Saturday, June 2, 2012
Can Rajon Rondo Be a Franchise Player for the Boston Celtics?
Though they still trail 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Heat, the Celtics appear to be wearing Miami down as they continue to claw their way back into the series.
In what appears to be the last stand for the team's Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen), the ever aging group has been paced by the efforts of Rajon Rondo.
The point guard carried the Celtics on his back during game 2, almost helping them secure a victory all on his own with a historic 44 point, 10 assist, and 8 rebound performance. Though they had to wait until game 3 to come away with a win, Rondo still helped propel his team in the right direction with 21 points and 10 assists.
In the summer of 2007, Boston looked to change the fortunes of the franchise by pairing Paul Pierce up with the two of the best veteran players in the league. The trio has helped the team compete on the highest level and the biggest stage for five seasons, even bringing home an NBA title. It's been one of the best runs in recent NBA history, but with each veteran beginning to lose some of their luster, it appears up to Rondo to officially begin to lead this team as his own.
With the Knicks led by one of the most prolific scorers in the entire league in Carmelo Anthony, and the 76ers having found a receipt for success by building a balanced attack of strong young guns and veteran role players, it's safe to say the competition in the Atlantic Division is steep.
Rondo has emerged as one of the league's best point guards because of his ability to elevate the play of each of his teammates. He's a savvy and intelligent playmaker who knows how and where to find players in the right spots at all times. He's the perfect and ideal definition of a floor general. While his stellar play and success is undeniable, becoming a great point may come easy for someone playing with three of the best offensive weapons ever to play the game of basketball.
So what happens when you begin to take some (if not all) of those weapons away from the arsenal? With Boston beginning to favor Avery Bradley over Allen, it's becoming more and more likely the sharpshooter signs with another contending team in the off-season. Depending on what the market for him is, it's also possible free agent to be Garnett won't be retained either.
Should Allen and Garnett exit Beantown this summer, is Rondo a strong enough player to stand aside Pierce to begin leading the new generation of Celtics? To date, the point guard has been criticized for his lack of a consistent jump shot. Flat and erratic, Rondo's shot is clearly not one of his strengths. Despite this, he's been able to thrive alongside the different talent around him. Without them, his flaws may instead come front and center.
Over the past year, Rondo's name has been mentioned in potential trade scenarios for the likes of Chris Paul and Pau Gasol. While a Rondo for Paul swap obviously never came to fruition, it may be smart for Boston to look into trading the star guard while his value is at its highest. As miraculous as his playoff heroics have been, they don't change the type of player he's become over the last few seasons; a spectacular playmaker and a strong defender. But that's where it stops. Creating his own offense (this season's playoffs aside) has been a weakness of his as he's developed. He may not be able to be depended on in such a role in which he'd have to cash in on offensive opportunities for himself.
Rondo is a special player, but without Allen and Garnett, Boston may no longer be the perfect fit. They're going to need some offensive firepower, and he's going to need strong weapons around him in order to play at his best. The Celtics need a new franchise player to emerge, whereas it appears Rondo needs just as special players around him to shine.
After this season concludes, a divorce of sorts may benefit both sides. This would allow Boston to find the right talent to pace them as they retool, while also allowing Rondo to find a new wealth of talent to elevate and succeed with. Because after this season, neither Rondo or the Celtics will be able to give one another what they need most.