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Irish Coffee: An All-NBA case for Rajon Rondo

By now, you know Rajon Rondo [1]‘s streak of 22 straight games with at least 10 assists trails John Stockton [2]‘s record of 29 by seven. With only five games left, that record will stand at least until the 2012-13 NBA season begins.

But just how good has Rondo been during this streak, and this entire season for that matter?

In his last 22 games, Rondo has averaged 10.1 points, 13.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals, leading the Celtics [3] to a 15-7 record. He has totaled 223 points and 303 assists — 57 of which led to 3-pointers — putting his hand in 886 of the C’s 2,050 points (43.2%) in that span.

To put that in perspective, NBA MVP favorite LeBron James [4] has averaged 26.1 points and 5.5 assists in his last 22 games, leading the Heat to a 14-8 record. He has totaled 574 points and 121 assists (25 on 3P) in that span, generating 841 of Miami’s 2,081 points (40.4%).

And those numbers aren’t too far off Rondo’s season averages of 12.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Out of all the players in NBA backcourts, Rondo may fall outside the top 50 in scoring, but he ranks first among guards in assists, fourth in rebounds (behind two guards Paul George, Kobe Bryant [5] and Dwyane Wade [6]) and fourth in steals (behind only Chris Paul [7], Mike Conley [8] and Ricky Rubio [9]).

All of which begs the question: Should Rondo make First Team All-NBA?

Since the Celtics point guard entered the league in 2006, the two guard spots have always gone to either Bryant, Wade, Paul, Steve Nash [10] or Derrick Rose [11].

Considering Rose has played just 37-of-61 Bulls games this season and Nash’s production dropped to his lowest since last making it five years ago, the two First Team All-NBA guard spots will likely go to either Bryant, Wade, Paul or Russell Westbrook [12], but why shouldn’t Rondo be in that conversation, too?

BASIC: As you can see, among those five players, Rondo sits last in scoring by a wide margin, but ranks first in assists (by 2.6 per game), second in steals and third in rebounds.

Bryant: 28.1 PTS, 5.4 REB, 4.6 AST, 1.2 STL
Paul: 19.3 PTS, 9.0 AST, 3.5 REB, 2.5 STL
Rondo: 12.1 PTS, 11.6 AST, 4.9 REB, 1.8 STL
Wade: 22.6 PTS, 5.0 REB, 4.7 AST, 1.7 STL
Westbrook: 24.1 PTS, 5.4 AST, 4.5 REB, 1.7 STL

ADVANCED: As a facilitator, Rondo generates his numbers using the least possessions, and he creates more of his own offense (i.e., percentage of field goals assisted) than anyone but Paul while producing an assist rate more than three times higher than Bryant, Wade or Westbrook.

Bryant: 36.05 USG, 52.7 TS%, 44.8 %AST, 15.07 AR, 11.82 TOR, 7.9 TRR, 5.58 WS, 22.29 PER
Paul: 23.77 USG, 58.4 TS%, 18.3 %AST, 47.94 AR, 11.06 TOR, 5.8 TRR, 9.82 WS, 26.66 PER
Rondo: 21.07 USG, 48.1 TS%, 26.7 %AST, 71.26 AR, 22.75 TOR, 7.7 TRR, 7.12 WS, 17.40 PER
Wade: 31.29 USG, 56.1 TS%, 40.1 %AST, 20.43 AR, 11.88 TOR, 8.8 TRR, 7.88 WS, 26.55 PER
Westbrook: 32.89 USG, 54.8 TS%, 22.3 %AST, 21.10 AR, 14.13 TOR, 7.3 TRR, 6.06 WS, 23.82 PER

OFFENSE: Looking at what percentage of his team’s points scored each produced this season (calculating the total number of points each had a hand in), Rondo ranks fourth on this list, but remember he missed 10 games. Meanwhile, Westbrook has played all 61 games, Paul and Bryant have missed five, and Wade has missed 15. When you subtract the games they missed, Rondo has produced 40.1 percent of the C’s offense — better than all but Paul’s 40.8 percent (Bryant 39.5%, Westbrook 35.7%, Wade 34.0%).

Paul/Clippers: 2,195 PTS [1,070 PTS+494 AST(*2)+137 3P AST] / 5,850 TEAM PTS (37.5%)
Bryant/Lakers: 2,136 PTS [1,576 PTS+255 AST(*2)+50 3P AST] / 5,925 TEAM PTS (36.1%)
Westbrook/Thunder: 2,209 PTS [1,459 PTS+327 AST(*2)+96 3P AST] / 6,188 TEAM PTS (35.7%)
Rondo/Celtics: 1,922 PTS [617 PTS+592 AST(*2)+121 3P AST] / 5,593 TEAM PTS (34.4%)
Wade/Heat: 1,550 PTS [1,064 PTS+220 AST(*2)+46 3P AST] / 5,903 TEAM PTS (26.3%)

DEFENSE: If a case is to be made for Rondo as a First Team All-NBA player, this is where he earns it. After making the All-Defensive Second Team in 2009, he cracked the First Team each of the past two seasons. While Rondo’s D slipped in the early portion of this season — and even on occasions of late — Avery Bradley [13] allows his backcourt mate to regain form as a top-flight defender. Among this group, Rondo holds his opponent to the fewest points per possession and lowest field goal percentages while forcing more turnovers than all but Paul.

Rondo: 0.72 PPP, 157-457 FG (34.4%), 40-152 3P (26.3%), 13.3 TO%
Paul: 0.76 PPP, 176-485 (36.3%), 53-168 3P (31.5%), 14.7 TO%
Wade: 0.79 PPP, 123-344 FG (35.8%), 45-127 3P (35.4%), 10.4 TO%
Bryant: 0.85 PPP, 188-506 FG (37.2%), 73-193 3P (37.8%), 8.6 TO%
Westbrook: 0.90 PPP, 232-563 FG (41.2%), 61-185 3P (33.0%), 9.0 TO%

Based on all this input, it’s hard to make a case for Rondo over Paul or Bryant for First Team All-NBA, but if the Celtics point guard doesn’t make one of the three All-NBA squads it’s robbery of Ben Affleck in “The Town” proportions. If I had a vote, which I don’t, here’s how I’d allocate the All-NBA guard spots.

FIRST TEAM: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
SECOND TEAM: Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook
THIRD TEAM: Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker [14]

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach [15] on Twitter.)