Setting an Appropriate Bar for Rondo

Published: July 16, 2017

I’m pretty good at talking myself into a hole.

So here we are, now, with Rondo joining the Pelicans, presumably as a starter next to Jrue.  This fits the “Jrue is best served sharing ball-handling duties” story, one which I wholeheartedly believe in.  Given my Rondo musings, it would be foolish to pretend that I believe he is an ideal fit next to the Pelicans’ three *current* building blocks of Cousins, Davis, and Jrue.  I don’t, and the bad news is that the fit will likely put a ceiling on a lineup of Cousins/AD/Jrue/Rondo + Hill/others.

The good news is that we shouldn’t be comparing Rondo to the perfect, designed-in-a-laboratory point guard that will slide in perfectly next to our big 3.  The comparison should be to the guys who occupied his guard spot last season.  So I pulled the most frequent lineups containing our Big 3 in an effort to see who played alongside our Big 3.




Here we see a constant: Solomon Hill playing the 3 next to Cousins, Davis, and Jrue.  Barring a transaction for another 3, this remains the most likely scenario.  The Pelicans have a lot invested in Hill, there are some things to like about his game, and as of today, the 3 is his spot to lose.

That leaves one spot, and it’s there that we can do our analysis.  Basically, in the lineups above, Rondo would be replacing Tim Frazier, Hollis Thompson, or E’Twaun Moore.  These lineups all produced positive point differentials.  All else equal, Rondo’s talent/fit basically improves us or makes us worse according to how he measures up against Frazier, Thompson, or Moore.  Even if he’s not the player he used to be (and any evidence with any proximity to this year strongly indicates that he’s not), this is a bar that Rondo is capable of clearing.

Because we have more Rondo analyses coming up, I won’t go into much depth about his individual game here.  Some final notes:

  • The numbers used were helpful to set Rondo’s bar for expectation.
  • Because Cousins came so late, we don’t have a lot of lineup minutes to work with
    • In general, it’s hard to accumulate a lot of minutes for 5 man units.  Last season, there were barely over 30 5 man lineups that played over 250 minutes.
    • Continuity matters, and the Pels Big 3 walked into last season’s minutes with no prior experience together. That they posted solid numbers in several frequent lineups is encouraging, but there isn’t enough to get excited about yet.. nor is there any real evidence that they can’t work.  Hopefully, they will jell.
  • Do not take these stats and go compare them to team net differentials.  Compare lineups to lineups, teams to teams. Always.
    • Elite 5 man lineups can post 20+ point differentials over 48 minutes, whereas the highest team differential (GS) over the course of the season was 11.6 points.
  • No lineup is playing 48 minutes, so even if Rondo is indeed starting, Rondo/Jrue/Hill/AD/Cousins might only play 16-20 minutes together any given night

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