Last season, Rajon Rondo was statistically one of the worst players in the NBA. A very legitimate case could have been made that he was the worst player who played consistently through some pretty elementary statistics, but Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is hearing none of that this year.
Vogel is usually fairly statistically-inclined, but when asked about his veteran point guard, he said you have to look beyond numbers to find Rondo’s impact. He started with how Rondo and LeBron James have looked together.
“It helps just to be able to defer some. We obviously still want the ball in LeBron’s hands as much as possible, but he runs the second unit when LeBron is out, and even with the two of them playing really well together. I think that’s when we’re going to be our best,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night.
Personally, it makes a little more sense that the Lakers would be at their best with James and Anthony Davis on the court at the same time, but that’s just me.
Vogel then made about as galaxy brain as one can.
“Rondo had 10 assists, but Rajon’s statistics are not measured on a stat sheet. They’re measured in swag. He just gives us some confidence and an air about us that, we know we’re going into a battle with just a heck of a basketball player,” Vogel said. “He just helps our swag.”
[grumbles something about giving opposing offenses swag, too]
We really do have to now figure out a statistical acronym for swag.
Scoring With Astute Gamesmanship? Sacrificing Wins Against Good (teams)? Stop Whining About Guardplay?
Okay maybe the last couple were kind of cheating, but hey, I have swag.
Even while I mock Vogel’s unbelievably mockable quote, there is something to be said about the effect a point guard has on a team’s offense. Now, whether the Lakers need that point guard to be Rondo specifically is another thing, but as the roster is presently constituted, he is the only guard capable of running a team the way he does.
Alex Caruso, the closest thing to a player capable of bringing some of what Rondo does offensively, was asked about Rondo’s impact. It’s all a process.
“Yeah he’s quarterbacking that thing,” Caruso said. “He’s really just rounded back into form, kind of like we saw with Kuz, it took a game or two to really get back to being himself. I think ‘Do is doing that too, and you’re starting to see his skills come out.”
To Caruso’s point, and relating it back to Vogel’s opinion on what Rondo and LeBron might at some point look like together, it does take time for two players who fit so awkwardly to work out. Last season, they never came close to figuring it out.
And progress is being made.
This year, they’ve looked better and the numbers back that up. In 52 minutes together, Rondo and James scored 117.8 points per 100 possessions and given up only 93.5, for a net rating of 24.2.
Even while Vogel says he is more interested in swag than numbers, maybe the latter is worth keeping track of as well, at least until swag is something documented on a scoreboard.