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What can we expect from Rajon Rondo during the 2012-13 season?Each weekday for a three-week span, ESPN Boston colleague Greg Payne and I are playing a game of over/under while trying to predict the potential production for a Celtics player during the 2012-13 campaign. Today's target: Rajon Rondo.
Minutes per game: 36.5
* Forsberg: Under. Rondo has been above this number for the past three years and, given his growing importance to the team as a whole, it's hard to imagine it dipping. That said, the Celtics don't have a pure backup, but there's capable ball-handling depth behind him in both Jason Terry and Keyon Dooling. Ultimately, it'll come down to just how good this team is as a whole. If there's a few more lopsided wins along the way, Rondo and veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will all see declines. If every game remains a grind, Rondo can probably expect to be back up over 37 minutes per night.
* Payne: Over. Rondo won't need to play 40 minutes every game, but he'll likely hover around 38. Sure, the Celtics are deeper, but as with every new season, Rondo's importance to the team increases another notch. Doc Rivers might be tempted to insert Rondo back into games sooner following his initial break to get him some burn with what should be a pretty athletic second unit. Rivers won't run Rondo into the ground by any means (and he's only 26 anyway), but he doesn't have to be strict with his minutes the way he'll need to be with someone like Garnett.
Field goal percentage: 47.5
* Forsberg: For his career, Rondo has shot 48.1 percent. That number was down last season (44.8 percent) despite growing consistency in his jumper. With Rondo more confident in that mid-range shot, and more talent to open up potential lanes to the basket, I think his shooting percentage will spike back up. Even if it doesn't reach 47.5 percent, it'll be better than last season.
* Payne: Under. This will probably come down to the types of shots Rondo takes most often. He's going to score more this season than he has in years past, but will he be attacking the rim or shooting from the perimeter? If it's the former, there's a better chance he'll shoot a high percentage. But if he's going to fall back on that jumper, it'll likely bring his overall field goal percentage down. Rondo shot just 27.8 percent from 10-15 feet last season, according to HoopData.
Free throw percentage: 61
* Forsberg: Over. Yes, he's a career, 61.2 percent shooter. Yes, he shot just 59.7 percent last year. It all goes back to confidence and, with a bigger role as a scorer next season, it's likely that free throws will get easier for Rondo. More importantly, an increased importance on Rondo getting to the rim will make it more likely he'll end up at the charity stripe and he'll likely gain confidence from more attempts (his best seasons as the stripe have come with high number of attempts).
* Payne: Over. I'd love to give Rondo more credit in this department, but there's nothing to suggest we'll see a dramatic improvement from him at the free throw line. He hit several clutch freebies during the 2012 postseason, but that doesn't necessarily suggest better overall numbers are to come. Rondo's jump shooting/free throw percentages have been all over the map in recent seasons, but I'd like to think his overall importance to this year's club will somehow result in better numbers.
* Forsberg: Under. It'll be in the double digits, but given the way his offensive game really seemed to take a step forward in the postseason last year, I wonder if Rondo will be more inclined to look for opportunities to score. Yes, he might get bored and try to rip off another ridiculous double-digit assist streak (with a deeper team that might even be easier to accomplish this year), but I think the number will come in a little bit lower than last season.
* Payne: Over. One of Rondo's favorite targets from recent seasons (Ray Allen) is gone, but in exchange he's getting a collection of younger, more athletic players who he'll excel in transition with. That's where his passing numbers should see a pretty solid spike. He's a wizard in half court sets, whipping that ball around like no other point guard really can, but add in the fact that he now gets to wheel-and-deal in transition consistently and we should see him flirt with 12-14 helpers per game.
MVP balloting points: 350
* Forsberg: Under. First off, hop HERE to see the MVP balloting from last season as a reference. Essentially, 350 points last year put Kobe Bryant at fourth in the overall balloting. So can Rondo make the leap into a top 5-caliber player this season (this after earning 12 points and an eighth-place finish last season). It'll be close, but the guess here is that Rondo will be slightly under while making a considerable leap to being considered one of the league's elite. The LeBron James and Kevin Durants of the world will take the top spots, but Rondo will be in the mix in the next few spots and could end up on either side of our number.
* Payne: Over. This will be the first season Rondo gets some serious love in the MVP debate. The Celtics are going to be a very good team, with an elite defense and an improved (not necessarily drastically) offense, and Rondo will be at the heart of both. As the C's hang tough in the Eastern Conference and flirt with the second or third seed all season, people will take notice that Rondo's having a career year and he'll get some legit MVP consideration as a result.