Is Sullinger The Offensive Key For Rondo-less Celtics?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Will the Boston Celtics blow it up with Rajon Rondo out for the season?

That will be determined by what kind of offers Danny Ainge gets for Kevin Garnett and/or Paul Pierce between now and Feb. 21 trade deadline.

For now, the Celtics are moving on with what they’ve got. And they’ve got to figure out how to play without Rondo if they’re going to hold onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers are just three games behind the Celtics, have a soft stretch of schedule coming up, and hope to get Andrew Bynum back at some point down the line.

The Celtics without Rondo are the Celtics without a point guard. None of the other guards on the roster — Leandro Barbosa, Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — are real floor generals. Of the group, only Barbosa has an assist percentage above that of either Garnett or Pierce.

But the Celtics have been OK without Rondo so far this season. In fact, they’ve been incrementally better, both offensively and defensively, with him off the floor than with him on the floor.

Celtics efficiency with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
On floor 1,423 94.9 99.2 100.5 -1.3 -57
Off floor 744 90.6 100.4 100.0 +0.4 -2

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Defense really shouldn’t be an issue. Even though Rondo has been named to the All-Defensive first or second team each of the last four seasons, he’s not much of an impact player on that end of the floor.

Bradley and Garnett, meanwhile, are just that. And though the Celtics’ defense had fallen off dramatically when Garnett stepped off the floor in the first two months of the season, it’s been fine (92.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Garnett off the floor and Bradley on. It’s a small sample size (83 minutes), but it’s certainly encouraging.

Offensively, though Rondo leads the league with 11.1 assists per game, the Celtics still have an above average assist rate with him off the floor.

Celtics offense with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off 2PT% 3PT% OREB% TmTOV% FTA Rate AST/FG
On floor 48.7% 34.7% 19.8% 15.0% .248 64.5%
Off floor 48.9% 30.6% 24.2% 15.8% .286 59.7%

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TmTOV% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Celtics have shot better and turned the ball over less with Rondo on the floor. But with him on the bench, they’ve gone to the line more often and given themselves more second-chance opportunities.

The key to the rebounding is that Jared Sullinger — the Celtics’ best (and only) offensive rebounder — has played just 33 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the floor, but has played 55 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the bench.

Overall, the Celtics have been much better with Sullinger on the floor (102.1 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him on the bench (97.9). Not only is he their best offensive rebounder, but he’s the one Boston big man who actually takes most of his shots from the paint.

The Celtics’ two most-used lineups without Rondo both include Sullinger, and both have been excellent offensively.

Celtics most-used lineups without Rondo

Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Terry, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 17 95 85.2 115.8 90.9 +24.8 +39
Barbosa, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 13 73 87.4 107.6 100.1 +7.5 +4
Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett 8 42 96.1 96.6 77.2 +19.3 +11
Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Green, Garnett 5 27 90.4 88.3 83.8 +4.5 -2
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger 8 25 93.0 103.1 84.1 +18.9 +8

So Sullinger’s minutes could be the key to Boston maintaining some sort of offensive success without Rondo. The problem is that he has a difficult time staying on the floor. Of 266 players around the league who have logged at least 500 minutes this season, he has committed, by far, the most fouls per minute (6.3 per 36). He has fouled out eight times already this season.

The Celtics are not going to be a very good offensive team no matter what. But they can stay competitive if they match their top-five defense with an offense that doesn’t regress without their point guard.

So Doc Rivers has got to roll with the rookie. Sullinger started his first game in 2 1/2 months against the Heat on Sunday and managed to commit just one foul in 22 minutes. That was a defensive win against the second-best offensive team in the league, but more offense will obviously be needed over the long haul.


  1. sullinger out for the season says:

    sullinger us out for the season with a back injury

  2. I agree, cause Celts will go far in playoffs again this year.

  3. Alex says:

    Miami won last year pretty much without point guard and with Bosh missing a lot of playoff games. Its all about team really, even LeBron can’t win it all by himself no matter how good he is, just as he proved it with Cleveland. Ever since the big 3 started in Boston they could have won each of those seasons if everyone stayed healthy. Same goes for this year, they can’t afford to lose even one more player now that Rondo and Sully are down if they want to be a contender. People are saying for 3 years that C’s are too old to compete, yet each year there they are deep into playoffs. They just don’t know how to give up. And just like last year they rally when a key player goes down. If you remember last year C’s regular season run started just when Rondo was injured.

    Anyhow, think Jared proved that he was a steal for C’s. Get well Sully & Rondo. Everybody else stay healthy.

  4. Matic Lebar says:

    Here is Boston and it’s luck again. Sullinger is done for the season. What a shame , he was really good 😦

  5. To those saying trade Lee or Terry-well both played key rolls in last 3 wins including against miami. So i don’t think so. Lee plays lockem down defense, strong to the hoop or outside off incl the 3 & Terry once he gets going can’t be stopped, he’s been heating up last couple weeks.

  6. Awe man, Sully down for the season. Heal up good Sully. Can’t wait for him to get back already but i guess we have to wait till next season. Dudes a beast!

  7. Fredwins says:

    Anyone who thinks Allen Iverson to any NBA team is a good move, just doesnt know basketball..Iverson is a limited spot up shooter and he’s not much of a creator for other people, It would be a train wreck if he signed with my Celtics, Doc wouldn’t even play him. And this article is kind of ironic because now Jared is also out for the rest of the season just like Rondo…Still got faith in my C’s, and I’m sure they have faith in themselves as well.

  8. jimmy says:

    to answer the question, not anymore

  9. Celtic Expert says:

    Honestly, they should just trade Jason Terry or Courtney Lee. I really like them but, they’re just not fitting in with this team

    • Celtic Expert says:

      the folllowing is the reason why i tihink Terry and Lee should get traded for the following:
      1. Both mostly don’t bring the ball upcourt
      2. They both take wild shots and expect it to go in
      3. Terry and Lee would mostly try to steal the ball and if they can’t, it’s a foul

  10. bu says:

    Kamote, your comments hit the bulls eye!!

    A team that spread the ball & the floor, & played great team D with swift & quick rotations still win you games & championships. Rondo can do his playmaking & it’s a system Doc has been using for last 3 seasons to ease the burden on the big 3. No Rondo? Means more wear & tear on PP & KG, if the other guys don’t step up nor share the ball.

    The new guys are the keys, as they appeared to be more individuals rather than team players on both ends. That’s Doc’s toughest challenge to get them on the same page & commit.

    Sulli has done well to play in the system. Sad to say Green, with experience & a possible career ending surgery, still don’t get it.

  11. The best answer for Celtics is remember UBUNTU w/ whoever they might add to the team-teach the add on about UBUNTU!!!

  12. I think Sullinger is part of the answer as i would like to see him get the ball lil more in the post, that was one of his staples in college & can shoot the 15 footer. But it’s not the only answer. The main answer is the whole team effort as they showed against miami sunday & tonight w/ kings. Yeah i know, kings have one of the worst records but those can be the trap games for any good team. All good teams have lost to a bad team @ some point this season. All Celts have to do is play solid team ball w/ extra effort. They’ll be all right & w/ if they just add, not trade. Iverson might not be a bad idea @ some roll w/ Celts fast pace or half court. Celts are hungry for it & if Iverson is just as-that might be a good combo.

  13. […] players were announced, an writer went so far as the wonder if Sullinger is the offensive key for the Celtics now that Rajon Rondo is out for the […]

  14. Has the NBA forgotten about the Utah Jazz? says:

    All I hear is Laker this, Celtic that, top 3 in the West, Miami Heat, New York Rivalries, and Rudy Gay trade Rumors.

    I haven’t heard a peep about the Utah Jazz, and they’re ranked higher than Houston, Portland, and the Lakers.

    Not one All-Star, and no All-Star snub recognition. No elite point guard or super athletic wing, and they somehow get it done.

    • aaaaaa says:

      To be fair, the Celtics usually don’t have much said about them either. I used to question why because they ALWAYS get far in the playoffs, but now that people won’t shut up about Rondo, I think I’d rather have people not talk about us.

    • steagle says:

      Hey I voted for Millsap and Jefferson every day during All Star voting! They are the most underrated front court in the NBA (along with up and comers Favors and Kanter). With all the hard work they’ve put in over the years, it’s about time one of them gets in. But in the West it’s tough, because you’ve got a lot of dominant big men. Here’s hoping someone from Utah gets in next time around.

      • RJ says:

        Yeah, Jefferson, especially has been snubbed basically four or five years now. I voted for him a few times this year. You could make a case for Millsap in a few past years maybe, not really this year, though he’s still playing solid.

  15. SuperCute says:


  16. SuperCute says:


  17. I LUV Rondo He’s the best I can’t Live without him

  18. B Radd says:

    in one long heavy breath…A humbled AI is exactly what Boston can use right about now. He is Hungry, older and at a point where an all out last dance will erupt. He will rival KG’s intensity and will fit Boston fan base. Sliding in as KG’s and The Truth’s answer is what AI will bring to Beantown. What say you Danny Ainge ? 1 last dance for a Big 3 in Boston. With “The Big Ticket”, “The Truth” and “The Answer”, the Celtic’s and their fans deserve an exciting finish. Slinger is too young to save the Celtics. Let AI back in, Boston’s History will tame The Answer and bring out what once exists in Philly.

  19. pedro says:

    Right, right. Also, keep coming up with these aggregate (partial) regular season stat pieces about Rondo, as if there isn’t a huge uptick in performance every single postseason. Bottom line, he is one of the select few playoff game-changers, and every year when it happens people act like it’s something new.

  20. Nate says:

    Seriously. These stat articles have got to stop. NONSENSE plain and simple. Ever consider the drop off in overall talent from starters to bench players? Starters are playing against the best talent. Why don’t you have Sully start and have Rondo come off the bench and see what kind of numbers he puts up against bench players?

  21. killuabest says:

    Best decision is get IVERSON..we all know his talents..sure he can still do it though…( am not an Iverson fan- but this would help Celtics a lot, I guess..)

  22. killuabest says:

    celtics are dead without rondo..beat it..

  23. Kamote says:

    Its all about Doc’s system. When Boston won their title, Rondo wasn’t the prolific playmaking PG at that time. Sure KG, Pierce and Allen were a lot younger, but then, it was all about team defense and helping each other out in offense. Boston still has the personnel to be competitive this year. Its all about every player (given that Terry, Lee, Jared, Barbosa and even Green are new to the team) getting on the same page.

    If they need to get better, they just have to acquire a physical and effective center so KG can go back to playing PF. They wouldn’t need a substitute for Rondo running the team, they just have to learn Doc’s system and help each other out. Terry, Barbosa and Bradley can step-up to fill in the PG void.

  24. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    No. Rondo’s heart and soul and will and playmaking can not be replaced he makes the celtics go, the celtics can be still good but the whole team is going to have to step there game up and sullinger has been good in his playing time but he cant control the game night in and night out but his up side is good.