Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley shared the floor for 31 minutes during Wednesday's win over the Miami Heat. That constitutes nearly 20 percent of their total floor time together this season (159 minutes through nine games) and 7.6 percent of time they've been paired since the start of the 2012-13 season (409 minutes in 20 games).
As the Celtics play out the string in this transition season, few areas are as of much interest as how Rondo and Bradley perform together and whether they can truly be Boston's backcourt of the future.
It's hard to believe, but our biggest sample size to judge off is the 451 regular-season minutes the duo logged together at the end of the 2011-12 regular season after Bradley supplanted Ray Allen in Boston's starting lineup. The pair proved to be a dominating defensive combination, but can they rekindle that magic without having the likes of Kevin Garnett behind them?
Talking through some thoughts and questions while pondering the Rondo/Bradley combo:
Will Bradley and Rondo even be around in future seasons?
Bradley is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, while Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that he envisions Bradley in Boston's future, suggesting the team will match any reasonable offer to keep him around, while team brass has maintained that Rondo is a player the team plans to build with.
One person who would enjoy seeing a long-term future of the combo is Bradley himself.
"I would love it," Bradley said. "I would love to play for Boston, I would love to play with Rondo, so I wouldn't mind it at all. I'm pretty sure any guard in the NBA would love to play with Rondo."
Bradley makes Rondo better
Rondo's entire advanced stat line improves this season when he's paired with Bradley.
Most notably, Boston's defensive rating dips more than eight points when Rondo and Bradley are on the court together (diving from 109.7 to 101.5) compared with Rondo alone, while rebound rates spike and turnover rates plummet.
Rondo is in the positive for plus/minus when on the floor with Bradley (albeit, barely, at plus-1) compared with minus-96 in his 555 minutes of floor time without him.
Maybe more than anything else, Bradley's defensive presence takes pressure of Rondo and allows him to be more of a pest with freedom to freelance a bit on the perimeter. Rondo can take more chances with Bradley, and that plays to his strengths.
Said Bradley: "I think we can be very good because we both want to play defense, we both are going to go out there and play hard for out teammates, and we just work very well off each other; I love playing with him."