Consider this praise for Avery Bradley or a damnation of the Eastern Conference. Or, a little of both.
Dallas traded for Rajon Rondo in part because they needed to get better defensively to have any shot at advancing in the Western Conference playoffs. And so far so good — the Mavericks’ defense has been a whopping 12 points per 100 possessions better with Rondo on the court that with him sitting (just six games, so small sample size alert). In the last five games as a team Dallas’ defense is 3.1 points per 100 better and Rondo had good games against John Wall and Russell Westbrook.
Rondo was asked about being a defensive focal point and had an interesting answer, as reported by CSNNE.com.
“I haven’t played defense in a couple of years. I’ve been able to hide it a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He’s helped me out, the young guy. But here they expect me to play defense. And in the West, if you don’t play defense you’ll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position. I took it as a challenge [for] myself. It’s not just me. It’s my teammates. Our communication is getting a lot better and our coverages are getting better. So it’s the whole team concept, it’s not just me. Obviously people are going to look at the stats and say, ‘Since Rondo’s came there, they’re down seven or eight points or whatever defensively.’ But we still have a lot of room to improve and I believe we’ll still get better defensively.”
So again, the two take aways here:
First, Avery Bradley is a good defender.
Second, in the East you don’t have to play hard defense every night.
We’ll see if Rondo can sustain this level of defense — and pick up his offense, which has slipped — as Dallas moves through the rest of the season.