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The Celtics have a bright future with point guard Rajon Rondo leading the way.Over the three weeks leading up to start of the new league year on July 1, we'll take a player-by-player look at the Celtics' 2011-12 roster and how each player's season unfolded, assigning a grade for their overall performance. This is the 13th in the series of report cards:
Player: Rajon Rondo
2011-12 averages: 11.9 ppg, 11.7 apg, 4.8 rpg, 36.9 mpg
2011-12 salary: $10 million
Season in a paragraph: A season that opened with Rondo in the center of trade speculation as Boston pursued Chris Paul, ended with Rondo being as close to the label of untouchable as possible. He was downright spectacular, particularly on the season's biggest stages, and was the gasoline that fueled the 2011-12 Celtics (only Kevin Garnett and his defense might have been more important overall, but clearly the torch has been passed and this is Rondo's team). There were injuries (Rondo missed eight games with a right wrist issue early in the season), outbursts (he was suspended a total of three games for incidents with officials), and indifference (Rondo and his "engagement" level were often critiqued when Boston struggled). Through it all, it's the otherworldly efforts -- and there were plenty of them -- that we'll remember most.
Season highlight: We have to pick just one!? There were 10 triple-doubles, including four in the postseason (the best of that bunch might have been a ridiculous 32-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound effort he posted against Chicago in mid-February). But his finest performance? That was probably a 44-point outburst in Game 2 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Yes, the Celtics lost the game in overtime, but Rondo produced his finest shooting night as a pro, connecting on 16-of-24 shots overall while adding 10 assists, eight rebounds, and three steals during a wire-to-wire 53-minute outing. If the Celtics had won the game -- and the series -- we might reflect on that game as fondly as LeBron James' 45-point outburst in Game 6.
Season lowlight: The Celtics had lost four of their last five and were limping towards the finish line of the first half of the season when Rondo's emotions got the best of him in Detroit. Already laboring having missed 5-of-6 shots and committing six turnovers over 28 minutes as the Pistons hung close, Rondo got ejected for zipping the ball off a game official while protesting the lack of a foul call during a third-quarter drive to the basket. The Celtics lost the game (and two more to close out the first half at two games under .500) and Rondo got suspended for two games for his actions. All of which left pundits using the incident as an example of why Boston wanted to trade the mercurial guard. A second suspension for bumping an official in a Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks to open the postseason didn't aid his cause, either.
Final grade: A
Teacher's notes: Rondo finished as the top distributor in the league, which included handing out double-digit assists in the final 24 games of the regular season (and 17 of Boston's 20 postseason tilts). Not only was his assist percentage a career high (52.5, a rather ridiculous number), but his turnover percentage came down as well. That didn't take away from his offensive output, which saw his scoring average jump up 1.3 points, most notably with his free-throw attempts spiking after a down year. The negatives? Despite a solid season with his mid-range jumper, Rondo's field goal percentage dipped overall (44.8 percent, worst since rookie season) and free throws continue to be a trouble spot (59.7 percent). Synergy Sports data hammer home his offensive woes: Rondo averaged a mere 0.742 points per play, ranking in the 17th percentile. The assist numbers mask his struggles to generate his own offense. Defensively, he allowed a mere 0.739 points per play (90th percentile), though dribble penetration was an issue at times and his steal numbers were down.
What's next?: The Celtics have Rondo under contract for three more seasons at reasonable numbers (his salary is $11 million next year; the third year of a five-year, $55 million extension). This has potential to be the first offseason in which his name won't pop up in trade rumors (though that attractive salary will always have teams interested in prying him free). Regardless of how an uncertain offseason plays out for Boston, Rondo is the foundation of the team moving forward.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Rondo's 2011-12 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.