Is this the season Rajon Rondo becomes a top-five fantasy
Well if you ask Rondo, there's no need for speculation. He'll tell you that he's already the best point guard in the NBA. Whether or not he becomes a top-five fantasy point guard is a trickier question. But if your league counts "Chutzpah," he'll be top two with a bullet.
The No. 1 and 2 spots in any fantasy point guard rankings are clearly occupied by Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Case closed. After that, it gets a bit murkier. There is a rich, deep stew made up of Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Tyreke Evans, Jason Kidd and Rondo. It comes down to this: Will Rondo be better than at least two of these guys?
If age and injury rank among your chief draft day concerns, the answerto the above question is "yes." Nash and Kidd could average 10 dimes a night but are entering the "living history" era of their careers (think the final seasons of John Stockton) and could end up on the disabled list at the slip of a disk. On the other hand, Russell Westbrook or John Wall could suddenly put it all together ahead of schedule and vault into the top five. For now, let's stash away these arguments and focus on hard numbers.
One reason it's hard to rank Rondo is that he's a contradiction in terms of size and ability. He is a 6-foot-1 speedster with a power forward's mentality. He doesn't offer the usual assortment of elite point guard pluses (09-plus assists, 18-plus points, 3-point shooting, free-throw percentage and steals are the usual prerequisites for top five status).
But I believe that when you give proper weight to what he does relative to his position, it's undeniable he could end up in the top five by season's end.
Rondo ranked fourth in the NBA in assists last season, clicking in at 9.6 a game (and setting a Boston Celtics team record in the process). Keep in mind that a dominant assists man is perhaps the hardest player to acquire in fantasy. There are five or so people with a shot at averaging 10 dimes a night. Like blocks, it's an incredibly top-heavy statistic, and there will be a few elite producers, some near-elites and a bunch of guys in the 5 to 7 per-night range.
If Rondo's biggest asset lies in his assist rate, his steals rate doesn't lag far behind. He led the league last season at 2.3 per game, setting another Celtics team record in the process. Steals may not be as hard to come by as assists, but when the presence of a single player guarantees you'll compete for No. 1 in your league in two categories, you're talking about an elite guy.
Rondo is one of the tougher defenders in the game, and his tenacity carries over to his work on the glass. His 4.4 boards per game ranks him among the best rebounding guards in basketball. The atypical production for his position is Rondo's most underrated fantasy asset. He is a guy that is adding an average of two rebounds more a night than other NBA point guards.
Another gaudy Rondo stat is his .508 field goal percentage, but it's here we pivot into his negatives. The reason Rondo shoots at such a high clip lies in his inability to shoot (I told you he was a contradiction in terms). Watch how defenders lay off Rondo. No one believes Rondo is a threat from 15 feet and out. If he could develop a steady 15- to 18-foot jumper, his scoring average would instantly increase by 3 to 4 points per game.
Another spot on the floor in which Rondo could use some work is the free throw line, where Rondo hit a Dwight Howard-esque 62 percent of his attempts last season? This is historically low for a point guard and a genuine statistical tragedy. It's tragic because with all that speed, Rondo should be able to get to the line at will, but he can't force the issue because of his lack of touch.
From beyond the arc, Rondo enters "Saw" territory. Last season, he hit 21 percent of his 3-pointers, which is shocking enough on it's own, but factor in how many he hoisted (80) and it becomes downright scary.
In the end, I believe Rondo's unique production -- coupled with his desire to continually improve his game -- could vault him into the fantasy top five by season's end. Rondo will make the move, but he will have to improve upon his glaring deficiencies if he wants to live up to his own billing.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.