Didn't we already close the book on the narrative that Rajon Rondo can't shoot? Rondo certainly did enter the NBA as an abominable shooter, but he has developed to a stage that defenders have to at least respect his shot. Saying "Rondo can't shoot" is like saying "LeBron will never win a championship." It's an erroneous statement that has been proven wrong time after time.
Over the course of the past five seasons, NBA teams have shot 39.5 percent from mid-range. Rondo comes in at just a hair above at 41.3 percent. He's above average. But looking more closely at the past two seasons, Rondo is at 46.6 percent from mid-range, which is actually quite good.
Defenders almost always go under screens when Rondo is the pick-and-roll ball handler, which leaves him wide open for shots, but the fact he can at least drain the attempts is what counts. Whether a player is open or not is a moot point, because all that really matters is whether the shot is a make or miss. Regardless, Rondo is such a lethal dribbler that he'd get to the basket with ease if defenders chose to go over screens.
Show someone these statistics and they'll say, "but he still can't shoot the three-pointer." Well, this is partially true, and it's really the main topic of conversation that needs to be looked at more closely, in addition to his free throw shooting.
Since 2009, Rondo is shooting 24.6 percent from three, but he is at a clip of 27.1 percent the past two seasons. No matter how you slice it, the numbers don't look good, but they really don't tell the whole story.
|Year||Isolation||P&R Ball Handler||Spot-Up|
|2009-10||26.9% (7/26)||30.8% (4/13)||32.6% (14/43)|
|2010-11||18.8% (3/16)||100% (1/1)||30.8% (4/13)|
|2011-12||41.7% (5/12)||27.8% (5/18)||12.9% (4/31)|
|2012-13||0% (0/10)||45.5% (5/11)||22.7% (5/22)|
|2013-14||20% (4/20)||44% (11/25)||17.2% (5/29)|
|Total||22.6% (19/84)||38.2% (26/68)||23.2% (32/138)|
After reviewing the above stats courtesy of mySynergySports, it becomes clear that Rondo has consistently struggled shooting threes out of isolation and spot-up situations, but he is quite good out of the pick-and-roll. These totals suggest that he is efficient when he's open (which he almost always is in the pick-and-roll), but he has difficulties when his shot is contested (isolations) or if it's off the catch (spot-ups).
Considering Rondo's success shooting the three in the screen game, it may be beneficial to utilize this skill more in 2014, especially since he's shooting at 44.4 percent the past two years. It may be a small sample size, but it's not unreasonable to assume he can't replicate this success with more reps, since defenders will still probably play him the same way.
His numbers in isolation shouldn't be too concerning. He might not score with this play type, but when defended one-on-one he's able to create with penetration and kick outs to open teammates. Scoring here, especially shooting the three, is not worth harping on.
But what does need to improve is Rondo's spot-up three-point shooting. Playing in Brad Stevens' motion-offense, it's a major bonus if he can spread the floor by spotting up from beyond the arc. At 17.1 percent the past three campaigns, Rondo has a long way to go before he can even be considered a threat.
Part of the reason for his struggles may be due to the simple fact that most point guards are generally better shooting off the dribble; they've always had the ball in their hands from a young age, so most of their experience came from shooting after dribbling. For them, it's foreign to hover on the perimeter, catch the ball, set their feet, and then shoot.
Considering the fact that Rondo has improved nearly every facet of his game over his eight-year career with the Boston Celtics, it's quite possible that he will add a new dimension to his shooting. He's already a solid shooter from mid-range, and in the pick-and-roll from three, so why can't he add the ability to spot-up?
If Rajon Rondo is working as hard as he has in past summers, maybe he'll come back this season as an improved shooter, but before we get to that point we have to stop and remember that he can shoot well in certain situations.