MIAMI – Two years ago the question seemed laughable. Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo?
But things have changed drastically.
So as we watch the reeling Miami Heat and prideful Boston Celtics go through their battles in this Eastern Conference finals series, ask yourself a legitimate question:
Given the choice, would you rather have Miami’s Dwyane Wade or Boston’s Rajon Rondo right now?
“I would say Rondo is playing as well as any of our superstars in the league right now,” said Boston guard Keyon Dooling, an admittedly biased source but someone who has been a teammate of both Wade and Rondo.
It seems unthinkable, maybe even blasphemous for a guy who resides in Miami and has covered Wade his entire career, but I’m going to say I’d rather have Rondo right now, too.
Rondo is outplaying Wade as the Heat and Celtics head into Thursday’s Game 6 in Boston, an absolute must-win for Miami trailing 3-2.
Rondo is averaging 20.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game while shooting .483 from the field.
Wade is averaging 22 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting .457 from the field.
Wade is struggling early in games. And sometimes he’s not finishing strongly.
Actually, let’s take this Wade thing a step further.
If you had to select a guard in these playoffs, where would Wade rate among Rondo, Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), Tony Parker (San Antonio), James Harden (Oklahoma City), and Manu Ginobili (San Antonio)?
What if you had to choose among those guards for an entire season? What if it was to win a single game?
Rondo collects triple-doubles like he’s Magic Johnson. He makes game-winning plays on a regular basis. He puts people in position to make game-winning plays on a regular basis.
Look at what Rondo did in Game 5 against Miami. Rondo missed a layup with Wade on him, and then grabbed the rebound and finished with a putback to cut Boston’s deficit to 80-79.
He gets a key rebound and tips that ball out to Mickael Pietrus, who hits a 3-pointer to give Boston a crucial 85-83 lead with 2:11 left.
But Wade also made huge plays late in Boston’s 94-90 Game 5 victory in Miami. In fact, it was a Wade-Rondo duel in the fourth quarter. Wade had 14 fourth-quarter points. Rondo had four fourth-quarter points (on 2-for-6 shooting) and four fourth-quarter assists. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, but the key is Rondo made the big plays to win the game, and he did it while being defended by Wade and James, a pair of players who have earned All-Defensive honors.
Wade still wins games. He remains a high-level closer in this game. He remains a high-level player, one of the elite. To me, entering the season the top three players in the NBA were No. 1 Kobe Bryant, and then Wade and LeBron James at Nos. 2 and 3, you pick the order depending on the day.
But now? After this postseason?
Maybe it’s LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, and the rest of the order is a bit unsettled among Wade, Dwight Howard, the injured Derrick Rose and Rondo.
Wade, who has been afflicted by injuries and slow starts to games this season and in these playoffs, might have been relegated to second-tier superstar status, which is unfamiliar territory.
Again, Wade made some game-winning plays. He had a nice rebound and putback to get the Heat to within 70-69. That followed a strong drive to the bucket and layup early in the fourth quarter. Wade had the assist to LeBron that gave the Heat a 74-72 lead. Wade’s jumper gave Miami a 80-77 lead.
Wade made game-winning plays.
But Rondo made more game-winning plays. That was the case in Game 5, it’s been the case this entire series, and it’s been the case this entire season.
Rondo has outplayed Wade, and if you had to pick between the two, you’d probably pick Rondo.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns regularly appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.