The Los Angeles Lakers will have plenty of money to spend this offseason, and Rajon Rondo is expected to be one of their top targets. But the point guard’s play over the 2014-2015 season has made it a risky proposition for L.A. to pursue the four-time All-Star.
In his ninth NBA season, Rondo has put up the worst numbers of his career since he was a rookie. After playing 22 games for the Boston Celtics, Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for their playoff run. The trade hasn’t worked out for Dallas, and after a back injury ruled out Rondo indefinitely for the rest of the postseason, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said he doesn’t expect the point guard to play for the team again.
With Rondo looking for a new home in the summer, the Lakers seem like his most viable landing spot. Los Angeles is projected to have approximately $30 million in salary cap space, and they are in desperate need of a point guard. Steve Nash only played 65 games during his three-year stint with the team, and Jeremy Lin isn’t a viable option to be the Lakers’ starter next year.
Kobe Bryant has been open about his recruitment of Rondo, looking to play with an All-Star point guard for the first time since 1998, and Bryant has been vocal about his admiration for Rondo in previous seasons. But Rondo no longer appears to be even close to being one of the best players at his position.
The Mavericks got worse with Rondo, going 19-8 before the deal and 26-22 with Rondo on the court. Boston went 9-14 before trading Rondo, and their 31-28 record to end the year helped them make the playoffs.
In his first seven seasons with Boston, Rondo was a top point guard. He led the NBA in assists on multiple occasions and became an elite defender. But the Lakers would be getting a different player.
Los Angeles will get a point guard that hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL in early 2013. Not only has Rondo’s defense taken a step back, but he’s become a liability on offense. Having shot over 50 percent from the field twice with the Celtics, Rondo made just 42.6 percent of his shots this year. He shot a career-low 39.7 percent from the free throw line, and his 7.9 assists per game was his lowest average since 2007-2008.
Signing Rondo at the right price could be a worthwhile gamble for the Lakers. He will no longer garner a max contract in free agency, and his poor play and clashes with Carlisle will likely cost him a lot of money on his upcoming contract.
But even if Los Angeles can sign Rondo at the right price, it might not be worth giving him starter’s minutes over younger options. Rookie Jordan Clarkson showed some promise in 59 games, averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting close to 45 percent from the field. He might be able to produce nearly as well as Rondo while costing L.A. a lot less money.
Drafting a point guard also seems to be a smarter decision than giving Rondo a contract. The Lakers are projected to pick fourth overall, a spot where they could get the best point guard in the draft. Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are the consensus top two picks in the draft, but point guards Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell are both considered to be worthy of top five selections.
The Lakers won’t be ready to compete in the West next year. Drafting a point guard that’s 10 years younger than Rondo or taking a chance on Clarkson is probably the better option.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol will top the 2015 NBA free agent list.