Looking at the Celtics Without Rajon Rondo


December 29, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Celtics 101-83. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Losing Rajon Rondo for the rest of the season with a torn ACL was shocking and saddening, both for the Boston Celtics and the NBA in general.

Tonight, the Celtics will face off against the Sacramento Kings in their first game since learning of Rondo’s fate.

So how has Boston fared without Rondo on the court this season? Here is a look at some splits with Rondo on the court vs. Rondo off the court.

(Check out this glossary from Basketball Reference for an explanation of the stats.)

Rondo on the court:

PlayereFG%TS%FG%3 FG%

Rondo off the court:

PlayereFG%TS%FG%3 FG%
Pierce43.7 (-5.1)50.9 (-3.6)38.9 (-3.7)30.0 (-6.3)
Lee49.7 (-4.5)53.1 (3.3)46.1 (-1.1)30.8 (-4.1)
Terry45.2 (-11.5)49.9 (9.1)38.8 (6.8)28.8 (-11.4)
Garnett50.3 (+0.2)55.1 (+1.2)50.3 (+0.2)N/A
Green50.6 (+7.7)56.2 (+8.5)46.7 (+7.8)36.8 (+7)
Sullinger55.2 (+10.7)58.3 (+9.3)54.7 (+10.2)N/A

These numbers, courtesy of nbawowy.com, show the differences in shooting percentages with Rondo and without him.

Paul Pierce, Courtney Lee and especially Jason Terry have struggled without Rondo. While Kevin Garnett has essentially the same numbers, both Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger are markedly better with Rondo off the court.

It makes sense that Lee and Terry would struggle without Rondo on the court. Both of them shoot a lot of jumpers, often relying on Rondo to find shots for them. Pierce is the only player on the Celtics capable of creating his own shot on a regular basis, but he still relies heavily on Rondo, as evidenced by 102 of his 277 shots having been assisted by Rondo according to NBA.com.

Sullinger and Green, both shooting much better with Rondo off the court, do not shoot as many jump shots as the guards. Therefore, they are not as reliant on Rondo’s supreme passing ability to get them open looks.

The shooting splits with Rondo off the court are bad news for the Celtics. While Garnett is essentially the same, both Pierce and Terry are shooting far worse with Rondo off the court. Pierce (1), Garnett (2) and Terry (4) are three of the Celtics’ four leading scorers (Rondo, 3, is the fourth). Without Rondo, the Celtics’ three remaining leading scorers are worse, essentially the same, and much worse off, respectively, without Rondo. That doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the season.

A potentially positive sign for the Celtics is that in a relatively small sample size, the Celtics’ best lineup, according to 82games.com, has actually been without Rondo. This lineup, which is their 3rd most often used group has only played 95 minutes together so far, but has put up very impressive numbers.

UnitMinutesOff RtgDef Rtg+/-
Terry-Lee-Green-Sullinger-Garnett951.200.95+ 39

Without Rondo, this lineup, lacks a true point guard and ball handler, and thus must rely on ball movement. No one in this lineup is really capable of creating their own shot. With the exception of Lee or Green on occasion, this is a lineup full of jump shooters. And without Rondo on the court, they must have sharp ball movement and flawless execution to get clean looks.

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Life without Rondo will certainly be different for the Celtics. Rondo controlled the offense and is one of the most gifted passers in the league. Boston will need to rely on its depth in the backcourt to try and replace him. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Leandro Barbosa will share ball-handling duties, but none of them are true point guards.

The Celtics will also rely much more on ball movement without Rondo running the show. Pierce, Terry, and the rest of the team relied heavily on Rondo’s ability to find them for open shots. Rondo’s passing is unrivaled in the league, and his absence will make it tougher for the Celtics to get open jumpers.

With Pierce and Garnett holding down the fort, and a solid core of role players, the Celtics should still make the playoffs. They are too talented and resilient to fall off the table and slip out of the playoff race in a weak Eastern Conference. Rondo’s injury will be a rallying point for the team and provide motivation for the rest of the season.

Without Rondo, however, that’s as far as these Celtics can go. A playoff appearance and maybe even a first-round victory are still possible, but their faint championship hopes are now gone.