Nets’ Williams vs. Celtics’ Rondo


With the Brooklyn Nets playing their first game of the regular season tonight at the Boston Celtics, they are likely to face one of the best point guards in the league right off the bat. For Deron Williams, this will be anything but an easy task.

Rajon Rondo is a game-time decision to play tonight after having broken his left hand during training camp, as Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe reports.

If Rondo does play, the season quickly kicks off for Williams. The point guard position in the NBA is quite possibly the deepest of any position in the league. In all likelihood, Williams will now start his season battling against Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon in the team’s first five games. If you look at the rest of the Nets schedule, it doesn’t get any easier after for Williams.

The beginning of the new season could pose as a slight resurrection to the two point guards. Williams was once among the elite point guards. Over the last couple of seasons his ankles have betrayed him and his confidence has been lacking. He played in 65 games last season averaging 14.3 points per contest and 6.1 assists, his lowest totals since his rookie campaign.

As for Rondo, the Celtics star point guard tore his ACL in the middle of the 2012-13 season. He didn’t come back until midway through last season. Rondo then struggled for a variety of reasons. He had new teammates and a new coach that he was adjusting to, along with the fact that he needed to get back in game shape and get back into the flow of the game. He managed to play in just 30 games while putting up 11.7 points per game, 9.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds. He only shot 40.3% from the field and attempted the most three-pointers per game of his career, 3.0.

So how will the Nets go up against Rondo tonight?

Williams will see the most action against Rondo. However, expect Alan Anderson and Jarrett Jack to come off the bench and also assist in keeping Rondo under wraps.

The veteran point guard out of Kentucky has been a poor perimeter shooter throughout his career. As seen below in this shot chart via, Rondo is an aggressive point guard that likes to attack the basket for a majority of his field goal attempts.

Less Than 5 ft.7314251.4000.051.41920.579.5
5-9 ft.134628.3000.028.337.792.3
10-14 ft.1911.1000.011.121000.0
15-19 ft.234748.9000.048.9221.778.3
20-24 ft.205536.4153938.550.0030.070.0
25-29 ft.115022.0115022.033.0145.554.5
30-34 ft.000.0000.
35-39 ft.000.0000.
40+ ft.010.0010.

The key will be for the Nets to keep Rondo out of the paint. Defenders will have to play off of him, as teams have done throughout his career, and force Rondo into being a jump shooter. If Rondo can get to the paint, he will wreak havoc on the Nets with his ability to finish close to the basket, draw fouls, and find open teammates. This will open the floor for teammates Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger.

One interesting caveat to this game will be to see how Rondo co-exists with rookie guard Marcus Smart. The two guards will undoubtedly see some time on the floor together. Could coach Brad Stevens throw a wrench at the Nets and have Smart bring up the ball even with Rondo on the floor with him? This pairing is something that the Celtics will have to figure out as the season goes on.

Williams will have a tough time facing two of the best defensive guards in the league. Rondo and Avery Bradley will each spend time defending D-Will. Both players have the ability to frustrate their opponents with their toughness, length and quickness.

After a strong preseason, Williams have to build upon his performance and continue to play aggressively and decisively. The matchup will not be made any easier as Brook Lopez will be out for the game for the Nets.

Williams will now be running more screen-and-rolls with the likes of Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee cutting to the basket instead of Lopez in coach Lionel Hollins flex-motion offense. He will also not have the luxury of being able to dump it down low to the Nets best offensive big man.

Williams will still be flanked with shooters like Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic to help spread the floor. And if all else fails, Joe Johnson is not a bad option to kick the ball out to, either.

It’s difficult to base anything from this matchup off of how the two star’s fared against each other last season. Rondo was not himself until the end of the year, and Williams was splitting point guard duties with Shaun Livingston. In three contests against Williams last season, Rondo averaged 15.0 points, 9.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 36.8% from the floor and 40.0% from long range. Williams put up 11.0 points, 5.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds, while hitting on 44.4% of his total shots and 27.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc.  The Nets won two out of three of those games.

Williams and Rondo are looking to have bounce back seasons. This will certainly be an interesting matchup as both players are looking to regain their spot among the NBA’s elite point guards.

Will the Nets be able to prevail in their first game of the season? A lot of that will be determined based off each point guard’s performance tonight in Boston.