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Rondo isn’t as bad a shooter as you think

Chuck - Red's Army October 14, 2013 Celtics News, Rajon Rondo 42 Comments

rrballsAs if we needed yet another statistic in the NBA, we have the ShotScore – a Grantland writer’s method to identify the game’s best scorers.

… the method compares the actual point yield of an individual NBA shooter against an estimated tally of what an average NBA shooter would accrue from that exact same set of shots. This is a useful way to evaluate shooting because unlike field goal percentage, it accounts for where on the floor the shooter is most active and factors that in to the analysis. Midrange shooters are compared against the NBA’s average midrange production, etc.

While I’m not completely on the new stats bandwagon, I’m supporting ShotScore because…

Even though we love to blast Rajon Rondo because “he can’t shoot,” there are a few point guards more deserving of that rep, prominent floor generals who actually fail to create points at above-average rates, from both the inside and the outside. Rondo, believe it or not, can actually makes shots at rates above league averages. In fact, in the last few seasons, he has made his elbow jumper at elite rates, partly because he’s left open and partly because he is an improving shooter.

Most of our knowledgeable readers would have to agree that Rondo’s shooting has improved steadily over his career. If only he could get the FTs to fall more consistently.

So the moral of this story is – if you want to blast a point guard for lack of shooting ability, pick on Ricky Rubio, Ramon Sessions or Russell Westbrook.

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  • Rachael Ray

    Westbrook is a better shooter than Rondo… just because the percentages may be lower at times it doesnt make Westbrook a worse shooter than Rondo. Rondo is usually wide open when he shoots jump shots, whereas Westbrook isn’t. He also shoots in a larger variety of ways than Rondo. He’s better at the 3, and at free throws…

    • Ron Flanders

      Just because he doesn’t make near as many as Rondo from the elbow or 20 feet in, doesn’t mean he’s not the better shooter. What?

      • LA Flake

        Rondo just needs to knock down 70% of his free throws. If he can do that, he’ll average 20ppg easily.

    • Oziel De Oliveira Carneiro

      Shot selection is also part of being a good shooter.

    • frickenWaaaltah

      You are definitely right; it’s just hard to articulate. To say that Rondo is a better shooter than Westbrook just because of this stat analysis is a gross misuse of statistics…an abuse of statistics even.

      By that same logic, Ray Allen is a better shooter at 33+ with his ankles on fire all night long than he was in his prime from 00-05ish, when he had some experience under his belt but before the ankle issues really started to get to him. His percentages went up! Therefore he got better! It’s the best Ray Allen yet! No, just no.

      And yes, that’s a much easier, much more obvious example. That’s the whole point of using it to illustrate what I’m talking about. Comparing Ray to himself in different years should be clearer than comparing a top scoring 1 like Westbrook to the NBA’s best floor general Rondo.

      Westbrook is one of the two primary options for the Thunder. They need him to score in volume or they can’t win games. He can not afford to pass up difficult shots all night long. Teams often approach the Thunder by focusing on doing what they can to make things difficult for Westbrook, because the alternative is trying to do that same sort of thing to Durant. Yes it looks like he should pass on SOME of those shots, but choosing
      which difficult shots to pass on and which to take is itself an
      extremely difficult challenge.

      Rondo, in seasons of the recent past, has been getting the opposite treatment. Team defenses were ignoring Rondo more to emphasize covering other players. They feared Rondo’s passing, not his shooting. Being fine with Rondo taking a mid-range shot or more was part of their strategy. Yes, the article mentions this, but only in a passing, almost dismissive emphasis, as if it were much less important than the stat analysis they did.

      The reality is that knowing this context is a far more significant than the stat analysis they did, and they are better information combined than either of them individually. The discrepancy between what happened and what the stats show suggests that there is no simple way to quantify a ‘challenge factor’ type stat to account for who is actually thriving in difficult circumstances and who looks good because of his good situation.

      Ray in his prime had the same kind of problem Westbrook does now, and so his game stats from his best years are actually some of his worst overall numbers. Despite his percentages, they really were his ‘best years’ in the sense of his body and his ability to shoot and his experience all coming together into peak Ray Allen.

      So what the stats don’t tell you in any sort of simple way is that the early 2000′s were very difficult, challenging years for Ray. But if you wanted to pick from one Ray Allen for a hypothetical team of legends, you wouldn’t pick UConn Ray, or Celtics Ray. You’d pick late Milwaukee or early Seattle Ray despite his percentages being on the low side for him.

      You might pick early Milwaukee Ray and trade experience for youth/health, but again, it’s hard to tell who was really better from the stats. How many years was it before teams focused on limiting Ray Allen when they played the Bucks?

      Want the best answer? For now, just ask Ray. He’s a very rational, methodical guy so his answer shouldn’t be too clouded by ego and fantasy etc. A year, a game, a stretch of games, a playoff series…he’ll either have a couple guesses or maybe even one specific game/week/month etc. You could analyze whatever he says but beyond that, a superior answer remains out of reach.

  • eddysamson

    Last season every time Rondo went up for the elbow jumper I knew it was going in and it USUALLY did. I hate how people say he’s a bad shooter, just watch him sink that shot time after time, he makes it look effortless.

    • wil

      he did it game after game after game last season, and they still labeled him as a bad shooter all through out the season.

      I think his reputation is because of his 3 point shooting and FT percentages.

      I do hope it changes soon.

      • Curt Hays

        His FT% sure, but mostly it’s because people only watch SportsCenter instead of the actual games.

  • Luke Walton

    If rondo could shoot, danny would never trade him . . . ever . . . well, except for melo, bron, and the like. At the end of the day, you don’t become a superstar until you can make a difference in the last three minutes of a game. What are rondo’s three most famous games? triple double against miami in a loss. game 6 nba finals 2008, victory already in the bag. playoff game against clev where he hit two threes to keep us in it — neither in 4th quarter. I’d like to say rondo can become this guy. but he never will

    • LA Flake

      I agree with everything except the part about Melo. I wouldn’t trade Rondo for Melo. Melo is a loser.

      • Luke Walton

        Not sure I’d disagree. but he is starting to resemble lebron more and more

        • Ron Flanders

          Melo has nothing in common with LeBron except for absurd wealth. I wouldn’t trade Rondo for Carmelo; you don’t win championships with that bum. Let him go to LA.

    • Johnny Chase

      He already started to become this guy. Why do you think Doc trusted the ball in Rondo’s hands when the clock ran down last season? He may not of shot it every time, but he made the right play most of the time, either driving to the hoop or finding the open man. You have to remember he’s been on a team with future hall of famers, so past years Doc would always give it to Pierce for an iso play or something. You can’t say “he never will” before actually giving him a chance to become that guy. After this season you can have an opinion on that, because it’ll be the first season where Rondo’s the star of the team. And by the way, Rondo’s had better games than the ones you just stated.

    • KGino

      There was that clutch 3 he hit in Game 7 when Pierce had fouled out of East Semis against 76ers… believe he had a triple dub that game as well

      • bill_nair

        Those dont count you know *sarcasm*

    • Ron Flanders

      By the way, watch Game 6 of the 2008 Finals again. Victory was in the bag in large part to RONDO’S DEFENSE.

    • bill_nair

      Melo?

  • RedsLoveChild

    Rondo`s decision to enroll in “Shaq`s School of FT Shooting” was a bad move.

  • Slap Dog Hoops

    His shot may be improving but I still would not count on him to take the big shots at the end of the game. Rondo is simply not a guy that can be counted on to score and that is what the Celtics need. He looked when he was dishing to ball to KG, PP and RA, but with no one to really pass it to, I do not see Rondo being an effective piece on this rebuilding Celtics team–nor do I think he does either.

    • Ron Flanders

      You haven’t the first damn clue what you’re talking about. If that were the case, why would Rondo be going to places like Delaware and New Hampshire and supporting his young teammates? Why would he have Brad Stevens at his basketball camp? When Rondo is playing in the big games, he’s very comfortable being the scorer.
      I agree that the Celtics need legitimate scoring options…but I don’t think it’s necessarily a detriment that a PG score between 10-17 ppg, either.
      Rondo is a better shooter than a LOT of point guards…if by better shooter you mean a greater percentage of his jump shots go in. But I’m not really concerned about that. I’d just like to see him want to play strong defense every night.

    • bill_nair

      Missed the 2012 postseason?

      • adam

        remember 2010 game 7. Celtics down, rondo chucked up a 3 and sunk it.

  • omitasub

    Rondos true problem is his free throws, but other than that, he can shoot anywhere he likes, free throws is the only glaring problem he has, at least for me anyways.

    • Ron Flanders

      One of the things that a lot of the bad FT shooters have in common is huge hands. Rondo has some serious giant hands…which is what makes him able to grip the ball the way he does with those passes.

      • omitasub

        agreed. he should ask kawhi leonard for tips.

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  • Jake Gruber

    Here’s a case where stats simply don’t matter. I’m glad you have pointed this out. Yes, he has improved his shooting, but these percentages don’t matter that much unless other teams use these to make decisions on how to guard Rondo.

    In other words, it is what other teams think of him that matters. If they think, regardless of what this new analysis says, that he can’t shoot, they will back off of him the way they do and it will, in fact, slow his production. We all agree that Rondo would be FAR more successful if teams played up on him. The reason that Rubio doesn’t get the crap about his shooting the way Rondo does is because no one is trying to argue that Rubio is a top 2 point guard.

    Secondly, comparing Westbrooks percentages with Rondos is borderline meaningless. Their roles on their respective teams could nearly not have been more different.

    • Curt Hays

      WHO all agrees? This is ludicrous. In addition to an open J, Rondo has a better view of the field when they sag.

      • Jake Gruber

        I would have taken an “open J” for Pierce, KG, or Ray Allen while they were here over an “open J” for rondo, or open layups for people, which would have been way more likely to have happened if they were worried about Rondo shooting and hadn’t sagged off of him.
        I guess I should have said “most people agree”.

        • Curt Hays

          Pardon me for using the open J slang. I didn’t realize that I would be mocked for typing with brevity.
          Obviously an open shot for any of those guys is preferable to almost anyone in history, but you have to consider whether it really matters if you sag off Rondo.
          It really doesn’t. He just penetrates anyway to open guys up. (Obviously) The Sabrmetrics guys are saying that Rondo is a top three PG (with Rose and CP3), and if you check out the game reviews, even THEY talk about how much more dangerous it is to sag off of him.
          The fact is, it didn’t slow his production. We only got a partial season of seeing him with his improved jump shot. He is the owner of one of the most certain 17-foot jump shots.

          • Jake Gruber

            1. I don’t see how you can definitely say that his production is as good as or better than it would be if they didn’t sag off of him, when they have always sagged so you’ve never seen him play the other way, and previous evidence from almost any other player with Rondosquickness shows that they are more effective when they are played more closely because of teams worrying about their shot.

            2. You repeating that rondo is one of the most reliable 17 foot jumpers in the league does nothing to further your argument. You are basing that on statistics which was the primary thing I was arguing against in the first place; I was suggesting they did not tell the full story. Read my points above if you need to see them.

            3. As you said, we saw his improved shooting for what, 40 games? We saw Avery Bradley shoot lights out for 40 games, is he a terrific shooter? Ray Allen struggled shooting for a prolonged period many times throughout his tenure in Boston, is he not one of the best shooters of all time? Jeff green had a good second half of the season last season, have we declared him an all-star? Point is, because one guy shoots 50% on wide open 17 footers for a couple of games, does not mean he is a better shooter than guys who have been shooting it at 45% for their entire career from midrange or 3. Those are the guys that will be played closer, because they have developed a reputation for it, not because the statistics say that they are good. They will also be the guys that are even more effective at creating for people and themselves than they would be if teams did sag off of them. There are many, many shots in basketball that are a higher percentage than the 45% that they shoot at mid range, and by people having to respect that shot of theirs, they are better able to create the other ones. Thus, rondo would be a more effective player if defenses were FORCED to stop his midrange. At this point, they still live with him hitting it at 50% wide open for 30 games.

          • Curt Hays

            Um, okay. Well I’m not going to read all that. I’ll just skip ahead to my conslusion.
            TRADE RONDO NOW.

          • Jake Gruber

            1. I don’t see how you can definitely say that his production is as good as or better than it would be if they didn’t sag off of him, when they have always sagged so you’ve never seen him play the other way, and previous evidence from almost any other player with Rondosquickness shows that they are more effective when they are played more closely because of teams worrying about their shot.

            2. You repeating that rondo is one of the most reliable 17 foot jumpers in the league does nothing to further your argument. You are basing that on statistics which was the primary thing I was arguing against in the first place; I was suggesting they did not tell the full story. Read my points above if you need to see them.

            3. As you said, we saw his improved shooting for what, 40 games? We saw Avery Bradley shoot lights out for 40 games, is he a terrific shooter? Ray Allen struggled shooting for a prolonged period many times throughout his tenure in Boston, is he not one of the best shooters of all time? Jeff green had a good second half of the season last season, have we declared him an all-star? Point is, because one guy shoots 50% on wide open 17 footers for a couple of games, does not mean he is a better shooter than guys who have been shooting it at 45% for their entire career from midrange or 3. Those are the guys that will be played closer, because they have developed a reputation for it, not because the statistics say that they are good. They will also be the guys that are even more effective at creating for people and themselves than they would be if teams did sag off of them. There are many, many shots in basketball that are a higher percentage than the 45% that they shoot at mid range, and by people having to respect that shot of theirs, they are better able to create the other ones. Thus, rondo would be a more effective player if defenses were FORCED to stop his midrange. At this point, they still live with him hitting it at 50% wide open for 30 games.

  • magicjohnson

    I have watched over 90% of Rajon Rondo’s nba career. His shooting woes were always a bit confusing because, to me, his stroke looked pretty sweet. His improvement has not been surprising at all, and I expect him to be even better when he returns.
    This guy is pure champion.

    • adam

      could it be his huge hands? i heard Tommy talking about the big men how their hands are so big it makes it difficult to hold the ball or let go of it (cant remember). I notice rondo has HUGE hands. could it be the same thing you think? but yes I also watch him go shot for shot with KD during horse. KD was the most unimaginative guy for shots during that thing.

      • wil

        its not only the hands, his shooting has greatly aswell.

        With enough practice anyone can be a great shooter.

  • Kahnstantine

    Wow this story is just WAY too late. Any fan that knows basketball and watches the games haas known for quite a while that Rondo shoots the ball well. I have posted as much here and elsewhere a dozen times.

  • bill_nair

    Rondo vs KD in the horse game a few years back. Rondo went shot for shot with Kevin and that’s when i realized Rondo can shoot. During the 2012 postseason he hit a ton of clutch 3 pointers that I cringed at when he put them up. He’s just better with pressure. And that elbow jumper of his is now an important part of his arsenal. He has to take that shot a few times a game every game this year.

    • Curt Hays

      Rondo made 14 3-pointers in a row…but KD made 18. 14, though!

      • bill_nair

        Im glad im not the only Celtic fan who watched that event. Very impressive shooting display from both sides.

  • Dustin Chapman

    Westbrook’s issue lies more with his shot selection than shooting ability. He is actually pretty deadly with that pull-up jumper. He just unfortunately decides to take twice as many as he should

  • frickenWaaaltah

    Also, one thing that occurred to me while ranting about the limitations of stats…

    Rondo could be in for his worst recent shooting year, percentage wise. He may struggle with range he has been improving at in recent years, and the difference will be the difficulty. Teams probably aren’t going to just give up that mid-range shot anymore with Paul and Kevin gone now.

    Maybe he has improved enough that he’ll still do ok. Maybe he’ll take less jumpers from mid range and a higher percentage of his points will be from getting to the basket and so his percentage will go up.

    How it turns out depends a lot on how he responds to the challenge, and maybe even more on how this team comes together.