I think it’s clear enough that neither the Chicago Bulls nor the KG-less Boston Celtics can seriously challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference championship. But except for that disappointing background reality, the Celtics-Bulls first round series has been an absolutely thrilling matchup. Much of the commentary has, however, focused on the “duel” between the two contenders’ young point guards with some people even going so far as to debate who’s better.
This, to me, is reminiscent of nothing so much as last year’s “debate” between Deron Williams, who’s quite good, and Chris Paul who’s much much better. Rose is performing pretty impressively for a 20 year-old rookie and were I a Bulls fan, I’d feel very good about the idea that he’s on the roster. One can even imagine him becoming better than Rondo at some point. But that point is not here today. Among other things, Rondo is so much better as a defender that Rose would need a substantial offensive edge to draw even, and he doesn’t have it. Here’s some stats from the regular season:
Rondo is a more efficient scorer than Rose and a substantially better rebounder. Rose commits somewhat fewer turnovers, but Rondo’s margin in assist ratio is better than Rose’s in turnover ratio. Rose’s only clear edge here is that since he shoots more often he scores more total points.
Oftentimes when faced with a scenario like this, fans of the lower-efficiency higher-volume scorer will say something like “well, Rondo gets to play alongside Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen creating opportunities for him; if he had to carry a Rose-style load he wouldn’t be as efficient.” Fortunately for us (though unfortunately for Boston), injuries have left Rondo carrying a heavier load in the playoffs than he bore during the regular season. And by taking more shots Rondo has raised his scoring average to 24.2 points per game while maintaining his edge in efficiency and rebounding. Rose is a nice prospect, but Rondo’s doing great right now.