For well over a year, the Atlanta Hawks have faced a backup point guard problem. Local product Brandon Goodwin is still in the mix after having his contract guaranteed for the 2019-20 season but, after some failed experiments in 2018-19, Travis Schlenk and the offseason likely entered the offseason with renewed purpose to provide depth behind Trae Young. For more than a week, reports have tied Atlanta to the potential pursuit of veteran Rajon Rondo and, on Saturday afternoon, word broke from multiple outlets that Rondo would be signing a two-year, $15 million deal with the Hawks.
Free agent guard Rajon Rondo has reached an agreement with the Atlanta Hawks on a two-year, $15 million deal, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 21, 2020
Free agent guard Rajon Rondo has agreed to a two-year, $15M contract with the Atlanta Hawks, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 21, 2020
Gone are the days when Rondo was a four-time NBA All-Star, but the 34-year-old did enjoy something of a renaissance in helping the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2020 title. He averaged 6.6 assists per game in the postseason and, with an uptick in his perimeter shooting (40 percent from three) and defensive effort, Rondo was a valuable piece for Los Angeles.
While his credentials as a postseason contributor (i.e. “Playoff Rondo”) are well-documented, there is some question about Rondo as a regular season entity. In the last four seasons, Rondo has struggled to a 48.7 percent true shooting and, while his passing skill remains with a 37.5 assist rate, his defensive performance has waxed and waned at times.
Rondo is a beloved figure in many NBA circles and, as noted previously, he is a four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion. There is a question about the caliber of player the Hawks are receiving, however, and the questions about his present-day defense and sometimes shaky long-range shooting are worth monitoring.
From a salary cap standpoint, Rondo’s reported $15 million deal could start anywhere between $7,317,073 and $7,692,308 for the 2020-21 season. In tandem with the investment in Gallinari and Dunn’s contract landing in the room exception, the Hawks could still have between $16.6 million and $19.0 million in salary cap space, with the caveat that there is a lot of uncertainty until numbers are finalized.
It will be interesting to see how Lloyd Pierce and Atlanta’s coaching staff approach backcourt deployment, particularly with both Rondo and Kris Dunn in the mix. Young will be at the point of attack for the majority of action in 2020-21 and beyond, but this is a substantial allocation of resources for Rondo. From there, Dunn isn’t necessarily a “point guard” on the offensive end, but he is a tremendous defender and, in short, a backcourt of Rondo and Dunn together would bring all kinds of offensive questions, even against second units.
Still, the Hawks are adding a player with high-end experience, an elite trait as a passer, and a respected voice in the locker room. At the very least, Atlanta has a proven backup point guard for the first time since the team parted ways with Jeremy Lin in Feb. 2019.