Dallas Mavericks: Rondo’s Defensive Impact To Be Tested Early


The Dallas Mavericks got off easy when they faced a San Antonio Spurs team without Tony Parker in Rajon Rondo’s debut. No disrespect to Corey Joseph, a fine player, but Parker is among the league’s elite.

And speaking of elite, the notion that the Maverick’s perimeter defense has been bolstered with the addition of Rondo will be tested right out of the gates, as Dallas faces some of the most elite guards in the game in the next week.

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It starts tonight when the Atlanta Hawks come to town. I can envision the confusion on some of your faces now. Many wouldn’t know it because, well, the Hawks don’t get much airtime on ESPN, but Jeff Teague is having a fantastic season. He’s been good for a while, right up there with Mike Conley Jr. as perhaps the most overlooked point guards, but has been even better this year for the surprising Hawks.

He’s averaging 16.8 points and seven assists, shooting 48% from the field and 37% from three-point range while leading to the Hawks to a 19-7 record. His speed and quickness is on par with anyone at the position, and he’ll be a tough matchup.

**Editor’s note: Despite early optimism that he could return from a strained left hamstring, Jeff Teague was not active against the Mavericks. Rondo instead got a matchup with Dennis Schroder. Schroder drew comparisons to Rondo leading up the the 2013 NBA draft, and has modeled his game after the former-Celtic. 

It doesn’t get any easier after Teague for Rondo. We all remember what happened the last time the Mavericks played the Phoenix Suns. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe torched the Mavericks by combining for 47 points and 20 assists on 16-28 shooting. They got into the paint with ease, collapsing the defense to find teammates or to score the ball themselves. And they were a combined 10-11 at the charity stripe to boot as the Suns came away with the 118-106 victory.

Ex-Mav Jameer Nelson struggled mightily against the duo, we’ll see if Rondo can fare better. It should be an even tougher go-around this time with reserve guard Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, too.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After Phoenix the Mavericks take on the Los Angeles Lakers. No elite point guard this time, but Rondo will likely be tasked with defending Kobe Bryant. Rondo is no stranger to guarding shooting guards. Celtics coach Brad Stevens often had Rondo check opposing two-guards while Avery Bradley harassed ball handlers. Still, Kobe remains one of the best scorers in the league. He’s averaging 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists in his last five games. Rondo will have his hands full.

After the Lakers, Dallas faces Oklahoma City and the Washington Wizards. Russell Westbrook and John Wall may be the best two point guards in the league this season.

The Mavericks benefitted from a poor shooting night from Wall when they played back in November, but it wasn’t anything they did to slow him down. He had lay-ins rim out and open jumpers fall just a bit short en route to a 5-17 night from the field. He finished with 11 points and 11 assists. The Mavericks shouldn’t count on that happening again. He’s going for 17.1 points, 12.4 assists, and five rebounds in his last ten contests.

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Westbrook has been even better. On the season, he’s averaging 27.4 points per game and 7.2 assists. He’s a freak of nature with a competitive streak as thick as they come, and with Durant and Westbrook both missing time this season every game has become almost a must-win as the Thunder try to recover from a 5-16 start. They’re playing much better with their stars back in the fold, and Rondo will have to slow Westbrook down for the Mavericks to come away with the win.

The narrative on Rondo is that he’s an elite defender at the point guard position. There are plenty of detractors to this notion, and there are some numbers to back their claims. And frankly, just going from the eye-test, it’s clear to see he hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL.

It certainly hurt his game when Kevin Garnett left Boston. Having an elite interior defender behind him allowed Rondo to take chances on the defense end, knowing Garnett was there to erase his mistakes. Well, he has that type of defender behind him again in Tyson Chandler. Could Chandler’s presence help Rondo return to the guy who led the league in steals back in 2010? It should help.

And being back in the hunt for an NBA championship should help, too. We have enough evidence to know that a motivated Rondo is a better Rondo. He should be motivated again now that he’s in Dallas, playing for one of the best teams in the league and a legitimate contender.

We’ll get to see early on if he’s capable of being the staunch perimeter defender the Mavericks envisioned him being, the type of guy capable of slowing down the league’s best guards they need to navigate their way through the loaded western conference.