Rajon Rondo has secured a buyout from the Memphis Grizzlies, and when he clears waivers, the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to sign him, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal would presumably be for the minimum, the only tool available to them to sign players at this stage of the offseason.
Rondo was a key member of the 2020 Lakers championship team, but left for a two-year, $15 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. Midway through his first season in Atlanta, Rondo was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. After an uneven half-season there, the Clippers dealt Rondo to Memphis in part of a package for Eric Bledsoe. Memphis, with Ja Morant and several young guards in place, had no reason to keep Rondo, and with 18 players on their roster, needed to move three regardless. They have now trimmed their roster down to 17, and Rondo has secured the opportunity to return to his former team.
In Los Angeles, he would be joining an incredibly deep backcourt that was completely rebuilt this offseason. Russell Westbrook is the new starting point guard, and fighting for minutes in the rest of the backcourt are Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington. With LeBron James in tow, ball-handling is the last thing these Lakers need. In that sense, Rondo is an odd fit. There may not be any playing time available to him to open the season.
But with Jared Dudley gone, the Lakers are missing a key locker room presence. Rondo was a beloved teammate on the 2020 championship team, and the coaching staff praised him consistently. In that sense, the Lakers may be signing Rondo as much for his presence as his playing ability. It should also be noted that the Lakers currently only have five players on the roster making more than the minimum. James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis aren’t going anywhere, so if the Lakers have to make an in-season trade, Nunn and Horton-Tucker are prime candidates to be moved just because of their larger salaries. Rondo may also be insurance in the event one or both of them are moved.
Rondo is 35. Even his mythical playoff form struggled last season with the Clippers. In all likelihood, Rondo would not be joining the Lakers to play a particularly big role. But his success in 2020 proved how he can impact a winning team both on and off of the floor. As long as he’s comfortable with the idea of not being in the rotation to start the season, this should be a valuable addition for the Lakers.