With new pact, Rondo gains elite status

Before Sunday's game against the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott told reporters that Rajon Rondo should be considered among the top five or six point guards in the league.

Given that Scott coaches one of those top point guards in the NBA in Chris Paul, maybe the Celtics heeded his words while nearing Monday's deadline to extend Rondo's rookie contract.

Having agreed to a five-year contract extension worth at least $55 million, Rondo will soon be paid like an elite guard, though the player and team seem to have found a comfortable middle ground that will initially keep Rondo's salary below the top handful of players at his position.

Utilizing ESPN's salary database inside the Trade Machine, an average annual salary of $11 million (though it's likely to escalate) would put Rondo among the top 10 guards, but still a step below Paul and Utah's Deron Williams (both at $13.5 million this season), as well as veterans such as Phoenix's Steven Nash ($13.1 million) and San Antonio's Tony Parker ($12.6 million).

Rondo's contract will fall below those players, but ahead of the next tier of guards such as Cleveland's Mo Williams ($8.8 million) and Orlando's Jameer Nelson ($8.1 million).

The deal seems more on par with Golden State's Monta Ellis ($11 million), a fifth-year player who has averaged about 20 points per game over the past two-plus seasons.

The Celtics reportedly offered Rondo a deal last week in the range of five years and $45 million, but the player was seeking more toward the $55 million he apparently has agreed to.

Despite starting the 2009-10 season facing a string of challenging guards (including Paul, Mo Williams, and Chicago's Derrick Rose), Rondo is averaging 6.5 points, 11.8 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. His scoring is down (he averaged a career-best 11.9 points per game last season), but Rondo and the Celtics have thrived with him as distributor.

After Rondo registered 16 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 points in a 118-90 win over Chicago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called his point guard "the most dominant player on the floor."

Rondo's deal is expected to pay him less overall money than pacts recently signed by top guards including Paul (four years, $68 million) and Deron Williams (four years, $70 million), but it positions him as the cornerstone of the Celtics franchise as the Big Three age (Ray Allen is a free agent after this season, while Paul Pierce has a player option for next season.

Paul is averaging 19.5 points, 9.9 assists, and 2.4 steals per game through three games this season, while Deron Williams is at 16.3 points, 8.7 assists, and 1.0 steals per game through two contests.

Rondo's lower scoring average could be one reason the overall value of his contract is less -- contracts always seem escalated for those with higher scoring averages -- but he's shown the ability to increase his scoring output when the team needs it. During last season's playoffs, with Kevin Garnett sidelined, Rondo averaged 16.9 points per game, while not sacrificing his rebounds (9.7 per game) and assists (9.8 per game).

Rondo, only 23 years old and in his fourth NBA season, seems to have triple-double potential, That's the type of output previously reserved for the likes of Jason Kidd, who earned $21.3 million for the Mavericks last season in the final year of a six-year, $103.6 million contract.

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.