Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 10:55 am  |  80 responses

Top 50: Rajon Rondo, no. 8

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players for ’12-13.

by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

There’s a scene in the otherwise forgettable film Raven where a fictionalized Edgar Allen Poe yells, to put it lightly, at his editor for publishing a story in the newspaper written by an author Poe deems terrible.

The editor responded, to paraphrase Kevin McNally’s character, that actually the paper’s readers like the other writer and find him to be quite talented.

An enraged Poe responded, again to paraphrase, coolly: “That’s because you’ve made them think that.”

The media has definitely shaped your opinion of Rajon Rondo. Over the course of his six-year NBA career, a loud if not large portion of the media has led you to believe that he’s surly and stubborn. They’ve led you to believe that he’s a handful in the locker room and not an ideal teammate. They’ve led you to believe, frankly, that he’s singlehandedly responsible for Ray Allen’s departure.

Of late, the media has finally started to soften their stance on Rondo. They’ve finally started digging into what Rondo’s really like—to be fair, they probably never did this before because he never offered more than one- or two-word answers—and they seem to be stunned by what they’ve found.

Keyon Dooling, as quoted by Jessica Camerato of CSNNE, thinks fair treatment from the media is past due.

“It pisses me off to see the way the media treats him because he’s strong,” Dooling said. “They’re scared of strength and he’s honest. It’s OK to be strong. What’s wrong with that man being strong? He’s earned his right. He’s come from nothing, he’s come from nothing.”

I don’t personally know what Rajon Rondo comes from, but I do know that SLAMonline has him at No. 8 on this list, and that even that number is probably not high enough.

I mean, it’s hard to appraise Rondo’s game. It’s hard because of preconceived notions, and it’s even harder because his game isn’t evaluable by an eye-test, isn’t conventional by any standard. The 6-2 point guard from Kentucky passes when you think he’s gonna shoot, shoots when you think he’s gonna pass, and does it all with a creative flourish and without any post-game explanation.

It’s fair to say that there is certainly no current player who compares to Rondo, and there might not have been another player with his makeup ever in the past, either. Between his bouts of MVP-type brilliance, KD-like length, Deion-like timing, stop-and-go quickness, pass-first (and second and third) outlook, single-mindedness in getting where he wants to go and clunky J, Rondo made a new mold with his game… and broke it so no one could copy it. Yes, statheads, a lot of his attributes aren’t quantifiable… but it’s all very real. Just ask the guys who play with him.

“Rajon’s amazing, period,” Kevin Garnett was quoted as saying after a game last season. “We talk about big things are coming—big things are here.”

Or ask NBA executives.

In the annual GM Survey, which was made public earlier this week, Rondo’s name appeared more times than any player not known by their surname alone. NBA GMs, men paid vast sums to evaluate talent and build rosters, voted him the third-best point guard in the League, the third-best (in a four-way tie) perimeter defender, the third-fastest with the ball, the third-best (in a two-way tie) passer, the third-toughest (in a four-way tie; he’s the only point guard) player and the player with the 10th best basketball IQ. And all of this on heels of his eighth-placed finish in last season’s MVP voting.

Yes, Rajon Rondo is not a finished product. His jumper is still shaky, he needs to improve his percentage from the charity stripe, he passes up too many layups and at times he seems to idle his engine. But the 26-year-old is the real deal.

To be honest, I was on the wagon early. Maybe too early. I was a fan of his when he was at Oak Hill and Kentucky, let alone his earliest years in Boston. Ask my co-editors, friends, whomever, I just saw something in him (and was always blown away by his HUGE hands). But, really, my faith in his potential for greatness was confirmed on three occasions in the past 18 months. In May of 2011, in the Eastern Conference Semfinals, Rondo, in a gruesome looking play, dislocated his elbow. Yeah, that’s not amazing in the least. But the fact that the trainers popped it back into place and he returned for the start of the next quarter is. The fact that he played the rest of that series with pretty much one hand is. The fact that, and maybe it only appeared this way to me, Miami seemed to bump and thump Rondo’s bad arm at every turn and he kept on keeping on is.

The second occasion occurred early last March, in the wake of Linsanity, when the New York Knicks visited the Celtics. On that Sunday afternoon, with Lin as the keystone of the national conversation, Rondo took over. In the OT win, Rondo finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists. That game pretty much sums up everything Rondo offers: a touch of scoring, rebounds seemingly whenever Doc allows him to crash the boards and not worry about getting back, and, obviously, an uncanny ability to find open teammates (and, more than that, to get teammates open).

The third occasion occurred this past postseason, when Rajon Rondo took over the entire Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Rajon Rondo’s play in that seven-game series was so outrageously good that it’s not wrong to say he was the only player in the series on the same sphere as LeBron James. It’s not wrong, in fact, to say he’s the reason Boston was ever even in position to win the series. In Game 1, Rondo had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. In Game 2, he had 44, 8 and 10. In Game 3, a win, he had 21, 6 and 10. And so on. To top it all off though, and this is, to me, is what makes Rondo a top player, I contend that his great play in the 2012 ECF directly correlates to the way Miami went after him when he was injured in the 2011 ECSF. Whatever the Heat did to take advantage of Rondo in that series, he took out on them 10-fold a year later. Some players have that MJ-ness in them; some don’t.

Yeah. When it comes to Rajon Rondo it’ll never be about the numbers (11.9 ppg, 11.7 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 spg in ’11-12) or the (terse) quotes. It’ll always be about the game and its results. Just keep watching.

Where should Rajon Rondo rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3
27 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 5
26 Andre Iguodala Nuggets SG 5
25 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 4
24 Josh Smith Hawks PF 7
23 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 8
22 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
21 Steve Nash Lakers PG 7
20 James Harden Thunder SG 3
19 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 6
18 Chris Bosh Heat PF 5
17 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 6
16 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 4
15 Tony Parker Spurs PG 5
14 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 3
13 Andrew Bynum Sixers C 2
12 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
11 Kevin Love TWolves PF 1
10 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
9 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4
8 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 3

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • Guest

    this dudes fakes are unreal

  • JR

    Sweet write up. Rondo is one of my favorite players in the league. I think he’s gonna have a HUGE year.

  • http://twitter.com/edthesportsfan Eddie Maisonet, III

    Well done Tzvi. The wars between Rondo and Russ are gonna be crazy this year, can’t wait.

  • celtics

    Hands down the best pure point guard in the NBA

  • http://twitter.com/Jzakoni Verified Account

    Rondo’s ball fakes are unreal sometimes

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    damn, Tzvi sure knows how to write. that was great

  • http://twitter.com/LucidSportsFan Mark Vandeusen

    Love the respect you’re giving to my man Rondo!

  • gpm23

    A. Davis – overated

  • LeroyShonuff

    There is no war between rondo and russ… the war is between rondo and rose, rondo and miami.

  • Shifty

    I agree nbk. Been looking forward to this write up since number 50 got named.

  • TR

    I didn’t think Dwill would be placed above Rondo, not mad about it though.

  • Shifty

    Rondo and wherever Lebron is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003246310246 Jason Carter

    I do believe Rondo is the Best Pg, certified stat sheet filler.

  • M Cho

    Great write-up and great ranking.

  • LakeShow

    Why not CP3 or Nash? I agree he’s top 3 though.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    There’s no war between Rondo and Rose because Rose has won that matchup every time they’ve played for the last 2 seasons. There’s no war with Miami because Miami has eliminated Boston the last 2 seasons. Rondo and Chris Paul don’t seem to get along all that well so if Rondo is in a war with any player, that’s who it is.

  • Caboose

    7. Wade
    6. Kobe
    5. Deron
    4. Paul
    3. Dwight
    2. Durant
    1. LeBron

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    Wow, D-Will above Rondo. Didn’t see that coming, but I can agree with it given the toys Deron has to play with this season. I’m interested in seeing the kind of statline Rondo will have since he’ll probably have to score more. I’ve only seen one preseason game but he looked less hesitant with his jumpshot.

  • Rainman

    Ppl forget Gm’s voted Nash undisputedly as the best passer in the L (almost 60 percent!!) and with the Highest IQ in the League. The second place vote getters had only half the amount of votes Nash had. He was also third as best leader. Behind only CP3 and KG.Theres my vote for best PURE PG in the League…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i hope that isn’t a prediction. SLAM ain’t puttin Kobe out of the top 5.

  • KipSmithers

    Besides the UK connection, another reason I’m pulling for Rondo is that we are from the same city(Louisville). It’s always good to a local kid do well.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    They’re definitely not putting Deron ahead of him.

  • Junior Taylor

    Trust that Slam will have Kobe in the Top-5 even though his numbers last season don’t warrant it.

  • http://twitter.com/IamEthanAsh Ethan Ash Wear

    All points agreed but I think the only thing Rondo is lacking is CONSISTENCY. If he were able to do his things consistently then well and good. But he does not. Thus in my book, he should be outside of Top 10. Kevin Love deserves this spot.

  • Junior Taylor

    It seems like the older the Big 3 gets, the better Rondo gets. Strange given that most people like to think that the Big 3 (with Ray Allen) are the main reason for Rondo’s success. I beg to differ.

  • LakeShow

    You lie. He nearly led the L in scoring. Off by .1 ppg.

  • KipSmithers

    Buddy The Elf: You sit on a throne of LIES!!!

  • YourMom

    Dude, how is Deron Williams better than Westbrook AND Rondo? D-Will isn’t the best at anything.

  • Datkid

    rose didn’t win in 09. and idk about EVERY matchup. i would say that there’s no war between rondo and rose right now bc rose’s legs don’t work.

  • catpoop1234

    ummmm in 2009 rondo average a triple double and rose didnt.

  • Maurice Bobb

    Helluva write up, Tzvi. I’m gonna have to eat my Wheaties to make my next one anywhere near as good as this one is.

  • thenotic

    I love rondo, but those are some trash nicknames. He’s one of whose first name is cool enough that he doesn’t need one. Just like none of Lebron or Kobe’s nicknames ever caught on (the black mamba is cool, but mostly we all just say kobe (rhymes with globe if you’re shaq)

  • justin05

    7. D-Will
    6. D-Wade
    5. Kobe
    4. Chris
    3. Dwight
    2. Durantula
    1. The King

  • elmaar

    there’s never been a rondo before that’s for sureand edgar alan po is alive
    great write up, t

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    Two seasons would include 2010-2011 and 2011-2012..it doesn’t include 2009.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    2009 would be 3 seasons ago, not 2. I hope you meant Rondo averaged a triple double when they played each other because that might be right if you can prove it. Because everyone knows he didn’t average a triple double for the entire season.

  • Caboose

    Good point…the DRose ranking gave me hope…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Elrick/1031016984 Ian Elrick

    Thanks for the respect to Rondo man. I love that dude like family and its time people start realizing elite status.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    I felt the same way in that Miami series. My only issue is it feels sporadic. But there is no doubt that when LeBron went into super beast mode the only player who could match was Rondo. That is true for damn near the entire playoffs.

  • http://twitter.com/whitehoteboy CCT

    RONDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My favorite player outside of Miami. Best all-around, game-changing PG (in all ways) in the game to me. Rose is a better scorer (that’s it), CP-3 is better offensively (but not overall), but Rondo makes sh*t happen. Just look at his rebounding numbers when he’s having big games. He’s outrebounding most PF’s. I’d love to see him man a backcourt in Miami before his playing days are over. Much respect.

  • Datkid

    Westbrook w/ the 48 in the finals? Durant against the lakers and spurs? cp3 against memphis? i get what you mean but i feel like other people were beastly as well

  • EP

    Darron Williams ranked higher than Rondo? Are you guys serious?

  • RKJ92

    Helllllll nooooooo Dwill Is NOT better then Rondo that’s just messed up.. this kid put up so many close triple doubles and that one triple double against the Heat was literally one of the better performances I’ve ever seen in a long time..

  • Junior Taylor

    LeBron put up 33/11 against BOS. No one came close to putting up those kind of numbers in any series expect for Rondo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keaton-Josuttes/100000478222121 Keaton Josuttes

    rondo over westbrook no way

  • http://www.facebook.com/evan.boland Evan Boland

    SLAM disrespecting more Celtics with their ratings. Dwill and Wade over Rondo is a joke. Only dude in the L who affects the game in as many way’s as Rondo is the MVP.

  • KipSmithers

    I wish more players didn’t have a nickname, but there is usually something that people can put on items.

  • Nixon

    Rondo is NOT a top 10 player in the league right now. Hes top 3 PG, possible MVP candidate, and probably the best facilitator! No disrespect to him, guy is a star, but come on, he’s better than Dirk and Melo?, Need I remind that Dirk carried the Mavs to a championship last year? and Melo is just money in the clutch. You take any of these guys (dirk and melo) out, and their team will suffer. He’s top 15, just not top 10 yet imo

  • http://twitter.com/IamEthanAsh Ethan Ash Wear


  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    I would tell him again but he would just call me a hater.He looooooves anything Kobe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bishop.SeanMagicJuan Sean MagicJuan

    My top10. Slams
    1. LBJ. 1. LBJ
    2. KD. 2. KD
    3. D 12. 3. D 12
    4. D. Wade. 4. C. Paul
    5. Rondo. 5. Kobe
    6. Kobe. 6. D. Wade
    7. Westbrook. 7. D. Williams
    8. Melo. 8. Rondo
    9. C. Paul. 9. Westbrook
    10. B. Griffin. 10. Melo

  • Drig

    Why exactly is there no war between Miami and Boston??? The Jerry West Lakers were eliminated numerous times by the Celts but it would be foolish to say there’s “no war” between them no??? Rondo-Rose is debatable.

  • Drig

    Rose 18pts on 8 for 19 shooting, 9assts, 5boards, 6 turnovers and no steals

    Rondo 10pts on 5 for 10 shooting, 11assts, 3 boards, 4 turnovers and 4 steals

    Boston won the game in OT

    In their 2nd meeting of the season…

    Rose 20 points on 7 for 17 shooting, 8assts, 3 boards, 4 turnovers and no steals

    Rondo 12 points on 6 for 11 shooting, 19assts, 6 boards, 3 turnovers and 3 steals

    Boston won the game

    3rd meeting of the season………

    Rose 36points on 10 for 19 shooting, 2assts, 5 boards, 4 turnovers and 0 steals

    Rondo 13 points on 6 for 14 shooting, 8[..]ts, 5 boards, 0 turnovers and 5 steals

    Bulls won the game

    Last nights game and final meeting in the regular season……

    Rose 30points on 9 for 16 shooting, 8[..]ts, 5 boards, 3 turnovers and 2 steals

    Rondo 7 points on 3 for 10 shooting, 6assts, 5 boards, 0 turnovers and 1 steal

    They at best played each other to a draw. Rose always got the most points but Rondo managed to fill up the boxscores though.

  • danpowers

    me too, but some years ago this development was not really predictable

  • danpowers

    hm i dont think that he is inconsistent. he is consistently playing as a great pass first point guard, as oldschool purists love to see point guards play. when it counts the most he normally shifts some gears up and delivers outbursts like recently against the heat. you cant ask for more.
    the only reason why he is not the undisputed no1 pg are his big hands that seem to keep him from becoming a great ft- and 3pt shooter

  • danpowers

    all day

  • danpowers

    at one hand dwill shouldve been “punished” with a lower rank for his uninspired play for the nets but on the other hand this ranking is also a prediciton for this coming season so expect him to be way better than the last one and a half years

  • danpowers

    appropiate rank. he would easily be the best pg in the league with a better shot but i think his big hands will always keep him from getting there.

  • Ugh

    “Rondo’s name appeared more times than any player not known by their surname alone.”

  • http://twitter.com/IamEthanAsh Ethan Ash Wear

    Steve Nash is a great pass first point guard. Even at his age you can almost always expect to show up every night. The thing with Rondo is he seems to think he has a switch that he can turn on and off. You can see it when he plays lesser teams. Watch him when he plays the bottom feeder teams. He will play to the level of the competition and lay egg.

  • http://twitter.com/IamEthanAsh Ethan Ash Wear

    2011-2012 Vs Sac Kings – 4.0 PPG / 12 APG but 4.0 TOs / FG% 22%
    Vs Clev Cavs – 0 / 11 but 5 / 0%
    Just a few examples.

  • Lorne

    Thank You for this. Can’t argue reason with Rose/Bulls fans sometimes. They have this mythical image of Rose that is supported by point totals mainly.

  • Max

    Yup, cause the Knicks really struggled without Melo..

  • Christian Dereks

    D wade #7

  • Christian Dereks

    o yeah the NBA is completely phony if the BKLYN NETS don’t beat or at least go to a game 7 this coming post season versus MIA…imo they have a better team overall

  • Jer dawg

    Not Celtics fan but Rondo is very very good. Unreal numbers at the end of games. If he hit jumpers and still do everything he does he’s up for debate for top 5 players in NBA. He plays better defense than most alleged point guards in NBA, but he just isn’t a good enough shooter to keep defenses honest. He’s a 15-20 foot jumper away from Chris Paul level of point guard. And Paul is widely considered top 5 player in NBA. Keep it up Rondo. As my hater level grows that means you are doing your f’ing job. F*** Boston!

  • danpowers

    nash is valuable on offense but a liability on defense while you can always count on rondo to give you a great performance on defense. i never really watched those games coz i only watch the cs when they play good teams. might be something about it. could it be that he was maybe banged up in these games?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000166716900 Anthony Darnello Taylor Jr.

    Trash ass fg percentage though,

  • RKJ92


  • Clos1881


  • Clos1881

    Nash only plays one end of the court though

  • Clos1881

    Didn’t rondo average a triple double on rose and knock him out the playoffs ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/evan.boland Evan Boland

    Rondo is top 5. Maybe top 2. 7 games against Miami with barely any help, it was all him and KG. KD is going to get the 2 spot even though they couldn’t ball with MIA at all. Rondo is the second best player in the league at this point, imo. Watch this season and see what I’ve been saying about KG and Rondo. Severely underrated. Nobody in the L can do what Rondo does, affecting every category, save obviously LeBron. And KG’s impact is immeasurable. Coming from a Lakers die hard, they’re the only other team in the L I respect. Also SA, actually.

  • Nixon

    You make a good case, that series with his triple doubles and stat was crazy; Game 2, O Lord!! Alright I agree with with everything else you said about him being the impact player and possibly even shoulders of the Celts. But not being number 2 (or even no 8 in this list)! Thats too far! You can’t disrespect walking legends like kobe, who is a 5 time champ, 2nd leading scorer last season at 34 y.o. , you got dirk, a dude that is averaging 22.9 ppg 8 rpg for the past 13 years in his career! Thats hella production from one guy! I can leave stats behind, and sell you this final factor, and that is when the time comes to close out a game in the 4th, both these guys I just mentioned, Give them the ball and get out of their way. You can’t say that about Rondo, so for the time being, he just isn’t a Top 10 player yet ma man!

  • Nixon

    Um, the Knicks were 29-53(.354) without Melo in ’09-’10, improved to 42-40 (.512) when he first got traded to the team and played for 27 games, 36-30 (.545) last season. Not to mention, helping the Knicks to win their FIRST playoff win since 2001. Whats your problem bro? was I wrong.

  • Max

    Look at their record from last year with and without Melo.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    Stats are one thing but that entire series it felt like Rondo could play at Bron’s level when it came to overall impact. No none else gave that impression. Durant and Westbrook scored but didn’t have that overall impact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/evan.boland Evan Boland

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I was getting ahead of myself with 2 lol. But I don’t agree with Dirk. He’s hurt coming off not one of his best seasons. If we talking about greatness and overall consistency definitely. But you asking me to pick a player to lead a team to a ring this year. I only easily pick Durant and Lebron over him. Prolly Wade and Kobe, too. Maybeeee Dwight. CP3 I think about it, but than I remember SAS-OKC and BOS-MIA and I think no way. Rondo lead the C’s to game 7 against the Heat, a team that wooped the team that wooped the team who wooped CP3′s team. lol. But I tell you this. 2 years from now. SLAM’s top players. 1-4. Lebron, Durant, Dwight, Rondo. Not sure the order. But u heard it here first.

  • Nixon

    Hahaha you got me man. As a Celt fan here, I hope you come out true!

  • heat fan

    paul pierce is the best player in the league