Is Rajon Rondo & Elfrid Payton’s Style of Basketball Dead?


Mar 18, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard

Rajon Rondo

(9) passes the ball against Orlando Magic guard

Elfrid Payton

(4) at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Picture Rajon Rondo staying in Dallas when 2015-16 NBA season begins to kickoff next year. Nobody knows why, but perhaps the reason he does so is because he wants to prove he is a shameless fanatic. He loves this team and willingly takes the max deal. Perhaps his sorry mantra works out and Rick Carlisle accepts it.

In reality, nobody in Metroplex wants more Rondo. His 46 games during his short stint with the Mavs was nationally known as an epic bust.

What went wrong?

First and foremost, Rondo is a cute version of DeAndre Jordan. Maybe that’s okay for a 6’11” big man who have spent his entire life standing under the rim, but 45% shooting freebies is unforgivable for a point guard especially in a tight game’s closing minutes anywhere in this basketball world.

The headache didn’t stop there.

Rondo hurt the Mavs when he was on the court, posting his first EVER minus in the +/- box in nine years of commanding the floor at 1-guard. Yes, that may have something to do with his team. In fact, Dallas has never been to top half of the league in defensive rating since Jason Kidd left.

Coincidence? Nah, not really.

Conclusion? The Dallas Mavericks have not played defense since Jason Kidd left the team.

Choose your own word between “enigmatic”, “erratic” or “mercurial” and you wouldn’t even need a 70-year old nanny to tell you Rondo didn’t fit well with Mavericks’ free-flowing offense.

More from The Smoking Cuban

Everything wrong with any of that. We watched the game after the trade hoping to marvel at the star, only to see him leaving this team eventually in post-season and had our trust misplaced.

The lessons were well learnt, but questions remain floating. In a more and more point guard-driven league, is there no more place for the particular playing type of Rondo and his notable doppelgänger Elfrid Payton of Orlando Magic in the league?

Payton finished his rookie season with some ups and downs, showing strengths as well as weaknesses but enough to highlight the first all-rookie team. The excitement of athletic 1-guard in the league might not be as adequate as what Payton brings to the table. He’s not that guy who drops 3s in high volume or rages his way to attack the rim using elite quickness. Simply said, he will be never that guy.

The number 10 pick from Louisiana-Lafayette could barely do any of the above well, but what he does best is what he does exclusively in another narrative of “exciting” point guard. Size is apparent and you can’t teach that. With his length, Payton notoriously showed defensive presence and became extremely valuable now in this golden age of point guards.

Offensively, consider Payton the premier rookie version of Jason Kidd. He spends his nightly half-hour providing endless creativity and solid vision to share the basketball to his teammates, with only a hair getting between him and JKidd in assist percentage metric. His offensive rebounding percentage is better than Dirk Nowitzki or say, LeBron James.

But those aren’t the types of attributes that earn players max contracts. Teams do not tank for a guy because opposing defenses continually sagging off in an attempt to dare him to shoot.

Yep, Rondo earned plenty of total $60 million over 9 years of his days in the league. But over that span in Boston, winning a ring and personal achievement of making four appearances in All-Star game isn’t too shabby to earn top dollars.

Admittedly, it’s easy to overlook a pure point guard. Of all qualified guard starting in more than 41 games, only Payton, Trey Burke and Rondo had the lowest true shooting percentage lower than 46 percent. Burke’s inconsistency at making basket behind the arc in high amount of attempts had most to do with that, but his days in Michigan were too good to believe he would suck in his third year entering the NBA. So that leaves us with Payton and Rondo.

One must say, ‘pair a defensive-minded guard with a defensive-minded center behind him’. Boston implemented that with Kevin Garnett‘s passion and fondness for dirty work which resulted in two trips to NBA Finals. Yes, it would be foolish to credit only Rondo and KG. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were always there in a list of criminally underrated defenders but there’s always a case to be made in order to complete a puzzle, regardless of positions.

Orlando Magic current starting center Nikola Vucevic is a rising star in the league. His ability to rock the league with tremendous ability to grab boards is admirable but of all prominent starting center in the league, Vucevic was alone sitting at the bottom in defensive rating, which didn’t do much in our recipe for Payton’s success career.

Picking a player at lottery comes with great responsibility and Magic knew what they would get from Payton, an A+ potential in his report and bound to a remarkable comparison to Rondo, Maurice Cheeks, Dennis Johnson or the best pure point guard of all time, Jason Kidd.

Because for Rondo and Payton, all roads lead to defense and defenses do win championship.

Just don’t forget to tip your hat if you ever do see Rondo around in D-Town next year. Come and get your love, Rajon. Because deep down, you know you awfully love this Dallas Mavericks.

More from The Smoking Cuban