The Los Angeles Lakers wouldn’t have defeated the Miami Heat in the 2020 Finals if Rajon Rondo wasn’t on the team. The veteran point guard was the second quarterback on the floor alongside LeBron James, as he ran the Purple and Gold offense to perfection as the floor general.
With that being said, the Lakers can’t let Rondo walk in free agency once the 2020 transaction period begins. The two-time champion is expected to decline his player option for next season, meaning he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and be able to explore the market and potentially sign with a different team.
During the 2019-20 regular season, Rajon Rondo averaged 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 32.8 percent from beyond the arc and 65.9 percent from the free-throw line. The former Boston Celtics star suffered a few injuries throughout the season, none bigger than a right thumb injury that required surgery before the seeding games started at Walt Disney World.
While he was really rusty upon coming back from the injury, Rondo found his groove when it mattered the most. In the Finals against the Heat, the four-time All-Star averaged 8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists to help the Lakers win the series in six games.
In Game 6, Rondo put on a show from start to finish. The Kentucky alum scored 19 points in 30 minutes and shot an impressive 8-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
While Rondo doesn’t like the nickname “Playoff Rondo,” there’s no question he takes his game to another level in the postseason since he has more time and film to watch other teams. Rondo is one of the smartest players in NBA history and he’s able to learn players’ tendencies quickly and dissect them at the drop of a hat.
Rondo will have a bevy of suitors on the open market since he played such a vital role in the Lakers’ title run. Los Angeles general manager Rob Pelinka has to make the right move and bring Rondo back, as the team would miss his veteran leadership and elite point guard skills.
When LeBron goes to the bench, the Lakers need Rondo so the team has someone to initiate the offense and put everyone in the right place. Lakers superstar big man Anthony Davis also has a tremendous rapport with Rondo in the pick-and-roll game and on alley-oops. The Chicago native has said multiple times that Rondo is one of the guys on the team who is always challenging him to be great and putting him in positions to be successful.
Rondo is set to make $2,692,991 next season if he picks up his option. The assist maestro surely raised his value by playing well in the Finals, so look for Rondo’s agent to ask for a nice pay raise. The 34-year-old has earned a raise in his salary and it is safe to say multiple players on the Lakers would be upset if the franchise doesn’t re-sign Rondo.
Though Rondo may struggle in the regular season with his perimeter shooting, it doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. The 2019-20 season showed that as long as LeBron and Davis are playing like the superstars they are each and every night, the Lakers just need the role players to not mess up and perform their duties to a T for the Purple and Gold to win games.
That’s how good and dominant James and AD are.
However, once the playoffs start, the game slows down and half-court scoring is at a premium. That’s where Rondo comes in handy due to his knowledge of offensive sets and how opposing defenses are going to guard the team he’s playing for. One of the reasons the Lakers didn’t struggle too much against the Heat’s 2-3 zone in the Finals is because Rondo, along with LeBron, knew what to do.
Rondo and James were instructing players to flash at the top of the key when the Heat were playing their 2-3 zone defense. Rondo even caught the ball a few times at the free-throw line–which is the open spot of the 2-3 zone–and was either able to hit his patented floater or find cutters from the left and right wing due to his stellar vision.
The Lakers are the betting favorite to repeat as champions next season. However, the Golden State Warriors will be back in the title mix with the return of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, while the Brooklyn Nets are going to be a major force out East with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving leading the way.
With that said, the Lakers should re-sign Rajon Rondo as soon as free agency starts and keep their championship core intact as much as possible.