Sporting a disastrous 13-40 record this season, the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans are unable to look forward to the upcoming postseason in April. However, there is a light at the end of this year’s particularly dark tunnel: free agency period in July.
Due to the lack of committed contracts for next year, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is expected to aggressively pursue this upcoming off-season’s free agency pool. The Lakers have the cap space to afford multiple free agents, but it (literally) all begins with a point guard. The lackluster play so far from Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Price and rookie Jordan Clarkson this season lead me to believe an upgrade at the point guard position is imminent this summer.
Neither Rajon Rondo nor Goran Dragic, both 28, are expected to sign extensions with their respective teams by the end of this season, allowing them to entertain offers from other clubs around the league this summer. Teams will undoubtedly be calling both players — including the Lakers. The question is: who should the team pursue first?
I know Kobe Bryant would agree with me, and if you don’t, why not? Despite the sudden adversity of changing teams and conferences this season, Rondo was nearly averaging a double-double with 8.7 points and 8.7 assists a game before he went down with a facial injury that is taking longer to heal than originally anticipated. However, these numbers are lower than usual for Rondo—a true testament to the high level he’s played at in his career. Rondo’s stats have been consistent since he took over the starting role in Boston back in 2008, and I expect that to continue when he returns to the lineup and becomes more comfortable in the Mavericks’ offense — or starts fresh with a new team next season.
While Goran Dragic’s average of nearly 17 points a game is impressive, his lack of assists are alarming. This season, Dragic’s 4.1 assists a game ranks 31st among point guards and even trails power forward Blake Griffin’s total per contest. It is a fact that the majority of NBA teams rely on positions other than point guard to carry the scoring load, and for good reason. Obviously, players like Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lilliard are an exception. Dragic is a great scorer, but he simply isn’t in the same class as those guys. As a result, until Dragic starts to move the ball at a better rate, his peak may never exceed battling for eighth seed berths in the Western Conference.
Rondo’s signature scrappy defensive style would certainly be an asset on the Lakers defense, which has been hovering at the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency all season.
Publicly regarded as an elite defensive point guard, it is no secret that Rondo is a better defender than Dragic. Last season, Bleacher Report ranked point guards on their defense based on an array of advanced stats that were calculated to accurately estimate the number of points a player would theoretically give up per 100 possessions. On this list, Rondo was ranked number one above defensively-respected guards like Chris Paul and John Wall while Dragic failed to crack the top-15. The potential addition of Rondo would provide direct aid to the Lakers, who currently lead the league in most points conceded to opposing team’s point guards per game. Additionally, Rondo’s knack of forcing turnovers often lead to easy points in transition, an aspect of the game Rondo arguably most excels at.
Without a doubt, Rondo’s pass-first play style makes the players around him better — a necessary trait for a successful facilitator.
During his last two years in Boston, Rondo wasn’t exactly surrounded by scorers. Jared Sullinger leads the team in points, if that gives you an idea. Nevertheless, Rondo still managed to reach double digit dimes nightly finding inexperienced scorers like Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk with eye-opening passes for high-percentage chances. Next season, I’d like to think the Lakers will have better scorers than Sullinger and Olynyk, making Rondo that much more effective.
To be clear: My intentions are not to bash Dragic, as I think both he and Rondo would drastically improve the Lakers. Rather, I’m conveying why Rondo would be a more suitable fit for Los Angeles if he is indeed available this offseason. Rondo’s unselfish play and creative passes would get more members of the team involved, which is more complex to defend. Dragic may be a better scorer than Rondo, but Rajon more than compensates in the form stellar defense. If defense truly does wins titles, why not try to acquire Rondo and his 4-time All-NBA defensive honors?[divide]