Who’s Better: Kyle Lowry or Rajon Rondo?

Just as we wrote in the Dwight Howard versus Andrew Bynum debate, normally you’d scoff at this comparison. But with the way this season is shaping out – there are definitely going to be a few highly-popular players who lose out on All-Star spots to lesser-known studs – Kyle Lowry and Rajon Rondo is a legitimate argument. Doc Rivers put the keys to the Celtics in his point guard’s hands, and Rondo is playing more aggressively than ever. He’s averaging a career-high 15 points, and is warning opponents that his shot is now built to destroy.

Rondo is one of the most versatile guards in the game, but Lowry isn’t a slouch either. His numbers – 15.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists – scream All-Star, especially when you factor in his leadership role on one of the most surprising teams in the league.

So who do you think is better? Rajon Rondo or Kyle Lowry? We argue. You decide.

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It seems like with each passing day, the NBA is truly becoming a point guard’s league. Cats at this position have no days off. When they go to sleep after finishing off one beast, they wake up the next day to face another. However, just because you’ve won a ‘ship or have had Tyga spit about you in the catchy “Rack City” joint, it doesn’t mean Rajon Rondo is bringing it enough right now to maintain his standing as an elite point guard. After all, the Boston Celtics are a below .500 team (8-9) struggling to stay ahead of the LeBron James-dissed Cleveland Cavaliers. Like a quarterback, a point guard is only as good as his squad’s record. The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, are 7-1 in their last eight, and currently stand at 10-8 due in large part to their engine, Kyle Lowry.

There isn’t another player in the league that improved his game so significantly – with no major upgrades on their respective roster from last year to this year – than Lowry. Although here at Dime a cat like Ryan Anderson has received support to win the Most Improved Player award, Lowry plays the game’s toughest position. He warrants consideration for that honor as well. Even SB Nation’s The Dream Shake editor, Tom Martin, admits he doesn’t know what his potential ultimately is, but that Lowry does possess an uncanny ability to take his game to new heights.

“I don’t have a clue what Lowry’s ceiling is,” Martin wrote in an e-mail. “Lowry had his doubters who said he couldn’t shoot. He seems to have overcome that obstacle. He’s got a keen sense for the game and has some sort of wicked-effective motivational complex that gives him that extra boost where his physical attributes fail.”

Kevin McHale has all but given him the keys to the whip and he’s run with it in H-Town like fellow Philly native Meek Mill does so back at home. Posting a stat-line of 15.9 points, 8.8 dimes, 6.9 boards, and 2.0 cookies while shooting 40 percent from the field, 38 percent from downtown and 88 percent from the charity line, Lowry is a making a strong case to be an All-Star. His assists, rebounds, steals and free-throw shooting rank him third, first, fifth, and second among all PGs, respectively. The fact that he’s putting up near triple-double numbers on a nightly basis with Samuel Dalembert and Chandler Parsons starting alongside him means he’s making the most from what he’s got – not to mention that he’s stuck with scrubs like Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet off the pine.

Lowry’s production can be attributed to his unyielding desire to use slights, as Martin mentioned, and his readily-apparent leadership skills, which are both areas that one can fairly question about Rondo. If he truly is a top five point guard in the league – as our own Josh Gotthelf believes – then why Rondo wasn’t good enough to be selected among the 20 finalists to potentially represent Team USA in London this summer? It would be safe to assume that Jerry Colangelo determined he lacked these key characteristics based on his performance as a Celtic and his stint donnin’ the red, white, and blue. Nonetheless, Lowry has proven to his Rockets teammates that he is every bit the hooper and leader.

“He’s the leader of this team, no question,” Martin continued in the e-mail. “Visibly, audibly, anything-bly—he’s taking all of the right steps towards filling Chuck Hayes‘ old role. Lowry’s first to one off the bench to congratulate teammates, but he’s also ready and willing to criticize whenever necessary. When he’s on the floor, Houston actually stands a chance.”

Meanwhile, Rondo has the luxury of playing with three future Hall of Famers and they’re fighting just to stay in the playoff hunt in the East? While he’s clearly now the C’s best player, I’m not sure Rondo has completely maximized the opportunity presented to himself there. Outside of his opening day monster performance of 31 points, 13 dimes, five boards, and five cookies on 58 percent shooting and 9-of-12 from the line – in a losing effort to the woeful Knicks – Rondo hasn’t consistently raised his game to another level. The existing circumstances in Beantown virtually press for more to be done on his part, not less. The time has passed where Rondo could simply control the tempo of the game and be a problem to opponents just by passing the rock to The Big Three. Rondo needs to micromanage the situation to the point where he is incessantly affecting the game in all facets, but particularly in scoring.

Ultimately, what is the most disheartening realization concerning how “nice” Rondo is, is the fact that GM Danny Ainge has consistently and openly shopped him to numerous teams the past few years. In Ainge’s view, he doesn’t consider him a viable cornerstone for the Celtics as they eventually will begin their rebuilding process. Whether it was to the Pistons in 2009, the Hornets or the Pacers before this season, or even including him in the Kendrick Perkins deal to the Thunder, Rondo might as well be chop liver to Ainge since he is lusting for other players to join the men in green rather than to keep him. If you are a legitimate top-flight point guard in this league, unless you’re Chris Paul, you’re probably not getting traded on a whim. That said, GM Daryl Morey understands how valuable Lowry is to the Rockets and would have to thoroughly second-guess himself before thinking about dealing this diamond-in-the-rough point guard.

“As Lowry’s credentials as a player grow, so too do Morey’s as a GM,” Martin further explained in the e-mail. “It’s hard to see the two parting ways, especially since Lowry is the heart and soul of this squad. I think trading him would easily be the most difficult decision of Morey’s career.”

I’ll take the pit-bull of a point guard in Kyle Lowry any day, over someone who can’t hold his own in any fight like Rajon Rondo.

I have a confession to make. After watching Rajon Rondo emerge into a top-tier NBA point guard over the last few years, I still came away rather unimpressed. I knew I was in the minority, but even as he racked up a championship ring and All-Star accolades, I was under the impression that just about anybody could go out there and drop dime after dime to three future Hall of Famers. And how could someone who has been in the league for five years still have such a horrendous-looking jumper? To me, there were many question marks surrounding Rondo entering this year. My apologies to Rajon and Celtics fans everywhere.

Before getting injured this year, Rondo was playing like a man on a mission. He expanded his range (all the way to the elbow!), which has allowed him to do so much more offensively. No longer can you sag all the way down into the paint when playing against him, meaning more blow-bys and odd man situations. As Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett drift closer to retirement, Rondo has been picking up the slack even if the Celtics 8-9 record doesn’t reflect it.

The choice between Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry comes down to a preference between power and speed. Lowry is an inch smaller but more than 15 pounds heavier. It gives him the ability to absorb contact in the paint but still make shots while also giving him an edge in the rebounding department over most other guards. Besides that and their jumpers, I’ll take Rondo in every other phase of the game. Rondo is quicker, handles the ball better, sees the floor better, and is a warrior in every single sense of the word. The man literally played with one arm after dislocating his elbow in Game 3 against the Heat last postseason and was effective enough to get the win.

After the game he proclaimed, “I was in pain, but the main thing is we got the win. I knew I could help with my mouth and my legs.”

Now that’s the type of mentality I want my point guard having. Rondo is battle-tested, playing in 73 postseason games compared to Lowry’s 13. When it’s playoff time, you can rely on Rajon. His career playoff averages are three points, a board and a half, and an assist higher than his regular season ones (postseason numbers: 13.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists a night) and he’s tied for sixth with LeBron James on the all-time playoff triple-double list.

Maybe in time Lowry can surpass Rondo, but not if Rondo keeps up his extremely regimented offseason workouts (found here and here). While Lowry just became a full-time starter last year, in four years Rondo has already earned the reputation as a gym rat and gained more experience with the Big Three than some hope to get in their whole career. For now, I’m taking Rondo 10 times out of 10.

Who would you take?

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