Rondo triples his pleasure

December, 4, 2008
12/04/08
9:36
AM ET
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 3
HIGHLIGHTS
Rafer Alston, Rockets: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists (1 turnover) and five 3-pointers versus the Clippers.
Mike Bibby, Hawks: 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting (4-6 on 3s), 10 assists (2 turnovers) against Memphis.
Emeka Okafor, Bobcats: 25 points (8-11 FG, 9-12 FT), 13 rebounds versus Oklahoma City.
LOWLIGHTS
Elton Brand, 76ers: 3 points (1-7 FG), 5 rebounds against the Lakers.
Chris Duhon, Knicks: 6 points on 1-of-9 shooting, and more turnovers (6) than assists (4) versus Cleveland.
Drew Gooden, Bulls: 2 points (1-11 FG) at Milwaukee.

As of this morning -- that is, after his absurd line of 16 points, 13 rebounds and 17 assists in 41 minutes against the Pacers on Wednesday night -- Rajon Rondo is seventh in PER (Player Efficiency Ranking) among point guards. One of the "point guards" ahead of him is Jason Terry, who is more of a shooting guard. Rondo is fifth among point guards in assist rate, and the only player with a better assist rate and turnover rate is Jose Calderon. He is third among point guards in rebound rate behind only Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. Yet, Rondo plays fewer minutes (just 31.2) than any of the point guards ahead of him on the overall PER list, including Terry, who comes off the bench for the Mavericks.

It gets better. Over his past five games, Rondo is averaging, get this, 12.8 points, 11.4 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and just 2.0 turnovers. He is shooting almost 60 percent from the field over that stretch and is 14-of-17 (82 percent) from the free-throw line. In terms of fantasy, by the way, free throws are his biggest weakness. In fact, if he were just an average free-throw shooter, he'd be currently ranked in the top 20 among fantasy players overall. Besides Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd, there is not another player who helps you as much in steals and assists as Rondo.

And somehow, Rondo is doing all of this despite the fact that he still looks noticeably uncomfortable shooting jump shots and can't reliably hit the side of a barn from long range. Similarly to Devin Harris, Rondo is seeing opposing defenses play off of him by about five feet and yet he is still able to cut into the teeth of the defense and get dunks for his teammates. Part of the success over the past few games has been due to increasingly good communication with Kevin Garnett. Wednesday night against the Pacers, Rondo hit Garnett for at least three alley-oops that I saw (I was flipping to other games until it became abundantly clear that we were seeing Rajon's best game as a pro), and on all of them, it seemed like he and Garnett were a step ahead of the defense the whole way down the floor. Actually, they seemed to be about nine steps ahead.

If you've got Rondo in your fantasy league, hold onto him. Yeah, we like to get point guards who hit lots of 3s and make their free throws, but Rondo is a special player who's only going to keep getting better, and he's playing in a system in which he doesn't have to do to much. You don't have to worry about him getting burnt out, because coach Doc Rivers isn't giving him enough minutes to get tired. He'll be strong all season.

Under the Boards

Pau Gasol continues to put up huge numbers and has now had more than 20 points in four of his past five games. During that stretch, he is averaging 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 63 percent shooting from the floor and 80 percent from the line. If this isn't easing your anxiety that he won't produce with Andrew Bynum around, well, I don't know what to tell you. … I'm a bit concerned, however, about Amare Stoudemire, who is playing a ton of minutes (38.2, good for 10th in the league) but producing fewer points and rebounds than he did last season. His rebound rate is only marginally better than players like Channing Frye, Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge, and his per-game average of 7.8 boards is definitely not what you thought you were getting to start the season. Wednesday night against the Hornets, he managed 26 points, but grabbed only four rebounds in 41 minutes. He also got to the line just four times. I'm worried we're seeing a lack of aggressiveness, and given his comments recently about being frustrated in the offense, I think there's a reasonable possibility he's not playing with the same sort of intensity we saw last season. I wouldn't panic, but you might want to at least consider selling high while you can. … Just when it seems like Luol Deng was on the road to fantasy irrelevance, he goes out and totally redeems himself. Against the Bucks, he had 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks and shot 9-for-14 from the floor. Most importantly, he played 39 minutes, which is exactly what should be happening considering he's one of the best players on his team. … One thing about Charlie Villanueva: he's not shy. Charlie chucked up 21 shots in just 30 minutes against the Bulls, and had 23 points to show for it. He is, amazingly, first among power forwards in usage rate, sixth overall, and he has a worse assist rate than anyone in the top 30 overall in usage. Not very efficient, nor consistent, but he's still worth owning and playing depending on matchups.

Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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