The Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to a number of potential free agents this summer, but none of them are as polarizing as Dallas Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo. Formerly one of the most hated members of the rival Boston Celtics, Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season and some reports believe it is a foregone conclusion that he will be in purple and gold next season.
A couple of years ago, Rondo’s addition would have been met with open arms as he was clearly one of the NBA’s top point guards. However, since he tore his ACL in January of 2013, Rondo hasn’t quite looked the same. Many expected him to be the missing piece for the Mavericks this season, but he never fit in with their system and clashed with coach Rick Carlisle.
Rondo has developed a reputation as being a very difficult person to deal with and has clashed with coaches even dating back to his college days at the University of Kentucky. He is also one of the worst shooters in the NBA which is a bad fit in today’s ‘space-and-pace’ league and must have the ball in his hands to be effective.
Some still believe Rondo has the talent to be a very valuable player in today’s NBA and he is very good friends with Kobe Bryant so Kobe could push the Lakers to bring him in. But the question is, is he talented enough to deal with the inevitable headaches that seem to come with him?
We asked our panel of experts if they believe Rajon Rondo is worth the trouble and if so, how much should the Lakers pay him in free agency? This is what they had to say:
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): I think the Lakers would be making a huge mistake if they offered Rondo a max-contract this summer.
First off let’s address his attitude problems which have plagued him since he entered the league nearly ten years ago. He has had conflicts with teammates and coaches throughout his career. It’s important to note that he has managed to alienate two future hall-of-fame coaches: Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle.
These coaches are generally well respected across the league, so one could deduce that the problem is not the coaches and that the blame rests firmly on Rondo. Furthermore, one could forgive Rondo for having attitude issues initially, but one would expect to see him gradually mature throughout his career. Rondo hasn’t and that is a glaring red flag.
Even Metta World Peace learned form his mistakes and ended up becoming a well-behaved player. There’s just too much risk here for the Lakers, who will have many young players on their team, to bring in a player who will inevitably disrupt team chemistry.
Attitude issues aside, Rondo will be entering his 10th year and he’s had injury issues for the past five seasons. Rondo’s last 80 game season was in 2009-10. I also think Rondo is past his prime and his skill-set is not suited for the modern advanced stats NBA. He excels by making plays for others, but he can’t shoot and his defense has deteriorated.
Rondo does not have a three-point shot – for his career he averages 0.2 threes on 26.3 percent shooting. In today’s advanced stat NBA world, the three is becoming more and more valued. Even though Coach Scott doesn’t prioritize the three, Rondo’s lack of shooting ability will ruin spacing for his teammates.
All-in-all I think it’d be a mistake if the Lakers offered Rondo a max-contract this summer and even if he were willing to sign for less, I don’t think he’d help the organization’s rebuilding process.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): For some reason I can’t quite explain, I’m not quite off the Rajon Rondo bandwagon just yet. In no way should the Lakers go over $10 million per year for him, and probably not more than two years guaranteed, but I still believe he could have an impact on the team.
First off, I’m not so sure that his skills have deteriorated as much as people think. The Mavericks system was an awful fit and it’s important to note that in 22 games in Boston before the trade, Rondo averaged 8.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 10.8 assists and 1.7 steals. That says to me that he is still a triple-double threat when he has the ball in his hands.
I also don’t understand the argument some have made that Rondo coming in will stunt the development of Jordan Clarkson. Regardless of whether he is starting or coming off the bench, Clarkson will see 25-30 minutes a night at least. His ability to play on or off the ball will allow him to see plenty of court time regardless of who the Lakers bring in.
Lastly, the Lakers cap space isn’t as grand as people make it out to be. $28 million seems like a lot until you realize that a max player will take away $18-20 million of that. If the Lakers are able to bring Rondo in at a major discount, they could still have the room to give a max contract to a Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan or whoever they please.
He will surely come with headaches, but with some luck, the Lakers could come into next season with Rondo, Kobe, Clarkson, Julius Randle, Tarik Black, another max free agent, and two-first round picks. That is something to get excited about.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I feel signing Rajon Rondo is still the right move for the Los Angeles. Although I do believe bringing in Rondo is the right way to go this summer, I don’t think they should pay him anything close to a max deal as some have predicted he’d get from the Lakers.
At this point in time, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Lakers signing Rondo to a one or two-year deal. Rondo inking a deal similar to the one that Jordan Hill signed last summer makes a lot of sense in my opinion. A two-year deal for $20 million with a team option in the second year is fair and gives Rondo an incentive to prove his worth while also giving the team some flexibility.
Rondo may have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including many Lakers fans that were sold on the prospect of signing him, but I still believe he’d be a huge upgrade at the point guard position. Even if it is for one season, a Rondo-Kobe Bryant backcourt is intriguing with two NBA champions with similar mindsets and approach to the game.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): If this were a couple months ago, Rajon Rondo would have been a welcome addition for the Los Angeles Lakers. The point guard position needed to be upgraded, and still does now despite the emergence of Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson’s growth complicates things a little, but he can play off-ball and alongside a ball dominant point guard such as Rondo. However, at this point of his career, Rondo’s decline makes him a less than an ideal fit for the Lakers.
Coupled with losing quality players around him and suffering a torn ACL during his time in Boston, Rondo hasn’t been the same player he was when the Celtics were winning championships.
Although Rondo’s stock has reached an all-time low for him, he still wants to be paid somewhat well. He is far from the max player he was earlier in his career and it would be hard to justify an offer in the double digits. If the Lakers were to make an offer it should be around eight million per year.
Pursuing Rondo shouldn’t be a high priority for the Lakers in the summer. Getting younger or players closer to their peaks needs to be targeted instead. However, all signs are pointing towards seeing Rondo in a Laker uniform next season.[divide]