Last year, Rajon Rondo finished ranked 17th by ESPN’s player rankings. This year he is up to 12th. Last year, Rondo posted 11.9 points per game and 11.7 assists per game, with a PER of 17.55.
The real question in the minds of many Celtics fans is as to whether he doesn’t belong ranked even higher. Is Deron Williams better than Rondo? Or does he just score more? Can the same be said about Russell Westbrook?
What makes Williams and Westbrook better, save the fact they score more points? Rondo is a superior defender and floor general and sets his teammates up a lot better than both the Nets and Thunder point guards.
For all Rondo may not be yet as a player, the only thing stopping him from being the best point guard in the NBA is lacking a jumper. If Rondo could start hitting mid range jumpers, there wouldn’t be a guy in the league capable of guarding him. Premier defenders both at his position (Chris Paul, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Lowry) and those out of position (see: LeBron James) have a lot of trouble with Rondo’s ability to get to the basket.
Is Rondo getting enough respect? Is 12th “good enough?” It really all depends on how you evaluate impact. Rondo is rarely injured, plays a lot of minutes, and helps the Celtics remain an elite defensive team. Combining Rondo with Avery Bradley in the backcourt proved devastating for opposing backcourts last year, as the team closed out the season 14-5 with Bradley starting alongside Rondo. Throwing in Courtney Lee to supplant Bradley should work out well, and Rondo will thrive this season.
He’s risen from last year, and the rankings reflect it, but Rondo can rise higher still. If he works on his shooting and gains some confidence from mid range, he could be ranked ahead of Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook next season, and passing Chris Paul and Derrick Rose as the best point guard in the league is a real possibility.