We're going to focus on a slightly lesser known commodity of the Boston Celtics, but still essential to their success as a team. He's not part of the oft-referenced Big Three, but his contributions help make the Big Green Machine go.
We'll start off with some general stats for this year, his third in the NBA.
Rondo is not a good shooter. He's terrible behind the arc and bad at the free throw line. A quick look at his Hot Spots page (you'll have to put in who you want to see) and you'll see that everything for him is under the basket (really, take a look, it's silly how disproportionate the shot chart is for a guard). So he has no midrange game as well.
You'd think he'd be easy to defend.
Unfortunately, he's very good at getting to the basket as his first step as well as his overall speed are exceptional even by NBA standards.
He obviously benefits from the attention his teammates garner, but this is exactly the type of player that the Blazers have had trouble handling because of his quickness and ability to get to the rim. Despite the good overall defensive abilities of both Pryzbilla and Oden, slashing guards seem to have their way with them. The Blazers perimeter defense is similar to the Maginot Line in that it sucks (which is not a reference to Batum who is a better than average defender so far).
That driving ability has also been the catalyst for an uptick in assists for him at 7.7 a game, up from the 5.1 he averaged last year. What also helps is that Ray Allen, the Celtics spot-up shooter (though he's capable of far more than that) is shooting much better than he did last year (the .494 he's shooting the best of his career)
He takes care of the ball as well, with his assists/turnover ratio at 3.67 leaving him 6th best in the NBA.
Defensively, that quickness and agility help him manage 2.2 steals per game (good for 4th in the league). I'll let Dave's interview with CelticsBlog speak to the rest of his defensive ability, but suffice it to say he's pretty damn good at it.
So where does that leave the Blazers? Basically if the team focuses on stopping the Big Three, Rondo has no problem taking some of that slack and getting the win for his team (coming off a triple double in the Celtics win vs. the Pacers on 12/3). You can't worry too much about Pierce, Allen and Garnett, because the second you take your eyes off Rondo, he's past his defender and at the rim either laying it up or dishing it off to the open man. Rotations are going to have to be quick and closeouts are going to have to be flawless to be able to stop the Celtics offense.
All in all, Rondo is a less heralded but certainly not a less important piece of the puzzle for the Celtics. Without his steady (and fast) handle of the ball and his ability to penetrate and finish or penetrate and dish the Celtics would be a slow offense relying too much on jumpers (sound familiar?). The Celtics media is already pushing him for All Star consideration. This depth in the starting lineup is why this Celtics team is so fantastic, dominant and frankly, frightening.