For every player like Montrezl Harrell, whose value probably took a hit as a result of his underwhelming performance for the LA Clippers in the postseason, there are players like Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played pivotal roles for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals and earned themselves some money as a result.
However, even for players like Rondo and Caldwell-Pope, entering the open market is a gamble because of the limited number of teams that actually have meaningful cap space, and the uncertainty regarding the NBA’s financial health as a whole. It appears Rondo and Caldwell-Pope are confident betting on themselves, though.
According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, Caldwell-Pope will likely decline the final-year of the two-year, $16 million contract he signed with the Lakers last summer with the hope of re-working a new deal with the team in free agency:
After establishing himself as a key player heading into next season, Caldwell-Pope is expected to decline his $8.5 million player option, sources said. There’s significant mutual interest between Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers, but there will be some external suitors.
Rondo is expected to follow suit, but there’s no word on whether or not he hopes to return at this point:
Rondo cemented his role as a leader for the Lakers in the bubble, serving as something of a player/coach and providing guidance across the roster. Sources said Rondo is expected to decline his option, and he will have interest from the Lakers and others believing he is a piece to build on a championship roster.
The Lakers won’t technically have to choose between Caldwell-Pope and Rondo in free agency, but it will be difficult for Los Angeles to give them both substantial raises without cutting costs elsewhere. That doesn’t mean just players like Quinn Cook, whose contract is only guaranteed for $1 million next season; it also means exceptions like the mid-level exception and bi-annual exception, both of which can help the Lakers improve their roster in free agency in a big way.
Caldwell-Pope should obviously be the Lakers’ priority in that scenario, but the reality is that he’s more likely to get a big offer than Rondo is because of his age (27) and skillset. Still, there’s reason to be optimistic that the Lakers will be able to work out a deal with Rondo, and not just it’s being reported as such. The Lakers will finally have Caldwell-Pope’s full bird rights this offseason, so they can go over the cap to pay him handsomely.
Playoff Rondo was incredible — historic, even — but Caldwell-Pope is the better option long-term. We’ll have a better idea of what the Lakers think when we get closer to the open of the free agency window.