17. Rajon Rondo
Resume: 13.7 points (career best), 5.6 rebounds (career best), 11.1 assists (1st in league), 1.8 steals, 37.4 minutes (career best), 5 triple-doubles (1st in league), 48% FG, and 65% FT… Team record in games played: 18-20 (23-20 without)… Playoffs: DNP… All-Star
16. Derrick Rose
HYPERBOLE ALERT! HYPERBOLE ALERT! We’ve come to the most pivotal point in these rankings. I know I’ve made statements similar to this already, but this time I’m completely serious. I spend a lot of time on this list anyway, and then when it comes time to place in line and talk about the two most difficult players in the NBA to rank, it makes things all the more difficult. How do you possibly rank these two guys? One is a moody Connect Four master who was having a career best statistical season before tearing his ACL in January and now may get traded before the February deadline. The other is a former MVP who is revered by his city, fans, and presumably teammates, and coming off a season where he played in as many NBA games as I did. And on top of that they are natural rivals. Now we’re cooking!
Stylistically, the two are miles apart. Rondo thinks the game more—he sees passing angles that others don’t see, anticipates the action on the court before, and is certainly a pass first point guard. Rose is the antithesis of Rondo; a reckless athletic specimen who relentlessly attacks the basket with a combination of power and speed that is rare for any human being to possess. He isn’t nearly as cerebral as Rondo—who may be a robot for all we know—but in both cases it works. They’ve each seen their share of success and both would likely be higher on the list if it weren’t for their ACL’s.
These rankings are based on the current state of said player and nothing else. So in his current state, Rajon Rondo isn’t capable of playing basketball. Without a return date in mind, it could be a few months into the season before Rajon Rondo comes back to the Boston Celtics (or whom he is traded to, but we’ll get there). Remember, nobody though Derrick Rose would sit out the entire season last year. At first sources were saying he’d be back by Christmas. Then it was the All-Star break. Then it was before the playoffs. Then it was going to be during the playoffs. And now, eighteen months later Rose will play in his first meaningful NBA game since April 28th, 2012. However, I will say that Rose’s pre-season debut definitely felt meaningful. My roommate Weston, a Bulls fan, and I had to take a ride to my parents’ house to watch the Bulls visit to Indiana on NBATV a little over a week ago. It was a big deal. Rose’s return to the court has felt bigger than any return from injury for any athlete. It feels a little bit like a WWE comeback with the series of Adidas commercials that have been released over the last few months, culminating with the goosebump inducing “Basketball Is Everything” commercial that is a must watch if you haven’t seen it yet.
From what we’ve seen in the pre-season it seems as though the current version of Derrick Rose is awfully similar to the 2011 version of Derrick Rose that ran away with the MVP—I’ll go as far as saying it was deserved, but he shouldn’t have won in such convincing fashion—and led the Bulls to a 62-20 record. This is sure to put a smile the size of Chicago on the faces of Bulls fans. There may not be a more beloved player by his respective fan base in the entire sports world. You can bet whatever amount of money you want that when Derrick Rose returns to the United Center on Halloween night to face the Knicks, the Madhouse on Madison will be extra loud to welcome their hero back.
The situation for Rondo isn’t as plush. He’s the never ending subject of trade rumors and that won’t change once he comes back, whenever that may be. The Celtics are in the middle of rebuilding their team and there is no telling if Rondo will be along for the ride. I’m in no position to say so since I’m 21 years old and just enjoy writing about the NBA, but if I were Danny Ainge I wouldn’t be too eager to trade Rondo. I would bet the imaginary money that I won on my imaginary bet about the United Center being especially loud when Rose comes back that when Rajon Rondo comes back he will be doing everything he can to stick it to Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Rondo says he’s committed to the Celtics and that they are his team. Even as rough around the edges as Rondo can be, you want him going to war for you.