Friday, April 29, 2011

4 comments Rondo or Westbrook?

A recent discussion with a friend prompted the following question: Who's Better - Westbrook or Rondo? Because I write for a blog and he does not, I get to express my two cents through the written word.

21.9 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.9 SPG. These are the stats of a man living in the shadow of the NBA’s scoring leader. He has blinding athleticism, superb court vision, the ability to finish near the rim and a solid jump shot. In short, Russell Westbrook is a Derrick Rose waiting in the wings.

But this is a comparison, so let’s do exactly that. On the Celtics, Rondo fills a role. With Pierce and Allen taking care of the scoring, Rondo happily distributes. Westbrook, on the other hand, must and does execute a two-pronged assignment. With no one but Durant able to consistently create his own shot, Westbrook must manage personalities and ensure full team involvement. When the offense needs an infusion of energy and scoring, Westbrook unleashes the full breadth of his offensive arsenal. This is where the difference lies. Rondo’s scoring is limited by his lack of three point range and mediocre mid-range jumper. We’ve all seen it: whoever guards Rondo stands 10 feet away. Despite Rondo’s amazing ability to compensate for such a disadvantage, it is a disadvantage nonetheless. And because of his shooting deficiency, an extra defender can more easily play help defense.

Westbrook is not hampered by this limitation. This is not to say that Westbrook’s jumper is outstanding. But the threat that his three pointer poses forces defenders to stand closer than 10 feet. While Rondo may be a point guard in the purest sense, Westbrook is a complete player. He can be the second best player (and in a few years, possibly the best) on a championship team. Rondo, however cannot. The Oklahoma City Thunder has a legitimate shot at the NBA title with a top 5 NBA player, Westbrook, and a bunch of well-defined role players. The Celtics, on the other hand, have 3 Hall of Famers, not including Rondo, and similar role players. Yet their shot at the title is essentially the same. Put Rondo on the Thunder and the all-around point guard play disappears along with their title shot. Put Westbrook on the Celtics and they are most likely the favorites in the Eastern Conference. No longer would their point guard avoid the paint in crunch time to escape his free throw line woes. No longer would their point guard be able to score only in transition or through a wide array of floaters. Instead, he would bring everything that Rondo lacks.

In the NBA, we judge greatness through a player’s ability to take over a game in multiple ways. This is Russell Westbrook.


Rich said...

The only thing I'll say about Rondo is that he's stepped up his game when the big three aren't getting it done.

You refer to the Big 3 as Hall of Famers and that's entirely true, but they're also all relatively old. KG is almost 35, Pierce is 33 and Allen is almost 36. The oldest player on OKC is only two months younger than Pierce. The second oldest player on the team is three years younger than that.

This means that Rondo is asked to do things Westbrook isn't. When you have a young team, you can play your starters longer (KG played 33 mpg, Durant 41), meaning Rondo has to play with those role players more than Westbrook has to play with OKC's.

The other thing that comes into play when you have an older team is that their games change, so Rondo has to do a little bit of everything as the styles played by the Big 3 change.

Even then, Rondo is the fourth scoring option on Boston and so his job is to make plays for the Big 3 (to the tune of 12APG). Westbrook is the second scoring option on his team and so he can play a different style of play.

That said, I think your overall assessment is correct. Westbrook is more like Derrick Rose in that you can use him as a starting piece to a contender, while you can't really rely on Rondo being that guy. However, I think if I had a team with a legitimate number 1, I'd take Rondo because of his ability to get his teammates more involved in the game.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I second a lot of what you are saying. If I were starting a team, I would take Westbrook over Rondo. I would take Rondo as my 2nd pick on a team though. He has to do stuff Westbrook doesn't have to and I think he can score but a lot of that has to be pushed off b/c there are other scorers on the Celtics team.

I am a sucker for a natural PG like Rondo, while I consider Westbrook to be more of a combo guard. Not sure he could succeed in Rondo's situation.

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

its true that rondo doesnt have the same scoring burden that westbrook does, but rondo has way more responsibilities as a distributor than westbrook; russell doesn't have to worry about getting guys involved, he mainly just has to take scoring pressure of KD and punish teams that shade over to durant's side; boston's whole offense depends on rondo's brilliance, his ability to read the defense, always make the right decision, and hit guys perfectly in their spots; how many times per game do the celtics run the same ray allen curl where he can either get his shot or pass to the rolling big? this all depends on rondo's incredible passing skills and court vision; same with pierce and KG, whose ability to score depends on rondo being spot on with his post-entry passes; their offense would not function at all; so yes its true that rondo doesnt bear a huge scoring burden by himself, their ability to score depends on his skill set;

both guys are great palyers and good fits for their teams and systems (if anything the better comparison might be russell westbrook vs. derrick rose; rose shoulders a heavier load, but westbrook has a higher PER and is superior on defense, that's an underrated comparison people don't talk about). personally i would take rondo because he makes everyone around him so much better, but both are really good.

Bengoodfella said...

Arjun, I don't think there is a wrong answer either way really. I think while Westbrook is relied upon for more scoring, Rondo is relied upon to take run the offense more and make sure he distributes the ball. The big question prior to 2008 was whether Rondo could run the offense or not. It was clear Boston wasn't going to win if he couldn't. It turned out he could.

Westbrook would probably be the better player on a team that doesn't have other scoring options. Rondo works better as option #3 or #4 in an offense. So I don't think Westbrook would work well on Boston and I am not sure how Rondo would work on the Thunder. I think if you switched them, Rondo would have more success, but then again he wouldn't be playing with three Hall of Fame players...who are old, but still play at a fairly high level.