Many, including myself, have engaged in recent Rondo evaluations... ranging from the view that Rondo is hurting the team, to the thought that the Earth nearly stands still at the thought of the Celtics trading him. I have consistently fallen somewhere in the middle, claiming that the recent team success ( both visual and statistical) is more to do with an improvement in a playing style that fits the current players, more than a persecution of Rondo as a player. Granted, his style (whether orchestrated by Doc, or his own creation), has been subject to criticism...some earned / some perceptual.
Above these debates however, the explanation has been made by some who claim that this upturn in the Celtic's play is basically because we simply are making more of our shots. This is certainly true, but follow me a minute. Staunch defenders of Rondo also claim that we cant succeed without his innumerable talents. While I agree that his rebounding is superior to most, if not all PG's, it seems that his passing and floor leader qualities get most of the accolades. So here it is. If a Rondo-led offense was getting the same basic shots as the Rondo-less offense, it would seem to prove the theory that success is just a matter of our shots falling (or not). So if that is indeed the case, wouldn't it logically seem to suggest that it makes little difference whether Rondo, or someone else, was the PG? If our assist and field goal percentage is higher now (albeit a small sample), even if it went back to "normal", the effect of Rondo's absence seems minimal. In addition, the habit of losing late leads is a product of the last 3 years, and seems to have no preference for Rondo, or any other players manning the position. Of course there are always intangibles, but many can come up with just as many positives as negatives...and that has been debated to death. I personally see a more balanced, free flowing offense that is producing as many or more open looks than the offense with Rondo..except more players are scoring and contributing. It is possible that Rondo could make this style of play even more effective, since he is an exceptional passer. The only question is: can he play without primarily having the ball in his hands?
Interestingly enough, a Rondo supporter claimed that it was a too small a sample size to evaluate "the Rondo effect", and I agree completely. But if we fall back on his (true) statements that we are indeed making shots now that we earlier missed, wouldn't it then be irrelevent how many games we play without Rondo to achieve an adequate sample size? In other words, we could point to bad or good shooting over any stretch of time, but since variables for why shooters and teams have slumps cannot really be explained, offensive success or failure of a PG seems, by this definition, dependent on simply team shooting percentages above all else. In fact it would be a non-argument unless we somehow prove that a substantial number of shots were of higher quality with one PG versus the committee of passers that we now employ. In other words, those that argue that we are more effective with Rondo, must also concede that, under their own definition of success, it is equally possible that we are more effective without him.
Defensively, it is obvious that AB/Lee require less help on their man than Rondo...but that does not mean Rondo cannot play defense as well. He just needs to do it to his potential. Maybe, without 90% of ball handling duties, he will have adequate energy to accomplish this. Coupled with rest (based on the now established fact that we can survive with him off the floor) Rondo could be dominant. Pierce, for example, is playing fewer minutes, but playing well in part from more rest. His focus, rebounding and passing has risen as his minutes have been managed.
In summary, Rondo has limitless potential as a transition leader, defender, and scorer (if needed). But those that see the Celtics as dead in the water without him seem to over-estimate the overall NEED for a primary ball handler, and under-estimate the visible and positive EFFECT of involving more players in a less predictable offense. Hopefully, upon Rondo's return, Doc can find a balance with old and new philosophies to make the Celtics even more dangerous.
For politically correct reasons, the word "better" was not used in the making of this post.