|It's not pretty but it's working. (US Presswire)|
Play off of Rajon Rondo.
That's what NBA defenses have been doing since Rondo entered the league as a spindly point guard out of Kentucky. With his big feet and big hands, Rondo learned his way through the association through a lot of trial and error. It was like watching a puppy with huge paws trying to figure out how to play with older dogs.
Rondo's jumper was a problem for his team, not opponents. Not to mention, Rondo has also been a terrible free-throw shooter -- never shooting higher than the 64.7 percent mark that he put up his rookie season.
However, the Rondo who plays before us today has shown drastic improvements in the way he plays the game and the way he shoots the ball from the perimeter. And former teammate Al Jefferson has noticed. Via CSNNE.com:
"The only thing I felt like he needed was a jumpshot, and he's hitting that consistently now," Jefferson said following the Celtics' 98-93 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at TD Garden. "You can't stay in front of him, and now he's hitting that jumper and you've got to respect it. He's just getting better and better."
"It changes big time," Jefferson said of guarding the C's. "You used to be able to sag off him and help out on other guys, but you can't now. Especially when he's hitting that jumper and attacking the basket, it's hard to defend him."
Rondo has often been a reluctant shooter from the outside. He has never attempted more than 80 3-point shots in a season. And he has only averaged more than three shots per game from 16-23 feet once before this season.
His percentages from 16-23 feet have been as inconsistent as his former jumper. From his rookie season through last season, he has had percentages of 27, 43, 40, 33, 41 and 39 from 16-23 feet. Early on this season, though, he's hitting at a ridiculous clip of 49 percent from 16-23 feet, according to HoopData.
|Rajon Rondo's shooting chart for the 2012-13 season. (NBA.com)|
Last season, only nine rotation players connected on 49 percent or better on their attempts from 16-23 feet. Rondo's former shooting reputation and the statistical odds of this keeping up make it seem unlikely he'd hover around making half of those shots this season, especially when he's taking a career-high 4.4 attempts per game from that range.
However, Rondo has shown enough improvement over the last couple years to prove he has that shot in his arsenal. Now if only that free throw stroke (55 percent this season) could improve ...