H: 6' 1"|
W: 175 lbs
(29 Years Old)
|RSCI: 22||Agent: Bill Duffy |
High School: Oak Hill Academy
Hometown: Louisville, KY
Drafted: Pick 21 in 2006 by Suns
Best Case: Rich Man's Brevin Knight
Worst Case: Jacque Vaughn
Deviating from our usual Rookie Retrospectives, we’ll be taking a look at a player from the 2006 draft class who has blossomed into one of the League’s top young point guards—and see how we can apply the lessons we’ve learned to this year’s draft class. Rajon Rondo was originally tabbed by the Phoenix Suns with the 21st overall pick before being shipped to Boston along with Brian Grant for a draft pick. A prospect with unique tools, Rondo was projected by many as more of a defensive stopper who could provide some value as a passer. Three years into his career, he’s already been a starter on a Championship team and has become a star in his own right behind three probable Hall of Famers.
Overview:Young, defensive-oriented point guard with solid distributing skills. Lacks great size or bulk, but has a terrific wingspan to compensate and is an excellent athlete. Exceptionally quick and a very good ball-handler, which makes him a threat to ignite the break and get out in transition. Does a solid job getting his team into their offense and finding the open man, but can get a bit passive at times as a scorer. Very poor shooter, but improving. Quiet point guard who will need to develop his leadership skills as his career moves along. Spent just two seasons at Kentucky and entered the draft as a fairly raw product. Fell to the early 20’s portion of the first round and developed into a real steal for Danny Ainge. Has improved substantially since his rookie season and did an excellent job helping his team win the NBA championship in 2008, setting a record for most assists in a single game in the NBA Finals with 16. Still has significant room to grow as a player.
Offense: A fairly limited scorer who looks most comfortable distributing the ball to his teammates. Extremely quick off the dribble and an excellent ball-handler with either hand. Unselfish, no frills type point guard with good court vision. Does a good job getting his teammates the ball with crisp passes, and does not make many mistakes. Heady playmaker who plays with great maturity and calmness and rarely forces the issue. Can create his own shot, but is not a great finisher around the rim, and does not get to the free throw line at a great rate. Lacks size and strength and does not have the best touch. Does not look to shoot that often, and for good reason. Possesses a slow, deliberate jump-shot that is extremely inconsistent outside of 17-feet. Struggles with his pull-up jumper and is often not even guarded out on the perimeter by the opposition. Has a tendency to defer even when put in an excellent position to score, which hurts his team at times. Slowly improving the consistency of his mid-range jumper, and is gradually seeing better results. Needs to improve his perimeter stroke and become more aggressive taking advantage of scoring opportunities to take the next step as a point guard.
Defense: Small, skinny player with great length and lateral quickness. Closes out extremely fast on shooters and does a terrific job contesting shots. Tough-minded, aggressive defender who is very effective on this end of the ball. Does an outstanding job getting in the passing lanes, freakish wingspan allows him to wrap his arm around and poke balls loose even after getting beat. Excellent defensive rebounder for his position as well. Size and lack of bulk makes him susceptible to being posted up, but does a nice job fighting back. A big part of why Boston is such a strong defensive team.
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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 isn’t 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 didn’t really get to show off everything he can do at the college level because of Kentucky’s 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 doesn’t mind him gambling for steals on occasion. He’s 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. He’s 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, it’s hard to get a great read because of all the chaos surrounding Kentucky’s 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 he’s told by his coaching staff.
(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.
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, Rondo’s 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 team’s will likely just back off him and dare him to shoot the 3.
It’s difficult to tell how much of this had to do with Rondo’s already tentative nature and how much was due to Coach Tubby Smith’s 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 didn’t 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 Kentucky’s 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.
(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.
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 McDonald’s 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 Basketball’s 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.
(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.
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2006)
In a draft completely devoid of legit point guard prospects, many scouts feel that Rondo’s 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 Jordan’s 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 it’s all said and done.
(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.
(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.
Jonathan Givony (4/17/2006)
(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.
This might not have been the most impressive stat-lines Rajon Rondo has ever put up, but after watching his performances in both NCAA tournament games Kentucky participated in, it’s tough not to come away with the feeling that we’re talking about probably the most naturally talented point guard in the NCAA today.
Rondo started off the game extremely aggressive, slashing his way to the hoop repeatedly thanks to his outstanding ball-handling skills, finding the open man from both static positions as well as off the dribble, and generally running his team with the type of confidence and poise we haven’t seen enough of from him this season.
If Kentucky had anywhere near the talent that their opponent did today in terms of knocking down open shots and finishing around the basket, he likely would have finished with double-digit assists at the very least. He also played pretty good defense for large stretches of the game, clearly bothering Marcus Williams with his length and quickness, but struggled to get around the numerous screens UConn set to help him get by him and into the lane. The way he rebounded in traffic time after time showed a lot about just how tough and athletic he is going after the ball. And just when you thought you could completely write off any chance he has of ever developing a perimeter stroke, he nails a contested 3-pointer from NBA range to beat the shot clock.
All in all this probably isn’t the way Rondo thought his career at Kentucky would end when he decided to commit to the most successful program in college basketball history, but considering the dearth of point guards in this draft and the way he was micromanaged and underutilized this season, it’s a little bit difficult to envision him returning.
Kentucky's enigmatic lead guard has been criticized and praised in equal measure this year, but is undoubtedly among the most athletic backcourt players in the country. A defensive menace, Rondo has struggled to find his niche in Tubby Smith's half-court, grind-it-out offense, leaving scouts and fans alike wondering whether Rondo is a case of overhype or underused. A little of both, probably.
After his Wildcats flirted with disaster for a good month, a revitalized UK now heads to a probable seed in the NCAAs where even one of two wins would be a great accomplishment. Rondo will be at the center of any success or failure the Wildcats encounter, as he is their most dynamic performer and quite possibly their worst shooter. NBA teams aren't sure what to expect from this long-armed athletic freak -- will he look confused or unstoppable? He's been both at times, this season.
Scouts have seen a lot of Rondo already, and it's unlikely that they'll be persuaded either way should he shoot well or poorly. Rather, everyone will be watching to see if Rondo controls the tempo, continues his all-world defensive pressure and distributes the ball effectively. If he does, a solid first-round slot awaits; maybe even a mid-lottery spot in a weak draft for game-changing point men. If not, Kentucky will bow out meekly, and Rondo will show that another year in Lexington might be his best career option.
One of the most pressing questions asked by hardcore college basketball fans this year has been: “what in the world is going on in Lexington?” The winningest team in college basketball history is having its worst season in quite some time, and most fingers from Big Blue nation are pointed directly towards their legendary head coach, Tubby Smith.
One of the most bizarre storylines in this incredibly frustrating season for Kentucky fans has been the treatment of Smith’s star point guard and future first round draft pick Rajon Rondo. Coach Smith has taken the questionable approach of bringing his best players off the bench, and appears to have lost the confidence of not only his most loyal fans, but also of his most important player. When Rondo does come off the bench, he is often inexplicitly played at the position that is his worse natural fit: shooting guard. Smith has instead preferred to start senior Brandon Stockon, a 5-8 offensively challenged player whose career highlight at Kentucky in four years was scoring 9 points against Ole Miss. Stockton will not make many mistakes, but also wouldn’t start on most respectable mid-major teams.
Smith’s goal with this move--one that admittedly worked for him many times in the past--was to motivate his players to play harder, dribble the ball less, not make any more mistakes from here on out until they leave, and kill any semblance of individual talent that may have plagued Kentucky in the past. What is odd is that Rondo actually looked more than decent in many key stretches coming off the bench and being allowed to play his natural (and only) position over the past 6 games, pushing the tempo of the game nicely, distributing the ball crisply in transition and half-court sets, taking good shots within the context of the offense, and playing his typically excellent off-ball defense. He almost single-handedly delivered what was probably the biggest win Kentucky has had all season just a few weeks ago, going into the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville for a huge matchup with a top 10 ranked team in Tennessee, and coming out with a massive win that likely saved Kentucky’s season behind a phenomenal second half performance by Rondo. With just a few minutes left in the game, though, the slightest mistake sent Rondo straight back to the bench as if nothing he’d done the entire game prior had ever occurred.
This is just another perfect example in many of what has made this season go south in a hurry for both Rajon Rondo and Kentucky. The problems come once Rondo begins to calculate how to limit his mistakes—and therefore preserve his playing time—rather than play to his strengths. Smith has kept Rondo completely in check by moving him off the ball and restricting him from utilizing his phenomenal first step to take his man off the dribble and slash to the hoop, neutralizing what is obviously his biggest strength as a player and making Kentucky’s offense stagnant and predictable. In return we’ve seen a passive player who is just not capable of living up to his tremendous potential on the court, since he appears to be afraid of the repercussions if he will do so. It’s obvious that Rondo is the type of player who confidence plays a huge role in how much success he will have on the court, and right now he has almost none as you can clearly see in his body language.
I’ve always felt that Tubby Smith is one of the best NCAA coaches in America because of how much he gets out of so little, but you have to wonder if now that the tables are turned and he actually has some talent to work with, is he capable of capitalizing on it? It’s a question we likely won’t have to answer anytime soon considering the type of talent he’s brought in over the past few years beyond his top ranked sophomore class.
The point guard many scouts saw completely dominate amongst a team of NCAA stars with Team USA in the U-21 World Championships last summer in Argentina is still wearing a Kentucky uniform (for now), but it’s doubtful that he will be able to show the same skills until he goes to another coach who is willing to actually utilize him. Everyone who watches the Wildcats play can tell what’s going on right now, but it’s not exactly clear why it’s happening. There is no doubt that Kentucky needs Rondo to stay another year if they have any chance of being anything remotely close to the team they were in the past, but this is certainly not the way to accomplish that. Obviously Smith’s #1 goal and priority is to win basketball games at Kentucky rather than help his players make the NBA, but it appears that Smith will strike out on both counts since the Wildcats aren’t going to be winning many games anytime soon and it’s hard to fathom Rondo being willing to put up with another season like the one he’s going through now, even though Tubby is obviously doing his best to try and force him to stay. Randolph Morris wasn’t last year, even if he made an absolutely terrible decision to leave at all costs.
You probably won’t hear about it before the early-entry list comes out, since there is absolutely benefit in doing otherwise, but most NBA people we’ve talked to fully expect to see his name on the list when April 28th rolls around.
A physical specimen who might already be the best defensive guard in the NCAA. Rondo’s long arms, huge hands and outstanding lateral quickness make him a great threat both in the passing lanes and in man to man defense. His playmaking instincts are good, but he still looked like a fairly raw player as a freshman, especially when it comes to his outside shot. His mechanics are poor and this comes to play in his low 3 point shooting percentage, but especially at the free throw line. Early reports out of Lexington indicate that he’s tightened up his shot and expanded his range dramatically over the summer, but it can be hard to tell at times when the often overenthusiastic fans and media in Lexington are jumping the gun. What’s for sure is that his quickness is off the charts and he gets to the line at ease at the NCAA level, which is more than what most PGs have going for them. Rondo is clearly all upside right now, but appears to have the attitude and work ethic to improve on his weaknesses. The fact that he’s fairly undersized at only 6-1 hurts him to some extent, but his length and athleticism help him in this area. The experience he has garnered and will continue to obtain at Kentucky under possibly the #1 coach in America in Tubby Smith cannot be dismissed.[Read Full Article]