Most Celtics fans feel that the biggest need still remaining is the point guard situation. There is no doubt among the Celtics faithful that Rajon Rondo is going to be the starter, but beyond that, there are plenty of questions.
First, let's look at Rondo and what he brings to the team and concerns about his performance. Rondo is entering just his second season. In the beginning of the season, he was coming off the bench behind Telfair at the point. Then, midway through the season, Doc made West the starter and Rondo even racked up several DNP's. But, finally by the end of the season, Doc put Rondo into the starting lineup and he responded.
Over the last 20 games, Rondo averaged 34.3 minutes, 10.3 points on 49% shooting, 5.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.2 steals. His assist to TO ratio was over 2 to 1. Over the final 10 games, as his confidence grew, he averaged 36.5 minutes, 13 points on 55% shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 steals. His assist to turnover ratio improved to 2.5 to 1. Hoopshype has this to say about him: Great athlete... strong, long arms... has all the tools to become a great defender in the NBA... a slasher... more than a decent playmaker... can't shoot, that can really hurt his team.
Personally, I think all of the people who say that Rondo can't shoot haven't been watching him. He struggled with his shot at the beginning of the season and still would rather pass than shoot, but by the end of the season, he had developed a decent jump shot. 49% field goal percentage over the last 20 games and 55% over the last 10 games doesn't seem like a player who can't shoot to me. He also has been working out non-stop this off season on his shot. I thoroughly believe that he will be able to shoot well enough to keep the defenses honest this season. From the Celtics.com interview:
He's told reporters that he's focusing on his outside shooting rather than simply putting his head down and rumbling toward the basket. While he's confident in his ability to blow past defenders and finish at the basket, his outside shooting remains an Achilles heel. Rondo's heard about it since high school and knows that the scouting report will follow him until he proves otherwise, so he's spent all summer working on his shot. He claims he hasn't made many mechanical changes aside from getting more lift on his jumper, but has instead emphasized shooting in game-like situations (simulated pick-and rolls, for instance) rather than just plucking Spauldings off a rack and letting them fly. Most of all, he's been working on repetition -- getting up as many shots as he can as he tries to build confidence in what's admittedly been the weakest aspect of his game.
The PER, Player Efficiency Rating, can give a good idea of a player's value to the team and ability to play. The Player Efficiency Rating is an all-in-one basketball rating, which boils down all of a player's contributions into one number. Using a detailed formula, Hollinger developed a system that rates every player's statistical performance. Rondo had a PER of 13.16 last season. We can look at other PGs in the league to show that Rondo is comparable to many of them. Larry Hughes 12.17 Eric Snow 8.67 Stephon Marbury 15.47 Jarrett Jack 14.65 Mike James 13.3 Damon Stoudamire 12.66 Marcus Williams 11.55 Keyon Dooling 11.16 Jameer Nelson 13.92 Luke Ridnour 13.74 Delonte West 14.07
In almost every interview, Rondo talks about building his confidence. It is clear from looking at the stats over the final 10 games that indeed his confidence is growing. He has the speed to get to the basket at will, he has long arms and quick hands to average 2 steals per game and had an incredible 7 steals in one game at the end of last season. He is a great rebounder for his size, averaging 5.2 over his last 20 games as a starter and pulling down 14 in one game, which is quite incredible for a 6'1" point guard when you think of it. Rondo is more confident and ready to take a more vocal leadership role on the team. Without a doubt, our starting PG spot is taken care of.
The back up PG position right now is murky. Topping the list is Eddie House who is listed alternately as a PG and a SG. He has played mostly at the 2 position, but has played the point, most notably in his time with Phoenix. He will look for his shot first and foremost. Hoopshype has this to say about House:
A poor man's Allan Iverson... terrific scoring punch coming off the bench... full of talent... pretty quick... a steal waiting to happen... not a playmaker... undersized for a shooting guard... struggles at the PG spot... not quite an athlete, especially since he got that extra weight.
House has played for Miami, Clippers, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Phoenix, and New Jersey and has averaged 7.5 points, 1/6 rebounds, 1.7 assists,.6 steals, and .83 turnovers per game.
The secret to House's success is creating shots without turning the ball over. He is definitely a shoot first player and virtually never goes into the paint. His .05 free throw tries per field goal attempt was dead last in the league. Basically this means that he took 40 shots before drawing a foul on one of them. He is very good under pressure and last year he scored 8 points or more in the 4th quarter 12 different times. House has a PER of 15.88 for last season and is fairly consistant in that his PER for the previous two seasons were 15.30 and 15.11.
House will be able to fill in for 10 minutes or so at the point behind Rondo, but if Rondo were to be injured for any time, I don't see him as the starting PG. He is a great player and will give us scoring off the bench, but the question is whether he can run a team as the floor general. With the second unit, it may be a good thing that he looks to score first, but if he is with the first unit, he would definitely need to look to pass.
Third on our PG depth chart is Gabe Pruitt, our 2nd round draft pick. Pruitt played shooting guard his first two seasons at USC, but following the death of the team's point guard, one of Pruitt's best friends, he moved into the PG position for his junior year and did a good job at the position. he has terrific ball handling skills and quickness. He is flashy in terms of the moves he can execute with the ball in his hands, which will probably need to be toned down for NBA play. He has a nice array of fakes and hesitation moves. He ran the pick and roll and half court offense in college very well. He is very good defensively. But, and it is a big one, he is a rookie and will need time to get used to the pro game. He also might be good to fill in at the point for 10 minutes a game but wouldn't be sufficient to start if for any reason Rondo was out.
We also have the possibility of Ray Allen or Tony Allen filling in at the point for brief stints, but both are shooting guards and would be a last resort at the point. As I listed in yesterday's article there are still several point guards who are unrestricted free agents that the Celtics could get with the veteran minimum.
There are also rumors of players who may be waived or traded. There are a lot of rumors about Cassell being cut because of the signing of Knight and Diaz and the presence of Livingston. But Cassell is a very popular player and will be an expiring contract at the trade deadline so I don't see them waiving him but they may look to trade him at the deadline, however.
Damon Stoudamire has asked to be traded. He is under contract for 8 million over the next two seasons. I don't see them buying him out unless he becomes a cancer on the team. They will look to trade him first.
Also making 4 million this season is Jasikevicius, who wants out of Golden State because they haven't used him. They could look to buy him out if there are no takers for a trade.
The Blazers have 4 PGs and at least one will be traded or waived. They just drafted Taureen Green and seem to be high on him. Blake was just signed to a 3 year deal. That leaves Jarrett Jack and Rodriguez. Jack has 3 years left and will make 1,217, 400 this season. Rodriguez has 4 years remaining and will make 980,400 this year. One of them could be on the move.
Indy may look to cut Darrell Armstrong after training camp,as he is on a non guaranteed contract.
Houston has several PGs and may be cutting Lucas, Head or Sura. Atlanta also has several PGs. Law appears to be the PG for their future. Claxton is owed 20 million over 4 years. That leaves Tyrone Lue, who has one year left at 3.5 million and Anthony Johnson who has 1 year left at 2.8 million. An even swap of Scal for Lue works in the trade checker. One thing to consider is that Lue and Garnett are best friends and Lue was one of the people that Garnett called for advice before the trade.
Danny may want to wait to see who becomes available later, or he may have his eye on someone already and is trying to work out the details. He may also target someone he would need to trade for but our tradable assets are at a minimum right now. As this article shows, we need a veteran PG to back up Rondo and it is up to Danny to get it done.