The Los Angeles Lakers signed a number of veterans after landing LeBron James in free agency, hoping their experience would help take their young core to the next level.
With that goal in mind, they added Rajon Rondo, who is known not just for his ability to run a team on the floor but also as one of the brightest minds off of it. He was given a one-year, $9 million deal which is an overpay, but at least it wasn’t a long-term commitment.
Rondo’s reputation as a basketball savant has grown over the years, and the Lakers believed that he could be an excellent mentor to Lonzo Ball while also providing insurance in case of injury. Former Lakers head coach Luke Walton wanted to play fast-paced basketball and believed that Rondo would give the team another floor general to keep the team flying when Ball is out.
That said, Rondo’s reputation as a non-shooter wasn’t ideal for a Lakers team built around James and the floor spacing that he can provide. Rondo did shoot a respectable 36% from the three-point line during the 2018-19 NBA season, but teams still largely ignored him, causing issues elsewhere on the floor. Additionally, Rondo’s defense has fallen off dramatically from his prime, and he is now on the poor end of the spectrum. While his basketball intelligence is an asset off the floor, the Lakers were statistically speaking a better team when they used Alex Caruso instead of Rondo.
He had his moments where ‘Playoff Rondo’ appeared, but also maddening sequences where he passed up layups in order to hunt for an assist. Sharing the ball is typically a positive thing, but just like most things in life, too much of it can create problems.
Still, one should keep in mind that the Lakers didn’t begin the season intending on having Rondo play nearly 30 minutes per game while starting more than half of his appearances. He suffered multiple injuries that kept him sidelined for all but 46 games this season and when he returned to full health, Ball had a season-ending injury that thrust Rondo into a larger role by necessity. In a smaller role, Rondo’s flaws would have been easier to stomach.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 NBA Season
The game-winner in Boston. This may just be the best moment of the year.
As a free agent, Rondo will have the opportunity to sign with any team. He was well-respected by his teammates and the Lakers valued his veteran insight, but there is no question that $9 million was too much. The Lakers, who will prioritize chasing All-Star players this summer, won’t be able to maintain max cap space and pay Rondo anywhere near last season’s salary.
On a veteran-minimum deal like the one JaVale McGee had, Rondo may make some sense, but the Lakers could also just bring Caruso back as their full-time backup and likely at a cheaper price. Veterans are needed on young teams but the price will have to be a major factor in Rondo’s future in Los Angeles.