Each weekday for a three-week span, our summer panel of prognosticators -- a motley crew featuring our friends in the Celtics blogging community -- will join forces to tell you how the 2014-15 season will play out for Boston. We'll gaze into our crystal balls and attempt to answer all your questions before this season's team even hits the floor together for the first time.
SUMMER FORECAST 2014
Throughout the month of August, we'll break up the summer doldrums by trying to predict exactly how the 2014-15 season will play out for the Boston Celtics. A rundown of the series:
Coming next week ...
Today's Celtics Summer Forecast topic: Will Rajon Rondo have the best season of his career?
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has remained steadfast in his belief that Rondo, further removed from the ACL surgery that he worked his way back from last season, will have the best season of his pro career while serving as the leader of a team in transition.
The Celtics clearly need Rondo to take his game to another level in order to have any shot of exceeding the low expectations that most have for the upcoming season. Not only must Rondo elevate his individual game, but he must find a way to elevate those around him.
Which sets the bar pretty high for his "best" season ever. In the time between his first All-Star season in 2009-10 and up until his ACL injury in January of 2013, Rondo averaged 12.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game, earning four All-Star nods overall.
There are those that insist Rondo's numbers have been aided by having as many as three Hall of Fame players around him during the Big Three era. We don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that Rondo needs star players around him to thrive, but it certainly doesn't hurt the stat line. Regardless, Rondo's assist numbers might get a jolt with better players, but Rondo should still be able to elevate players of all abilities with his talents.
While much of the defensive attention next season is likely to be focused on Rondo, this writer does believe that Rondo will have his best season. That's not an easy statement considering what Rondo has accomplished, including helping the Celtics to Banner 17 during the 2008 season. But it won't hurt that Rondo is in a contract year and has maintained a desire to test the open market; a stellar season could help him command a monster contract. Stated simpler: Rondo has plenty of reasons to make this the best year of his career.
But more than maybe the money, he has the motivation to distinguish himself as an elite player in this league and to do it without a star-filled supporting cast.
Our 15-member voting panel was split on the issue, as you can see from the voting:
Read on as our panel explains their votes:
Kevin O'Connor, CelticsBlog (No)
Rondo’s career year was in 2009-10 when he averaged 13.7 points, 9.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals during the regular season, and then followed it up with a monster performance in the playoffs. Rondo will probably have his highest-scoring season, but it will be stunning if comes close to matching his production from that year. He doesn’t have enough weapons surrounding him to maximize on his passing skills and he certainly won’t be able to put in the required effort to defend at a high level every night like he has in the past.
Michael Pina, CelticsHub (Yes)
This is a tough one. Statistically, he should. Rondo's usage rate will go through the roof, and he'll be asked to score more than ever. The challenge of leading Boston into the playoffs also hangs over his head, in a contract year, no less.
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (No)
Numbers-wise, Rajon Rondo may appear to have his best-ever season in 2014-15. He'll probably take more shots (and 3-pointers) than ever before, and his scoring average will likely be a career high. Considering that he's in a contract yeah, he'll also want to prove his value like never before. But a great point guard needs people to put the ball in the basket, and he's not going to have anywhere near the quality of scorers around him that he did a few years ago.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Yes)
Doc was a strict tactician that gave everybody a rigid role on the team and that approach groomed Rondo into the best pure point guard in the league. Those days are over. In the few months that he played for Brad Stevens, you could see Rondo experimenting with more of his game. He shot more 3s in 30 games than he ever did in any of his full seasons and by the time he started rounding into shape, he looked more comfortable driving and using his floater. The Celtics will employ more of a motion offense in 2015 and they'll depend on a more well-rounded Rondo to do more. With the arrival of Marcus Smart in Rondo's contract year, my guess is the captain will want to prove his knee his healthy and that he's more than just a "point guard."
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (No)
Rajon will return to form, but it's asking a lot for him to surpass his production playing next to three Hall of Fame players.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog (Yes)
He might have his best year by default since he'll have the most responsibility. He'll also be in a contract year, so he'll have all the motivation needed. He doesn't have Hall of Famers to throw passes to anymore, but he'll still do his thing and maybe take on more of a scoring load as well.
Julian Edlow, WEEI.com (No)
I expect Rondo to have a solid season, but the best of his career is a reach. Rondo’s game is built to have a career type season while surrounded by the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He will still be amongst the league leaders in assists, but if people are expecting a spike in his scoring they are going to be disappointed. Rondo is a great player, but you have to accept him for what he is. There is a better chance that Rondo is traded this year than him having a career season.
Jay O., Red's Army (Yes)
Define "best." His best regular season was probably in 2010, but he's in his prime and has a full year of recovery. Still, the surrounding talent he has now versus then isn't close. If he does have his best season with this team, then I think we can stop the silly argument that he only plays well with Hall of Famers.
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (No)
As much as I’d love to believe Ainge, Rondo won’t have the time to have the best year of his career, as he will be dealt by December. The team and player are in a difficult spot to say the least, as the 28-year-old point guard needs highly skilled players around him to succeed. Rondo is great when things are clicking, but when the losses start to pile up, the effort doesn’t always appear there. That spasm in play shouldn’t exist for a supposed max level player. Nothing would please me more than seeing Rondo average 15-10-5, and lead a team full of young tenacious athletic players to the fourth seed in the east.
Padraic O'Connor, CelticsLife.com (Yes)
Rajon Rondo seems to do his best work when he feels a statement needs to be made. While the “trade Rondo” chatter has been ever-present throughout his career, it has never been louder than it is right now. After a season of constant speculation that he can’t win on his own, Rondo is going to have a lot to say with his play this season. It will most likely not end in an 18th banner for Boston, but I would be surprised if 2014-15 doesn’t end with Rondo having proved exactly how valuable he is to his team.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Yes)
This will be the year where Rondo puts it all together, it just might not be entirely in Boston. His improvement has been steady over the past five years aside from the big interruption brought by his knee injury. With a full recovery likely by the start of the season, there is nothing holding Rondo back but himself. But it appears that Rondo developed a better rhythm with his new roster toward the end of the season and should be in full control after training camp. But it’s just as likely for him to end up in another uniform at the deadline as it is for him to finally make the leap to superstardom.
Also voting: Brian Robb, CelticsHub (No); Tom Westerholm, CelticsHub (No); KWAPT, Red's Army (No).
Your turn: We invite you join the conversation. Sound off in the comments about whether you believe Rondo will have his best season this year.