Rajon Rondo is back with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2021-22 season, and he may be exactly what the Lakers need to get back to the NBA Finals. After winning the title with the Lakers in the 2019-20 season, Rondo departed in free agency only to find himself back in Los Angeles a year later after he was bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers have reshaped their roster this offseason after getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs during the 2020-21 campaign, and Rondo fits right in with what the Lakers are building.
Los Angeles has put an emphasis on veteran players to lead its bench unit with the signings of Rondo, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza.
Rather than go through the ups and downs of the Kyle Kuzma experience, the Lakers are opting for proven commodities to provide sparks behind their superstar trio of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
So how does Rondo factor in?
Even though the Lakers signed guard Kendrick Nunn to presumably backup Westbrook, Rondo gives the team extra insurance in case someone goes down. He also comes with experience playing in the NBA Finals with James and Davis.
The Lakers lacked playmaking at the point guard position last season with Dennis Schroder (5.8 assists per game) running the show, and they have fixed that problem and then some this offseason.
Westbrook and Rondo provide the Lakers with two elite passers that can help take the playmaking pressure off of LeBron James and allow him to dominate games as a scorer as well.
This isn’t to say that James won’t have a role distributing the ball, but it’s clear that Rondo helped the Lakers mightily in their title run in the 2019-20 campaign when James was off the floor.
Rondo has played 94 games with the Lakers in his career, and the team is a whopping 56-38 in those contests (.596 winning percentage). Over that stretch, Rondo has averaged more assists per game than Schroder did last season (6.5), and he turned the ball over less (2.3 times per game) to Schroder’s 2.7 turnovers per game.
He also shot a better percentage from beyond the arc in those 94 games (34.5 percent) than Schroder did last season (33.5 percent).
Rondo isn’t going to play as many minutes at this stage in his career, but he provides the Lakers with a proven commodity as a playmaker and defender at point guard. The Lakers don’t need him to score, but after piecing together a point guard option off the bench in the 2020-21 season, having Rondo or Nunn off the bench will be a huge upgrade.
In addition to that, the veteran presence and playoff experience Rondo possesses cannot go unnoticed. It can become a cliche to state how much veteran players matter, but it’s hard to overlook Rondo’s importance to the team after losing him last season.
The Lakers went from being 10th in the league in assists per game in the 2019-20 season (25.4) to 15th in the 2020-21 season at 24.7 per game.
They also played at a much slower pace in the 2020-21 season, and it was obvious that the team’s offense went through massive droughts in crucial points in the playoffs.
The Lakers’ pace in the 2020-21 season was 98.85, according to NBA.com, which was 21st in the NBA. That’s a huge drop-off from their championship season where they played at a pace of 101.20 (11th in the NBA).
Westbrook’s and Rondo’s abilities to create easy looks for their teammates will make the Lakers’ offense more fluid, and it should allow for more people to be involved rather than relying on James and Davis to carry the load all season long.
Los Angeles knows that it is just a couple of tweaks away from finding that championship form that it had in the 2019-20 campaign, and bringing back Rondo is a step in the right direction.