Veteran guard Rajon Rondo played an integral part in the Los Angeles Lakers 2020 NBA title run.
Averaging 8.9 points and 6.6 assists per game shooting a much-improved 40 percent from three in the playoffs, Rondo proved he still has something left in the tank for any team trying to add a player with championship DNA. He scored 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field to break open the Lakers title-clinching Game 6 win and tallied 105 assists off the bench throughout their postseason run, setting a record for most assists off the bench in NBA Playoffs history.
In winning his second NBA title - the other coming with the Boston Celtics - he became the second player in league history to win a championship with both storied franchises, first helping the Celtics earn their league-leading 17th NBA championship, then helping the Lakers tie their rivals for most titles in NBA history.
The 34-year-old has a player option worth $2.69 million, which Chris Sheridan of BasketballNews.com reported that he is "definitely opting out" to become an unrestricted free agent. However, Rondo told ESPN's First Take crew that he's still considering a re-run with the Lakers.
"I'm definitely going to entertain (returning to the Lakers)," Rondo stated. "Obviously, always thinking about running it back with a great group of guys and coaching staff. I can't thank those guys enough for giving me a shot the last couple of years. It's been amazing playing for this organization.
"My agent and I will sit down and talk, but right now, I'm just kind of enjoying the moment, continuing to ride this high out. I don't want to think about free agency right now; I've got a couple of months to do that as well. Right now, I'm going to enjoy the time with my family, friends, take a lot of great vacations and keep enjoying life," he stated back on Oct. 13.
So while the Lakers are certainly still an option, what are some other teams that could pursue Rondo as an unrestricted free agent?
It's no secret that the Clippers are looking for some assistance in the point guard department after coming up well short of their goal for last season. For a team with championship aspirations, there's no better fit than trying to acquire the most playoff-tested player in free agency. Where Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson couldn't get the job done, Rondo could be the ideal facilitator to distribute shots among Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. On the second unit, he could take some pressure off of Lou Williams as the only reliable primary ball-handler, allowing him to work off-ball when he'd like. Plus, it would make it all that much sweeter for the Clippers to sweep Rondo from their in-town rivals.
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With Goran Dragic set to become an unrestricted free agent, it may be tough for the Heat to re-sign their starting point guard for the type of money he'd be looking for if they want to keep their books clean for 2021 free agency in the potential pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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That leaves a void for a primary ball-handler and floor general and with the hopes of returning to the NBA Finals again in the near-future, Rondo makes a ton of sense here. He could be the perfect veteran to mentor young guard Tyler Herro while also giving the Heat another playmaker alongside Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. When you add to it that he and Butler have a previous relationship as teammates with the Chicago Bulls, this deal becomes even more realistic.
Could we see a reunion with Rondo and his former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers now that he's at the helm in Philadelphia?
One of the 76ers biggest needs this offseason is trying to find a reserve guard that can play behind All-Star Ben Simmons and for a team that's trying to reach championship-level following an underwhelming result last season, Rondo would fit right in here. He could give Philly's second unit a steadying hand whenever Simmons is off the floor and they could even play alongside one another, sliding Simmons over to a forward spot.
With Rondo's high IQ and feel for the game, it's safe to assume he would help get the most out of other key players like All-Star centre Joel Embiid and forward Tobias Harris, too.
And speaking of reunions...
The Celtics are another contender that could use a playmaker off the bench as their lack of depth became one of their biggest glaring voids as they went deeper into the playoffs. While experienced guard Brad Wanamaker did a solid job holding down the second unit, he has a $1.9 million qualifying offer that could make him a restricted free agent, giving other teams an opportunity to pursue the reserve floor general. Should someone offer Wanamaker a deal Boston doesn't intend to match, it would be left with inexperienced options to fill his role.
That's where Rondo could come in and assist his former team, adding championship DNA to a team on the brink of reaching The Finals. Would the Celtics use their Mid-Level Exception on a guard, as opposed to a potential veteran big that would fit a more drastic immediate need? That remains to be seen. But if they would, Rondo should be one of the top names on their list if everything unfolds as mentioned.
Note: All of these teams have cap space (unlike the teams above, Miami excluded), and could sign Rondo to a deal greater than a Mid-Level Exception. These are options should the two-time champion pursue a bigger contract.
Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks are serious about trying to return to the playoffs sooner rather than later and pursuing Rondo as a backup point guard to All-Star Trae Young would be a move to jumpstart that process. With current reserve guard Jeff Teague set to hit unrestricted free agency, Rondo could fill that role seamlessly.
New Orleans Pelicans - Another reunion for the four-time All-Star. Rondo helped the Pelicans return to the playoffs back in 2017-18, even winning one playoff series. With a young and promising roster hoping to get back to the postseason and an opening behind Lonzo Ball on the depth chart, Rondo would be a great get for this New Orleans squad looking to make some noise.
Phoenix Suns - Similar to the two teams above, the Suns are trying to get back to the playoffs and have an opening for a second unit playmaker as well. Rondo would thrive in Phoenix, serving as a backup behind Ricky Rubio but at times, playing alongside talented scorers like Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Deandre Ayton.
Toronto Raptors - It doesn't seem like a typical Raptors move, but if Fred VanVleet lands elsewhere in free agency and Terence Davis potentially off the roster, they would need a secondary ball-handler behind Kyle Lowry. If Toronto is serious about staying toward the top of the East - which they should be - Rondo would be a huge boost to the team.
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