The Rondo Impact – Are the Celtics Better Off Without Him?

We’ve all been surprised at the Celtics’ performance without Rondo lately, but is it just a coincidence or does his absence actually bring about an improved team chemistry? The sample size may be small (11 games all season without Rondo vs. 38 games with him), but I wanted to review the statistics regardless. I read an article that states that the Celtics are better with Rondo, but those numbers don’t take into account the Celtics defense in any way. I thought it would be more interesting to compare the Celtics average +/- as well as their average stats compared to their opponents’ stats with and without Rondo.

The reason it’s important to take into account these comparative measures is because scoring a lot of points doesn’t always reflect a solid team performance. If the Celtics put up 110 points but only win by 2, that’s not necessarily indicative of an exceptional outing. If I were Doc Rivers, I’d be happier if the Celtics put up 80 points but won by 20.

I used R to pull player +/- and the following variables from basketball-reference.com:

  • FG% Minus Opponent FG%
  • FT% Minus Opponent FT%
  • 3PT% Minus Opponent 3PT%
  • Effective FG% Minus Opponent Effective FG%

I then used Tableau Public to visualize the data. The Celtics average plus/minus when Rondo is active is -0.75. In the 11 games played without him, the team’s average plus/minus is 2.57. Hardly an insignificant difference. Rondo is obviously a talented player and has led the Celtics to many wins in both the playoffs and clutch situations, but he also has a tendency of giving up easy scores to pad his stats at times. The Celtics on average outperform their opponents in FG%, eFG% and 3PT% without Rondo. It’s also hard to overlook the increase in the team’s plus/minus since his injury, but I’ll re-create this analysis when there are more data points available.

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