NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: Rajon Rondo has come this far without a jumpshot, and that’s damn impressive
Synergy Sports lets you watch all of his jumpers, and finds jump shooting in the half court to be the one method of scoring at which Rondo is below average. He took nearly 300 jumpers over the course of the regular season, and made just a third of them. That’s not good. He was two percentage points better a season ago, and nine percentage points back in 2007-2008, when the Lakers decided to leave him open in the Finals.
What’s more, his career 3-point field goal percentage is a miserable 24%. This season he lags behind even that, at 21%.
It’s hard to find any evidence that his jumper has improved at all.
I’m not as surprised by this as I am impressed by it. Rondo is a player with a clear offensive limitation in his game, and yet he’s been able to perform better than almost (You hear me, Kobe? I said almost.) everyone else in the playoffs. Rajon has fans carrying the banner to anoint him as the top point guard in the game, and he still can’t buy a bucket from outside 16 feet.
That makes Rondo an incredibly special player. Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash are all terrific offensive point guards, but each also has a reliable jumper. Just having the threat of those shots opens up the offense in new ways to those PGs and their teammates.
Rondo, on the other hand, is matched up with opponents who know that he really can’t shoot, but also can’t quite afford to leave him wide open. Rajon is such a good finisher around the rim and so skilled at finding open teammates that allowing him the momentum to charge the basket can be incredibly dangerous. It’s Rondo’s ability to drive and court-vision that are helping the Celtics steal the show, but there’s another factor involved: discretion.
It’s a wonderful thing for a point guard to know their strengths and stick to them, and that’s one of the graces of Rondo’s game. He may not be an effective shooter on long twos or threes, but he also isn’t killing possessions by taking lots of them. Don’t underestimate the significance of that, as the ability to recognize good shots is paramount for a player who initiates the offense.
As Abbott notes, the Lakers will likely look to make Rondo take more jumpers than before, and it should be interesting to see how he responds. Will he continue to attack the defense and move the ball to get the Celtics the best possible shots? Or will the temptation of open jumpers play right into the Lakers’ hand?