AAAAARRRGHHHH!!! MY EYES!!!!! - via cdn2.sbnation.com
It's common knowledge that Rajon Rondo has a terrible, terrible jumpshot. He could build a small town with all the bricks he chucks up. Babies cry at the sight of this affront to basketball and opposing teams literally beg him to shoot it. He is so bad he caused Kobe Bryant to pioneer a new "I'm gonna ignore you and do what I want" style of defense, employed against Rondo and Rondo alone because only he is awful enough to justify it.
Ridiculous hyperbole aside, the general consensus is that he's a bad shooter - and that any time he does shoot the J it's a win for the defense. But before we all start mulling over trade scenarios (Hey there Deron), let's take a minute to look at some jump-shooting stats (for the purposes of this post, "jump shots" refers to 16-23ft shots) from a few of the league's top PGs, presented without names. (Credit to Hardwood Paroxysm's Mystery Statistics Theater for the basic idea; numbers courtesy of Hoopdata)
- PLAYER A - 43% on 5.0 FGA
- PLAYER B - 40% on 3.0 FGA
- PLAYER C - 40% on 4.7 FGA
- PLAYER D - 42% on 3.0 FGA
- PLAYER E - 43% on 4.2 FGA
So... which of these is Rajon Rondo? Hit the jump to find out.
Rondo is... drumroll please... Player D, right in the middle of this group for FG% on these shots, although last-equal in attempts. (For the record, A = Westbrook, B = Rose, C = Deron, E = CP3) So what does this tell us? For starters, no way is Rondo as awful as he's made out to be. John Wall, Tony Parker, Jameer Nelson and Kyrie Irving are all shooting a lower percentage and yet all (with the possible exception of Wall, who is shooting an abysmal 29%) are considered better jump-shooters.
Now the numbers are probably twisting the truth of the matter here, because Rondo's jumpshots are typically uncontested due to the fact that defenses completely ignore him when he's >10 feet away from the basket. But so what? he still makes the shot 42% of the time! The data only goes back to '07, but Paul Pierce has never shot a higher percentage from that range. I'm not saying that Rondo is a better shooter than Pierce - but in games his jump shots go in the basket more often than Pierce's. The Captain is often praised for his ability to create a decent shot (namely his trademark step-back jumper) whenever he wants, but all Rondo has to do is bring the ball up the court to get that wide open jumper. As a team the Celtics shoot .454 from the field, significantly above Rondo's percentage on long two pointers. But this figure includes layups, transition buckets and other easy sources of offense, so it's not unreasonable to think that if you looked at only "traditional" half-court offense Rondo's 42% would be above the team's overall FG% in this situation.
So why not shoot it more often? Why not pull the trigger every time someone sags back past the free throw line on a high pick 'n' roll? The reality is that an open Rondo jumper is a Good Thing for the C's, and the sooner the rest of the league knows about it, the better. Why is this? Respect. This excellent article at 48 Minutes of Hell talks about the decline of Tim Duncan's formerly automatic bank shot, and the effect it had on the Spurs' offense. If you can't be bothered reading it, just think about what Ray Allen does for the Celtics - his reputation alone spreads the floor and compromises the defense, providing hard-to-quantify but very real benefits for the rest of the team. If Rondo takes more jump shots and makes them at a sufficient rate to earn the respect of the league, the whole dynamic of the Cs' offense could change for the better as the floor opens up. For years people have been saying that if Rondo could get a better jumper, he could be one of the best players in the league because it would change the way he's guarded - I'm saying that it's good enough right now. He just doesn't take the shot enough for anyone to notice.
So please, Rajon, start bombing up those jumpers. Take 10 a game if you keep getting left open. It's good for the team now because getting a 42% shot at will in the half-court is a win. It's good for the team in the future because if keep hitting at that rate you'll start to get covered, opening up passing lanes to set up other players. And it helps the team in the more distant future because the more confident you are with that jump shot when you become the undisputed #1 offensive option, the better.