NBA / Mar 5, 2014 / 5:15 pm

Rajon Rondo’s Jumper Is Improved, But He’s Been Terrible Up Close

Rajon Rondo, Evan Turner

Rajon Rondo, Evan Turner (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo might be the most gifted passer in the NBA today, able to see angles many watching on TV didn’t even know existed. And he’s no slouch getting in the lane and getting to the bucket for easy layups in transition or floaters from the paint. Most believe Rondo’s weakness lies in the court beyond the restricted area, but this season his scoring ability has been turned on its head.

While recovering from last season’s ACL tear, Rondo spent countless hours putting up jumpers and as Celtics coach Brad Stevens tell Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, that was by design:

“Ultimately you never know how that’s going to work itself out, but that was kind of part of the big picture plan is using that rehab time to spend even more time shooting the ball,” the Celtics coach said of Rondo’s time on the way back from ACL surgery. “That’s the one thing that’s been pretty consistent since he’s gotten back is his outside shooting, both from long 2 and from 3. And I think that all the time that he’s put in is paying itself off.

“I think he’s put in a lot of time on his own, I think he’s put in a lot of time with (assistant coach) Ron Adams, and it’s good to see that because when you work at it, you want to be rewarded for it. So it’s good to see that ball going in for him.”

So far this season, Rondo’s efficiency from the outside has been the best in his career. He’s shooting a career high mark from three-point range, converting on 36.4 percent of his looks beyond the arc while also taking a career high 2.9 attempts per game. His best season from three-land up until this season was just 31.3 percent in his third season when he averaged less than a single 3-point attempt per game.

And while he was actually over 50 percent from the least efficient spot in basketball last season, 16 to 24 feet, Rondo’s continuing to make the nylon sing again this year, converting at a 47.1 percent clip from that range. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry actually wrote about the fallacy of Rondo’s long-range abilities earlier this year, but since the injury he’s extended his range beyond the three-point arc without any deleterious affects in his mid-range jumper. No, it’s when Rondo gets closer to the rim that the problems arise — at least through the 15 games he’s played since returning.

Rondo’s sporting a ghastly 46 percent in the restricted area this season, by far the lowest mark of his career, and among guards with at least 60 attempts at the rim, only Aaron Brooks and the historically awful Ricky Rubio are shooting at a worse clip.

Rondo’s struggles extend a little ways past the restricted area, too. He’s 3-for-21 in the 4-9 foot range, and he’s just 5-of-25 in the paint — but outside the restricted area. What used to be Rondo’s best place on the floor to get an efficient look at the rim has now turned into a nightmare of blown layups and clanged floaters.

But it’s important to note Rondo’s ills at the rim could be tied to his recovery. He might be second-guessing his body as he tries to finish while colliding against larger guys in the paint. The uptick in his outside shooting percentages is gravy for Celtics fans used to his wobbly jumper. These days opposing guards can no longer just slide underneath high screens. We’re also guessing Rondo’s numbers at the rim and in the paint will improve as he gains more confidence in his surgically repaired right knee.

All of this is to say Rajon Rondo might have used the time spent recuperating from his surgically repaired right knee to become an even more dangerous player. That’s good news for Celtics fans in an otherwise forgettable 2013-14 campaign.

(Boston Herald)

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  • SweetdickWilly

    It’s rust from being out. He’ll be back to normal, if not improved next season.