I thought it would be fun to take a look at how Rajon Rondo, now one of the great point guards in the NBA (and surely the best point guard UK had this decade until Wall came along) and John Wall compared after their first ten games as a Wildcat.
Any exercise like this is fraught with factors that simply cannot be properly accounted for, so take this for what it is -- a bit of fun. I suspect a lot of Kentucky Wildcats fans have wondered how the two point guards compared. Both had great starts as freshmen, both starting from the beginning of their time at UK. But the coaching was different, the kind of game UK played under Tubby Smith and John Calipari are very different, and the way Smith and Calipari utilize their point guards is different.
Statistics don't account for that, nor do they account for the skill of the players around them, or the quality of the competition. So we can't take this comparison as holy writ about who was better, or would be better, or who is better in the role of Wildcat lead guard. Still, it is a lot of fun to look at how they stack up against each other, and I think some people may be surprised. In fact, as I write this, I have only completed one comparison, so I will be surprised as well.
Join me after the jump as we compare these two great UK players.
First off, these are "tempo free" stats so we don't have to worry about the fact that Smith tended to play a bit more deliberate game. I will be charting assits%, turnover%, steals%, shot%, eFG%, offensive rebound% and free throw rate%. That includes all the four factors, plus three others.
It seems that Rondo started out hotter in assists than Wall, but at around the fourth game, Wall takes over. You can see that the trend right now favors Wall on this stat, and it's interesting that the flip coincides approximately with much better offensive play by this year's team, and a stretch where the 2005-06 team lost 2 of 4 games.
In this chart, lower is better, of course, and I admit to being a bit surprised to see the trend this way. Keep in mind that a lot of Wall's turnovers can be contributed to a faster pace of play, and even though we are using tempo-free stats, that factor isn't really accounted for here. Despite the fact that the 2005-06 team is entering a dicey stretch of games, Rondo's turnovers certainly weren't the reason they were only .500 in that four-game stretch, as you can see by his trend.
Rondo set the freshman record for steals in his first year, if I remember correctly, yet at this point, his trend had turned decidedly negative compared to Wall's. Rondo had a couple of really poor games, versus North Carolina and Indiana where he managed no steals at all.
Wall, on the other hand, had two incredible games vs. UNC-Ashville and UConn where he had a very high steals percentage. Can Wall outdo the great Rajon in this category? He sure is on a nice trend right now.
Fourth, percentage of shots:
Wall and Rondo are fairly equal in this area, somewhat to my surprise. It looks like the trend is up for Wall overall, but his last game was a big decline from his high in the UConn game, and represents his second lowest shot% so far this year. At this point, Rondo was also coming off a recent high, which interestingly, was even higher than Wall's.
Fifth, effective FG%:
This is a wild one. Wall is very consistent with his shooting, and has been all year long. Rondo was all over the place, from a high of 81.8% to a low of 11.1%.
Based on what I have seen so far, I doubt we will ever see Wall lower than 35%. I think this will wind up being fairly even over the course of the entire year. Rondo took very few low-percentage shots, and so does Wall, but Wall tends to shoot more (and better) from the perimeter than Rondo did.
Sixth, offensive rebound %:
We all remember Rondo as a fantastic rebounder for his size, and it's obvious looking at this chart that his stats show that in spades. I suspect, but can't prove, that the wild fluctuations in Rondo's stats were as much a function of his teammates has him, and I think the 2009-10 UK club is a much better offensive rebounding team overall than 2005-06. That may be why Rondo's games are so often feast or famine, and Wall appears steadier.
Seventh, free throw rate%:
The final stat we look at is FTR%, and this one also surprised me a bit. Rondo was getting to the line at a significantly higher clip at the 10-game point in 2005-06 than Wall is this year. Part of that is due to the players surrounding him, but Rondo was very aggressive at taking the ball to the glass.
This is perhaps an area that Wall could improve upon. Even in the UConn game, where Wall attacked the glass relentlessly in the second half, he only got to the line about as often as Rondo did on average. It could be that Wall's speed has something to do with that -- you could sometimes catch Rondo on a run-out, but nobody can get close enough to Wall on most run-outs to touch him, let alone foul him.
So there we go, just a few gems to think about while we wait for the Austin Peay Governors game. I like to compare players who have a lot in common, and Rondo has a lot in common with Wall in terms of athleticism, remarkable physical skills, passing ability, and the way they play the game. I think Wall is the more mature player at this point, but Rondo was (and still is) freakishly talented, and has turned into one of the best in the NBA in his position.
I'm confident Wall will be, also.