Who's better: Rondo or Westbrook?

Comparing the young stars for Boston and Oklahoma City

Originally Published: March 9, 2012
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo Larry W. Smith/Getty ImagesRussell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo possess very different skill sets.

One is the league's highest scoring point guard. The other fits the profile of a classic pass-first floor general. Despite their differences in style, they operate with a number of the same qualities, such as speed, athleticism and high-energy effort.

Still, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo have entirely different approaches to scoring, shot selection and defense that have resulted in a combined five All-Star appearances. Fourth-year Westbrook is developing a rep as one of the flashiest guards in basketball, and mercurial Rondo has battled trade rumors despite proving himself the Celtics' best player. Although their reputations and styles might be night and day, no doubt both point guards are the cream of the crop. But who is better?

Shooting

It's often said that when Westbrook finally develops an outside shot he'll really be dangerous. How's this for dangerous? On long 2s, he's shooting a solid 42 percent, higher than vaunted shooters Ray Allen (35 percent) and Joe Johnson (40).

What's more, from the crucial midrange distance, he's hitting at a better clip than Steve Nash (40 to 35). (He's fifth in midrange field goal percentage among players with at least 2.4 attempts per game.) Seems those summer shooting sessions with Kevin Love have paid off. Westbrook has turned the foul line pull-up into one of his most useful weapons. But he still has room to grow. He has a tendency to lean forward and float to the side when he shoots.

Even with lingering shot selection issues, Westbrook is still a far more advanced shooter than Rondo, whose awkward knuckleball directly takes him out of contention for best point guard in the league. Rondo has very little interest in shooting from the outside. It's unfortunate, considering that his excellent ability to create space for himself in half-court situations would allow him to get quality looks. The pull-up appears to be a very unnatural movement, likely preventing him from developing a consistent midrange shot. Rondo is rightfully lauded for his array of artful floaters but is hitting a career-worst 25.6 percent on those runners this season.

Scores (out of 10): Westbrook 8.5, Rondo 6

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine