Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” series, where we’ll be looking back at every member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions about what they contributed (or didn’t) to the team’s 17th championship, as well as discussing what their situation is moving forward. Today, let’s discuss Rajon Rondo.
How did he play?
In the summer of 2018, I flew across the country to see Niagara Falls; the Canadian side because, from what I hear, it’s better than the American side in New York. Granted, I heard that from a Canadian, but I digress.
I had obviously seen pictures of Niagara Falls before on postcards, desktop wallpapers and calendars, but I quickly discovered that pictures and secondhand accounts didn’t do it justice: you need to see it for yourself to understand all of its majesty.
Why am I talking about my trip to Niagara Falls, you might ask? Because it’s the only thing I’ve ever experienced that came close to watching Rajon Rondo in the playoffs this past season.
After missing the first 13 games of the NBA’s second act in Orlando, which included the first round of the playoffs, Rondo came in and looked as rusty as someone that hadn’t played a competitive game of basketball in almost six months. However, after that game, Rondo got his legs back under him and lived up to the “Playoff Rondo” hype.
In 16 appearances for the Lakers in the postseason, Rondo averaged 8.9 points per game on 45.5% shooting from the field, including 40% shooting from 3-point range. For context, Rondo shot 32.8% from behind the arc in the regular season and for his career, he’s a 31.6% 3-point shooter.
He also did a good job of controlling the flow of the game whenever he had the ball in his hands. According to NBA.com, the Lakers posted an offensive rating of 117.6 minutes in the 395 minutes Rondo was on the floor in the postseason, which was the second-highest offensive rating on the team behind Danny Green — yes, that Danny Green.
Rondo’s production in the postseason was a complete change of pace from the regular season, where the Lakers were actually better on both ends of the floor with Rondo on the bench. In fact, Rondo had the worst differential in net rating (-5.6) of anyone that logged at least 500 minutes for Frank Vogel in the regular season. He was bad, until he wasn’t.
I’m not someone too proud to admit that I was wrong about a lot of things last season. I was wrong about Dwight Howard not being able to contribute to a championship team, I was wrong about how much Avery Bradley still had left in the tank and I was wrong about there being a gap in talent between the Clippers and Lakers.
But I have never been more wrong about something than I was about Rondo. He’s a big reason as to why there will another banner hanging from the rafters at Staples Center in a month.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Rondo has a nice $2.69 player option he can exercise for the 2020-21 season, but according to a report by Shams Charania of The Athletic, Rondo is expected to opt out of his contract and tested unrestricted free agency.
Will he be back?
As good as Rondo was in the postseason, he left the Lakers with a question to ponder in the offseason: is the tradeoff between Regular Season Rondo and Playoff Rondo worth it? In my opinion, yes.
There will be a handful of point guards available this offseason, such as D.J. Augustin, who’s a career 37.9% 3-point shooter, and Austin Rivers, one of the most reliable backup point guards in the NBA, but Augustin and Rivers don’t affect games the way Rondo does when he’s locked in. That’s not to say they’re not good players — they are, but Rondo takes his game to an entirely different level in the postseason.
Now, does that mean that the Lakers should bring back Rondo by any means necessary? No. Rondo is 34 years old and has a lengthy history of injuries. But if his demands are reasonable, they shouldn’t hesitate to bring him back. And if Rondo drags his feet in the regular season again, you won’t hear a peep from me until the playoffs come back around.