0

Profile of a Shooter: Rajon Rondo

Mar 30, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) drives the lane while Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) and center Joakim Noah (13) defend during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo has a reputation as one of the worst shooters in the league, but it’s a reputation earned by a circuitous route. He was a horrific jumpshooter when he entered the league but, by field goal percentage from specific areas, Rondo is actually quite respectable these days. He’s been shooting at or above the league average on mid-range jumpers for several seasons. The reputation persists for two reasons — he’s not a three-point threat and he’s an extremely selective mid-range shooter.

You can see this selectivity in his shot chart from last season.

Rondo takes very few mid-range jumpers and among those he does take his efficiency is extremely localized around the top of the key and the left elbow. The way he almost pathologically avoids taking jumpshots from other locations leaves the impression that he isn’t taking them because he doesn’t think he can make them. It’s a valid perspective, and whether he can or can’t make mid-range jumpers from other locations is irrelevant from a defensive perspective. The bottom line is that he doesn’t take them, which means the defense doesn’t have to worry as much about him from those spots.

But the place on the floor where Rondo has legitimately struggled to score efficiently from — around the rim — generally gets far less attention than his jumpshooting. You can see from the shot chart that he also really struggled around the basket last season, particularly from the right side. His struggles extended beyond shots immediately at the basket and you could see he was league average at best from pretty much everywhere in the paint.,

While these struggles were extreme last season they weren’t entirely new. Over the past five seasons there has been a general downward trend in his FG% around the rim and his FG% from everywhere else in the paint has been a rollercoaster.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.11.56 AM

I’m sure some of his struggles around the basket can be attributed to his battles with injury and the associated timidity that comes with not trusting your body entirely (as well as his consistently poor free throw shooting). But put altogether it’s part of a disturbing pattern of dwindling offensive versatility. Rondo was always going to be a fairly specialized player in the scoring department, but as he continues to limit his array of mid-range shot attempts defenses can play him more aggressively to drive. As they play him more aggressively to drive it robs him of even more of his efficiency around the basket, the one place he could count on having a scoring impact when he first came into the league.

The fact that he’s still able to make a positive offensive impact is a testament to just how good his passing and offensive orchestration can be. But he also appears to be making himself into an offensive hermit, holing himself up in a cave around the left elbow. At some point, if he’s going chase his full potential at that end of the floor he’s going to need to reverse this pattern and break out of his shell.

The shot charts in this post are the work of our own Austin Clemens. Check out shot charts for any NBA player going back to the 1996-1997 season here

Ian Levy

Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh) writes about basketball from the wilds of Southern Vermont. He is the editor of Nylon Calculus, a regular contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm,VICE Sports, Bleacher Report and an irregular contributor to several of your other favorite sports media outlets.