It sounded simple enough. Get Rondo the ball and have him create for the team. It worked for five seasons with The Big Three. Why wouldn't it work again? Sure, he'd now be surrounded by younger, less experienced players rather than the bevy of Hall of Famers that he was used to, but his new teammates would be younger, faster, and more athletic. Obviously, it hasn't worked out that way.
To his credit, Rondo has started to round back into form. Using NBA.com/stats' player tracking statistics, Rondo ranks 32nd in the league in scoring on drives with 4.3 ppg. He's admitted that his runner and floater game touch has been one of the last things to come back in his comeback, but that home win against Miami would prove otherwise.
However, where Rondo has really impressed has been how the team has performed when the point guard penetrates the paint. Rondo ranks 5th in the league in teams points off drives at 10.9 (tied with Goran Dragic) behind Monta Ellis, Ty Lawson, Tony Parker, and Tyreke Evans. As he gets his explosiveness back, those numbers will rise, but he's still one of the best at sucking in the D and either finding a cutter (AVERY BRADLEY!) or kicking it out for an open 3 (AVERY BRADLEY!).
But Rondo can't do it alone and it's been a season of trying to find a Robin to Rajon's Batman. Jeff Green was supposed to make that jump this year. He was supposed to be that other option on the floor that the team could lean on. He wanted that responsibility. He's shown us flashes of greatness, but only to be followed by dark periods where he seems disinterested and meh. Consider his player tracking stats: on average, Green attempts 3.8 drives, 4.3 catch-and-shots, and 4.2 pull-ups. Those sound like the numbers of a well-rounded player, but consider Green's gifts. Swingmen with his athletic abilities should be able drive past slower 3's and 4's and overpower smaller 2's. Through almost 80 games, Green is more likely to take a long two rather than put his head down and take it to the hole. Green averages 4.3 free throw attempts per game; Tony Wroten and Nick Young don't play nearly as much and they still manage to get to the line more.
For now, Brad Stevens' offense is fairly equal opportunity. Generally, the action starts with a high pick-and-roll between the point guard and a big and as the defense shifts, the ball rotates to try to find the man with an advantage. I hate to pick on Jeff, but here's an example of Good Jeff:
The ball finds him in space after a solid Brandon Bass down screen and instead of pulling up for an off-balance three, he takes it strong against a late rotating Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. But here's the yang:
The lane is a little more congested, but Green shouldn't settle there. There's still 10 seconds left on the shot clock, their shot blocker at the free throw line, and the baseline available. Maybe it's nitpicking, but this has been Green's MO all year. If that's Gerald Wallace, Crash pivots, puts the ball on the floor, and attacks the left side.
With two picks in the upcoming draft, the conventional thinking is that the Celtics should target a true center. A rumored deal for Houston's Omer Asik fizzled last winter and never really resurfaced at the deadline, so Danny might have to find one in the draft. If the standings hold and the ping pong balls bounce by the numbers, Boston could miss out on the recently declared Joel Embiid. Our resident draft expert, Kevin O'Connor, has Noah Vonleh as the next defensive big at #6 of his draft board with Clint Capela, Jusuf Nurkic, and Willie Cauley-Stein in the range of Boston's second pick.
But let's say that doesn't happen. Let's say that somehow Asik does make it into a Celtics jersey by next October or Stevens and Ainge want to see another year out of Vitor Faverani. In a once touted draft of difference makers, Danny decides to just pick the best available player at both spots. There are the pre-season favorites in Jabari Parker (who hasn't officially declared) and Andrew Wiggins. Kevin compares Wiggins to Jeff Green 2.0 and others have likened Parker to Carmelo, but odds are, neither will be available if we pick outside of the top-3.
Who's next? It may seem counterintuitive with Rondo already running point, but I like the idea of selecting Dante Exum. Because he doesn't play stateside, he's somewhat of an unknown commodity but if his potential is even half of what scouts seen in him, I take the risk. What the Celtics are in dire need of is a playmaker that can create for himself or others when the ball swings to the weak side. Exum is young, but his ball-handling and passing would add some versatility in Stevens' motion offense.
Kevin went into detail about how Rondo shouldering much of the ball-handling responsibilities has hurt the Celtics in late game situations (particularly in last night's breakdown in Atlanta) and that just enforces the need to find another go-to man or at least one that can take advantage of the defense after Rondo forces the first rotation.
There's also that second pick at #18 from Brooklyn. Kevin has him off the board at this point, but I'd love to see Nik Stauskas here. In his freshman year, he was just a spot up shooter, but this season, he blossomed into an effective player off the dribble in John Beilein's offense. More of a target might be UCLA's Kyle Anderson, another tall PG at 6'9 who'd be looking more to pass but can also create his own offense.