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Rajon Rondo NBA Draft Scouting Report
by:
April 17, 2006
Strengths
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2005)

In terms of physical attributes, Rondo possesses everything the NBA looks for in a successful starting point guard, minus possibly an inch of height. He is a phenomenal athlete with an incredibly quick first step, awesome foot-speed in the open floor, and terrific leaping ability. Rondo also has a gigantic wingspan and enormous hands, which allows him to play much bigger than his size.

As a point guard, Rondo is of the pass-first variety, being highly unselfish and featuring excellent court vision and passing ability. Although he didnít always get a chance to show it, he is everything scouts look for in terms of being able to run a team, particularly his intelligence and poise with the ball in his hands, along with his ball-handling skills and natural talent in finding the open man. Rondo is at his best on the drive and dish, being able to get into the lane almost at will thanks to his terrific speed and ball-handling ability, and once he does being highly creative in finding open shooters spotting up on the wing. He didnít get to show this off too often, but Rondo is a very flashy playmaker who can thread the needle to spectacular lobs from the perimeter or sharp bounce passes to open cutters. Although his assists average isnít incredibly high, his assist to turnover ratio is one of the best amongst point guards in this draft at 2.11/1. Rondo is a very confident ball-handler going either left or right, keeping the ball very low to the ground, and is excellent at breaking the full-court press thanks to his terrific speed and poise.

As a slasher, Rondo has plenty of potential, but didnít really get to show off everything he can do at the college level because of Kentuckyís slow it down style of play that prefers excessive ball-movement around the perimeter rather than one on one play. If given the green light, Rondo will be an excellent shot creator at the next level, as he is extremely difficult to stay in front of. Once he did get into the lane in college, he showed plenty of creativity finishing around the hoop, particularly with an assortment of runners and floaters. He is capable of stopping abruptly in the paint if the lane is too clogged, and floating a six to eight footer high off the glass. When making his way all the way to the basket, his long arms, terrific leaping ability and excellent body control aid him greatly in finishing creatively around the rim, often with contact. He is generally a tough player who has no problem getting dirty to get the job done. Despite his diminutive size, Rondo can get up and dunk with the best of them and will sometimes just flush the ball through after a penetration rather than laying it up to ensure that he gets his team two points.

Defensively is where Rondo really made a name for himself as a high school player and initially in college. He has excellent lateral quickness and superbly quick and incredibly big hands. These two things together combined with his length make him a terror getting in the passing lanes, and Rondo indeed has league leading potential in this area if playing for a coach that doesnít mind him gambling for steals on occasion. Heís extremely smart and confident in his defensive ability, and has the potential to develop into a smothering perimeter defender thanks to all of his outstanding physical attributes and the skills he already shows here. Heís not afraid to step in the lane and take a charge if the situation calls for it.

Due to these same physical attributes (length, superb quickness and leaping ability, outstanding hands) Rondo is also a terrific rebounder who indeed led his team in this area from the point guard position. His toughness helps him out greatly in this area, and his Kentucky team would likely have been in very bad shape without his 6+ rebounds in 31 minutes per game. He managed to pull down 19 rebounds in 33 minutes in one extremely impressive performance against Iowa early on in the year.

In terms of intangibles, itís hard to get a great read because of all the chaos surrounding Kentuckyís program this year, but it appears that Rondo will test out just fine. He by all accounts has a good attitude towards the game and a strong character, being a bit on the quiet side (particularly with the Kentucky media who he never seemed very fond of), highly unselfish, and probably not a trouble-making type. His work ethic is reportedly very strong and as we saw all season long, does exactly what heís told by his coaching staff.


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(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2006)

There is little doubt that Tubby Smith evicted some of his tough recruiting luck when Rajon Rondo fell into his lap. Originally focused on his hometown Cardinals, Rondo didn't hesitate when the big blue skipper came calling with a scholarship.

Rondo is a Smith player if there ever was one, a defensive hound that changes the game with his wingspan and instincts. In his first year, all the dynamic guard did was set the school record for steals in a season, demonstrating that he was perhaps the quickest player in college basketball. There are times when Rondo is on the court that it appears he's moving a few steps faster than the rest of the players. While for some players this could be nothing more an interesting sidenote or even possibly a detriment, for Rondo this is the trait that feeds all his other strengths.

Rondo's unusually long arms and giant hands, combined with his quickness, adds up to an enormous amount of steals leading to easy scores. In fact, Rondo's attention to defense may be his most promising trait as a player.

The Kentucky point guard also has already displayed pro-caliber body control, which makes him difficult to stop on the drive. Like Allen Iverson, another speedster, Rondo uses his athleticism to create space between himself and a defender even when he's already in the air.

Rondo has a great demeanor for a major college point guard. Rarely in a rush, his complete control of the ball gives him time to scan the whole court. He is most adept on the fast break, where whomever is trailing the play better keep his eyes open.

Weaknesses
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2005)

Despite his highly intriguing physical attributes and skills, Rondo is anything but a surefire bet to pan out as a starting caliber NBA point guard.

The biggest concern about his game revolves around his perimeter shooting ability. Much like with what we see with big men at the free throw line, Rondoís massive hands prevent him from being comfortable in his shooting mechanics and show any consistency in his release. We saw his shooting mechanics change drastically all season long, and more often than not it looked like he was heaving a bowling ball at the basket both aesthetically and in terms of the end result. He only hit 18 3-pointers all season long and did it on a dreadful 27% accuracy from this range.

These same problems prevent him from even being an average free throw shooter in college as well, hitting a pathetic 57% from the charity stripe. Rondo is better from mid-range, but is still far from being NBA caliber here too, particularly in terms of pulling up off the dribble. He would be well served to continue to work on adding a wider array of hesitation moves, crafty head and body fakes and other change of pace skills to help him become an even more effective slasher, as teamís will likely just back off him and dare him to shoot the 3.

Itís difficult to tell how much of this had to do with Rondoís already tentative nature and how much was due to Coach Tubby Smithís slow it down old-fashioned style of play, but Rondo is often very indecisive regardless of what the reason for it was. He appeared to be on a very short leash all season long, even coming off the bench at times or playing off the ball (or both), and therefore didnít put up the most impressive numbers in the world. He can get very passive at times, trying harder to limit mistakes rather than go out and make plays the way everyone knows he can. Again, this was not always something he could control since if he wanted to stay on the floor (the smallest mistake would usually see him yanked to the bench immediately), he had to play the way his coach told him to.

The expectations from Kentuckyís rabid fan base, paparazzi-esqe local media, as well as the glare of the national media spotlight that declared him the best point guard in college basketball very early on appeared to take a heavy toll on him as the season wore on, as he never really managed to live up to them.

Rondo is neither incredibly tall, nor strong. His frame looks fairly frail and he could face some issues fighting through screens on the defensive end or finishing strong at the basket offensively until he finds a way to continue to add strength.

Rondo is clearly still coming into his own as a player and at this point projects as more of an upside type than an immediate contributor.


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(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2006)

Rondo began his career with a penchant for the spectacular, throwing a few too many passes away for his coaches' taste. However, as his freshman season wore on, Rondo got better with the ball. While competing with several other top points for a spot on the Team USA U-21 club, the ever-improving Rondo wowed scouts and coaches with his heady play and cool demeanor.

Rondo's offensive game is still a work in progress. While his shot has improved, he is not ready to play in the NBA. For Rondo to take the next step, he must become a more consistent perimeter threat. He is hesitant to shoot unless wide open, but once defenders have to respect his shot, it will open up the court for his very effective dribble drive.

Early indications are that Rondo's improvement offensively has taken leaps ands bounds. If so, scouts are sure to take notice.

The fact that he is only 6-1 (below average size for an NBA PG) also will never be considered a feather in his cap.

Competition
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2005)

Rondo plays for one of the most storied programs in college basketball history in Kentucky under one of the most highly respected coaches in college basketball in Tubby Smith. He was a highly recruited prep player who played for one of the most visible high schools in the country at Oak Hill academy, earning him McDonaldís All-America honors.

As a freshman Rondo came in right away and got significant playing time, helping his team make the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament before being eliminated in overtime by Michigan State. He averaged 8 points, 3.5 assists and 3 rebounds on 51% shooting from the field, 30% from behind the arc and 58% from the free throw line.

That summer, Rondo was invited to USA Basketballís U-21 World Championship Team that went to Argentina and ended up finishing 5th in the tournament with a 7-1 overall record. Rondo was by all accounts the star of this very loaded team of college stars, featuring players such as Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Mardy Collins, Marcus Williams and others. He finished the tournament with a record 27 steals, a team high 4.5 assists per game, and was the 3rd leading scorer with 11 points per game (team high was Allan Ray with 12.3), shooting 65% from the field (tournament best) in the competition.

In his sophomore year, expectations were sky high, as he was named to the SEC preseason 1st team well as a national All-American according to some publications. Kentucky started off the season poorly and never really recovered, being blown out embarrassingly by Kansas, losing to Vanderbilt at home for the first time ever, being blown out on national TV at archrival Florida and eventually squeezing into the NCAA tournament as an 8 seed after righting the ship a bit late in the year. Kentucky ended up losing a hard-fought battle to UConn in the 2nd round of the tournament. Rondo was up and down throughout the season, being brought off the bench midway through the SEC conference slate, seeing heavy minutes playing off the ball, and never really forming much chemistry with his team or coach. He ended up averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds and nearly 5 assists on 48% shooting from the field, 27% from the 3-point line and 57% from the free throw line.


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(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2006)


Rondo's outstanding freshman season including several high profile matchups, including a strong game against Alabama (Ronald Steele) and solid efforts against North Carolina and Florida.

The sophomore campaign for the lightning quick point offers more marquee opportunities, including possible games against Texas and Iowa as well as guaranteed shots at Louisville, Kansas and Indiana.

Outlook
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2006)

In a draft completely devoid of legit point guard prospects, many scouts feel that Rondoís combination of outstanding physical attributes, athleticism and playmaking ability make him the best point guard in this draft. This is based more on his upside than anything. The prevailing notion is that he was completely underutilized by a very stubborn Tubby Smith who refused to adapt his system to accommodate a player who is so talented driving to the basket and distributing the ball. Many feel that his strengths are better suited to the pro game where a lot of teams like to get up and down the floor. Once he gets into private workouts and is able to show scouts just what a freak he is physically (with his length and gigantic hands) and athletically, many questions could be answered about just what his professional outlook is. Rondo will need to work hard on his shooting mechanics (he is reportedly working out on just that with Michael Jordanís trainer, Tim Grover in Chicago) and show that he is capable of at least punishing teams should they decide to completely sag off of him. Rondo hired an agent (Bill Duffy) very early on in the process and is considered about as close to a lock for the 1st round as you can get at this point. With strong workouts he has a good chance at ending up in the lottery when itís all said and done.

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(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2005)

For Rajon Rondo, the last few years have been a lot like what it must feel to play against him: a blur. Going from being a McDonald's All-American at Oak Hill to a top ten Kentucky program, college basketball's all-time winningest, where the glare of the spotlight never fades, was a major jump.

There is little doubt Rondo sees the NBA as a very real possibility whenever he feels so inclined to make the leap. Judging by early returns, Rondo has the skills and will to get it done. His offensive development is the only thing keeping him back.

Comments
(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2005)

The young point guard from Oak Hill Academy (Va.) cracked the Kentucky starting lineup with his play in practice, not in games. In becoming the first freshman (with co-frosh Randolph Morris) to start an opening game for Tubby Smith in years, Rondo has already quieted some doubters.

It seems the major media outlets are starting to take notice as well. Rondo's flashy play and defensive prowess should make him a highlight reel regular, something that will only add to Rondo's NBA resume.

Facts
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2006)

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(J.L. Weill, 11/1/2005)

- Rondo has a vast collection of basketball sneakers which he meticulously catalogs and cleans in his Wildcat Lodge dorm room at Kentucky.

- Rondo was the backup plan recruit for Louisville coach Rick Pitino, behind Sebastian Telfair. But the Oak Hill star got tired of waiting and when Tubby Smith extended a scholarship offer, he hungrily accepted. Telfair went pro a few weeks later, leaving Pitino out to dry.

 


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