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.