One of Sunday’s biggest stories in the NBA world was the (reported) trade of former Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Los Angeles Lakers. While that wouldn’t normally command a write-up in this space, the fallout from that transaction could reportedly make waves all the way into the state of Georgia.
First, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that the acquisition of Schröder included the “strong belief” from the Lakers that veteran point guard Rajon Rondo would be hitting the market in free agency.
After his role in helping the Lakers win a championship with a particularly strong playoff run, Rondo is expected to command free-agent interest that exceeds the Lakers' budget constraints. Trading for Schroder is an adroit pre-emptive move— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 15, 2020
Later, there was a link drawn from Rondo to the Hawks, with Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reporting that Rondo will decline his player option — a no-brainer decision — and “will have teams after him.” From there, Turner notes that the group could include the Hawks.
Sources: Rajon Rondo is expected to decline his player option for $2.6 million with the Lakers to become a free agent. Rondo will have teams after him, including the Clippers and Atlanta Hawks.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) November 16, 2020
First, it has to be noted (again) that the Hawks are a prime team for agents to use as leverage during this abbreviated offseason. That has been a topic discussed myriad times in this space in recent weeks, but Atlanta has only nine players under contract, the most salary cap space in the NBA, and a gaping hole behind Trae Young at the backup point guard position.
As such, it would be easy for one to connect the dots, at least on paper, for why Rondo might make sense in Atlanta. On the flip side, there are counterweights, with Rondo seemingly better aligned with teams (like his most recent franchise in the Lakers) contending for the NBA title in the immediate future. In fact, Turner’s report was not the first time Rondo was linked to the L.A. Clippers and, while the Hawks do have playing time for him, it could also be a situation in which the Hawks exist — at least in this scenario — to drive up the price.
Rondo was quite good in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, shooting 40 percent from three-point range, averaging 6.6 assists per game, rebounding at a high level, and even ramping up his effort on the defensive end. Because that was his most recent impression on the basketball landscape, one could assume that level of performance is a new baseline, even at the age fo 34.
However, “Playoff Rondo” is far different from the player Rondo has been in the regular season for the last several seasons, with middling efficiency and sometimes bothersome defensive effort. At the very least, that is worth noting for a team that is attempting to transition from a rebuild to a playoff chase. In addition, the Hawks could be looking for a backup guard that can play with or without Young and, while Rondo had a strong defensive reputation in his younger days, he isn’t an optimal off-ball fit given the combination of shaky perimeter shooting and suboptimal size and defense.
In the most optimistic of scenarios, Rondo could provide the Hawks with an experienced, high-pedigree veteran that could run the offense as a good passer when Young heads to the bench. That isn’t impossible to envision, and that archetype could be quite valuable for Atlanta. However, Rondo hasn’t always fit in everywhere (see his time in Dallas and Sacramento) and a team in Atlanta’s position as an up-and-comer adding him to the mix would be taking on some risk with a player who hasn’t performed nearly as well in similar environments.
It remains to be seen how serious this reported interest is on Atlanta’s side but, at the very least, a reputable source has now made the connection in print.