NBA trade deadline: Clippers landed veteran point guard in Rajon Rondo


The Clippers are rumored to be in the market for an additional playmaker since signing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in July 2019. Those rumors reached a crescendo when the Clippers went through their February slump, specifically since the team’s offense. stalled during the crisis. marquee game time.

Although the Clippers have apparently recovered from that hiatus, the main office’s thirst for a veteran shooting guard to guide the team was apparently not dissipated, thus the decision to acquire Rajon Rondo, who is in his 15th. season in the NBA.

The parameters of the deal are interesting, because the Clippers had to send assets along with Lou Williams, a second-round pick from Portland in 2023 and Los Angeles’ own second-round pick in 2027, and they also lost a bit of wiggle room under the maximum limit. as Rondo’s incentives make his salary cap $ 250,000 higher than Williams’.

That indicates the Clippers valued Rondo more than Williams, so let’s find out why.

Rondo hasn’t been good in the regular season for some time. He has had a negative net regular season rating for nine of the last 11 seasons, according to NBA.com, and the Hawks were 9.2 points per 100 possessions better with him off the court this season. He tends to dribble the air off the ball, limiting transition opportunities, and his individual offense, specifically his shot, isn’t a threat enough for defenses to respect in the middle of the court. Rondo also has a high turnover rate, further diminishing his offensive utility, and he never gets fouled.

What Rondo has done well is throwing lob passes, which could be a fun pairing with Ivica Zubac, his former teammate with the Lakers for about half a season. The two had a net rating of plus-6.1 in their 185 minutes together in 2018-19.

The Clippers should have a good time with the Rondo / Zubac duo.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Rondo has great instincts and is a thief fanatic. He has been praised throughout the league for his basketball IQ, and that shows in the fact that he knows what each team is going to execute. The problem is that he plays and gets trapped behind the work, and he also dies on the screens. Intelligence only reaches a certain point when it is not accompanied by effort.

But the Clippers didn’t make this move with regular-season production in mind. They made this trade to get Playoff Rondo. And as silly as it may seem for a player to become a whole new version of himself in the postseason, that’s essentially what Rondo has done. Aside from a disastrous season in Dallas when the other Mavericks voted not to give Rondo his share of the playoffs, Rondo has been a positive player every postseason.

During the 2020 playoffs as a member of the Lakers, Rondo once again performed his act of transformation. He shot 40 percent on 3s after falling below 33 percent during the regular season, and many of them were pull-ups of his own making. He also had more verve as a driver and put pressure on the basket in the midfield. Not to mention his best ability, his passing; Rondo set a playoff record with 105 assists off the bench despite missing the entire first round. Rondo also got involved in defense, regularly stealing James Harden’s pocket during the conference semifinals, the series in which he had the most impact. He’s only 6’1, but Rondo has a 6’9 wingspan and big hands, giving him the ability to protect bigger players well.

More than anything, Rondo had a way of keeping the Lakers organized, whether LeBron James was on the court or not. When the Lakers lost one at the end of Game 2 of the conference finals, they brought in Rondo to make the pass for the game-winning shot. Frank Vogel said Rondo had “loot” he couldn’t calculate, and for a franchise like the Clippers that often feels haunted by demons from its past, that cunning could go a long way.

NBA: Finals-Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat

Rajon Rondo’s individual offense was a factor in the 2020 playoffs, as his actual shooting percentage jumped from 49.4 to 55.3.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Lue knows what Rondo brings to a team. Lue was with the Boston Celtics from 2009-13, and the two supposedly had a good relationship there, which is what inspired this reunion. Markieff Morris had glowing comments about Rondo last season, and it’s safe to say that he will share those compliments with his twin brother Marcus. People in the league like Rondo, judging by the reaction to this trade on Thursday afternoon. It should fit the wardrobe well.

The Clippers can get by in the regular season with Luke Kennard and Terance Mann taking over Williams’ minutes in case Rondo takes him all the way to the playoffs to warm up. This move doesn’t help his depth, but it has fewer consequences during the postseason. Leonard has talked all season about how the Clippers need to get smarter, and that’s a nickname that has been applied to Rondo his entire career.

Looking at Rondo’s numbers in Atlanta this season is a bit tricky. It has been objectively terrible and not even lasting. It’s fair to wonder if Rondo’s annual absence of hand injuries is on the horizon, too. Bringing in a player with this current level of production is a head scratch.

But the Clippers have telegraphed that they are playing long-term, that they worship at the Playoff Rondo altar and that they believe their veteran leadership will pay dividends later this year. It’s a reasonable gamble, and it wasn’t too high a price to pay considering legitimate fears about Williams’ ability to stay in the playoffs.

The Clippers have a well-built roster that is ready to compete for a championship with or without Rondo. He could be that cherry on top of the ice cream, the little extra magic to take them to the next level. That’s why the team made this move.

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