The Boston Celtics have played a total of 64 games without Rajon Rondo since his injury. Take a moment and try to guess what the team's record is without Rondo on the court. Give up? They are 33-31 without the All-Star point guard.
That isn't a small sample size, either. The 43 games that Rondo did play in the 2012-13 season were not as successful, the team went 20-23.
When Rondo returns there will be some things that are different for this team. Firstly, Jordan Crawford will not be handling the ball. In many cases that is a good thing, as he is still learning the position. However, his 13.8 points per game might be missed. Crawford has scored 15+ points in seven of his last eight games. He is distributing the ball pretty well, averaging 5.5 assists per game. While that is not elite, he is also not lucky enough to be passing to players like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Something Rondo will have to learn how to do when he returns in January.
Crawford has also forced defenses to guard him beyond the three-point line, because, for better or worse, Crawford is not afraid to hoist up a three at any point in the shot clock. Rondo does not have this ability (as far as we know), and therefore the defense will not extend out as far.
Some people will claim that Rondo's defense is better than Crawford's, however, we have not seen Rondo guard an NBA point guard with his new knee. Truthfully, Rondo does like to gamble a lot on defense. No more KG as the anchor might force him to be more careful in his on the ball defense. Crawford's Defensive Rating is 106 this year. His career average is 108. Rondo's career average is 101. However, the team defense the Celtics are playing this year is still pretty solid.
Rajon Rondo's return will add some spark to this team. The players seem excited to get their starting point guard back on the floor. However, some people strongly believe that Rondo's return will launch this team into a new level, possibly catapulting them to a 3-seed in the East.
If we take a look at both player's PER it's clear that the 2013 version of Jordan Crawford is doing what Rondo has done in the past. Crawford's PER this year is 18.2, and Rondo's career average is 17.2 (including 18.1 in 2012-13 season before his knee injury).
Adding an All-Star point guard will obviously provide a boost to this team. It will allow Crawford to come off the bench, deepening that portion of the roster. But ultimately, for all his flaws, Crawford has done a more than admirable job filling in the role. He's done such a great job that it seems like the team will not improve as drastically as some forecast when Rondo is healthy.
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