 2012-13 season. Rondo is well armed to continue his climb up the proverbial ladder, and his MVP votes are likely to follow suit.